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Public Pressure Saves 2,200 Mountain Acres

An Appalachian victory in the battle against mountaintop mining.

Sandra Diaz photo courtesy of Appalachian Voices

“The science is overwhelming in showing the detrimental impacts on the water and the community health impacts,” says Sandra Diaz of Appalachian Voices.

Photo courtesy of Appalachian Voices.

One of the most environmentally damaging mining practices may be on the way out.

In January 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency blocked a proposed West Virginia mining project that would have been among the biggest mountaintop removals in Appalachia. Mountaintop removal is a method of mining that involves blasting the tops off mountains to excavate coal.

The EPA used its authority under the Clean Water Act to veto a permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 Mine to dispose of coal-mine waste in nearby streams.

Had it been allowed to move forward, the project would have destroyed more than 2,200 mountain acres, dumping more than 110 million cubic yards of coal-mine waste into more than six miles of adjacent streams. The pollution would have been carried downstream.

“The science is overwhelming in showing the detrimental impacts on the water and the community health impacts,” says Sandra Diaz of Appalachian Voices, an activist group working to end mountaintop removal. While this decision represents a victory in the fight to protect Appalachia’s communities, wildlife, and forestland, mountaintop removal persists. Already 500 mountains have been blasted, and more than 2,000 miles of stream buried.

Activist organizations have cultivated a nationwide movement against mountaintop removal by pushing legislation and raising awareness of the method’s harmful effects. The EPA received over 50,000 public comments about Spruce Mine. 

Visit ilovemountains.org for more information.

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Rebecca LeisherRebecca Leisher wrote this article for Can Animals Save Us?, the Spring 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Rebecca is an online editorial intern at YES!

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