USA: Army Corps of engineers sets itself up for a big fall regarding Mt. Top Removal

One day after the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to reassert its powers to protect mountain streams from the ravages of mountaintop coal mining, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the broad expansion of such a project without EPA input. Many environmentalists are scratching their heads over the seemingly contradictory events. On the one hand, they are cheering the promise of a newly empowered EPA under the Obama White House, while also wondering when that vow will surface as policy.

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At stake are hundreds of miles of Appalachian streams that could be
buried with pollutant-laden debris if scores of pending mining permits
are approved as is. The episode presents tough choices for the young
administration, pressured to deliver the environmental protections
it’s promised while taking care not to hobble the powerful coal
industry — an important economic engine in the Appalachian states — in
the middle of a deepening recession.

It also highlights the tensions between environmentalists trying to wean the country from a reliance on coal, which generates more than half the country’s electricity, and industry defenders who hope to maintain its importance. The recent saga began last Monday, when the EPA sent letters to the Army Corps of Engineers in Huntington, W.Va., recommending that the Corps either deny or alter proposed projects in West Virginia and Kentucky because agency studies show that the two mountaintop mines would have serious water-quality consequences.

A day later, the EPA vowed to review hundreds more backlogged permit requests to assess their effect on streams. Environmental groups embraced the developments as a sharp break from the hands-off EPA policies of the Bush administration, which left mine-permit decisions almost exclusively to the discretion of the Army Corps.

“What EPA is doing is reasserting the primacy of science,” said Jim Hecker, environmental enforcement director at Public Justice, a public interest group. “The Corps has never cared about science.” On Wednesday, however, the Corps’ Louisville district approved a 1.5-square-mile expansion of a mountaintop mine in Southeast Kentucky with no input from the EPA.

The expansion of the International Coal Group’s Thunder Ridge mine allows the company to fill four valleys with debris, burying nearly two miles of streams that drain into the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River.

That river supplies drinking water to more than 700,000 people — roughly
one-sixth of the state’s population. The permit approval, according to
many environmentalists, directly contradicts the EPA’s vow to play a
larger role in the permit process.

Comments (1)

HIPÓLITA GARCÍAFebruary 5th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Es horrible la desición. Definitivamente la destrucción del ambiente (las montañas, ríos y su ecosistema) por el hombre será la destrucción del hombre mismo.

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