Friday, February 13, 2009

Court Has Enough Power to Knock Down Mountains

A federal appeals court ruled in favor of mountaintop removal today, overturning a ruling that would require additional environmental review of mountaintop removal in Appalachia.
The article can be read here, and here are some excerpts:
A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled 2-1 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to issue Clean Water Act permits for mountaintop removal coal mines without more extensive reviews. The court also overturned a related ruling that using ponds to remove sediment from streams at mountaintop mines violates the Clean Water Act.

The rulings are a blow to environmentalists and coalfield neighbors who oppose the highly efficient but destructive practice that exposes thin, shallow coal seams. Rocks, dirt and other debris typically are dumped into valleys containing intermittent streams, which is how clean water rules become involved.

The decision is a big win for mine operators. The coal industry says most of the nearly 130 million tons of coal produced at mountaintop mines in Appalachia goes to generate electricity for 24.7 million U.S. customers. Moreover, mountaintop mines employ some 14,000 people across West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Mountaintop permits have slowed to a trickle since March 2007, when the Corps was ordered by U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers to rescind several permits. It was Chambers' ruling that the appeals court overturned.
For a better narrative of how mountaintop removal mining is executed, what its environmental impact is, please read this article from Wired magazine.
- Brewskie

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