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Huge MTR Mine Denied Water Permit
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by Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign | 2011

Never a dull moment in Appalachia: A big victory and new challenges!

Every week it seems as if there’s coal-related news to celebrate and to challenge us.

We celebrated last week’s decision from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Lisa Jackson to veto the water permit for the massive Spruce No. 1 mountaintop removal coal mining site in West Virginia.

Administrator Jackson’s brave step stopped a mountaintop mine that would have destroyed more than seven miles of vital streams and more than 2,000 mountain acres in an important part of Appalachia.

The fight against this Spruce No. 1 mine lasted 12 years. It was 1998 when a resident of Pigeonroost Hollow, one of the hollows that would be destroyed by the mine, sued the United States Army Corps of Engineers to revoke Arch Coal’s Clean Water Act permit.

“We knew the cumulative impact of all these mines was going to be devastating to the state,” said Cindy Rank, Chair of the Mining Committee for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

“Now EPA has proof and documentation over these past 10 to 12 years of (mountaintop removal coal mining’s) serious impact to the land, environment, people and communities around it.”

For Chuck Nelson of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the permit veto stood for even more. “This is not just an environmental justice issue, but more so a human rights issue. EPA is doing its job; it’s following the law and science.”

Nelson, Rank, the Sierra Club and many others also hope EPA will go even farther and stop all mountaintop removal coal mining.

“Today, mountains are still being blown up,” said Bill Price of the Sierra Club in West Virginia. “We don’t need to take a permit-bypermit approach, we need total abolition.

“(Mountaintop removal coal mining) has a negative economic impact. You can’t locate a business where you can’t drink the water. This has no economic value, it has an economic cost.”

Reprinted with permission from Sierra Club Compass blog entry January 21, 2011.

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