Pressure builds against mountaintop removal coal mining

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: coal mining, mountaintop, health news

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(NaturalNews) The Obama Administration is coming under increasing fire for failing to take a strong stance against the destructive form of coal mining known as mountaintop removal.

In mountaintop removal, miners use dynamite and earth movers to blow up entire mountain peaks in order to remove the coal beneath. The rubble from these peaks is then pushed into adjoining valleys, often leading to devastating flooding as waterways are blocked.

In an article published in the journal Science, a group of ecologists, engineers and hydrologists calls on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to reject all permit requests for mountaintop removal mines. In support of this position, the letter writers analyzed studies on the environmental effects of the mines both on-site and downstream, concluding that they have "harmful consequences for both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems." The researchers also catalogued health effects on local communities including increased rates of lung cancer, kidney disease and early death.

"The scientific evidence of the severe environmental and human impacts from mountaintop mining is strong and irrefutable," said lead author Margaret Palmer of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The EPA responded to the report by saying that it "underscores EPA's own scientific analysis regarding the substantial environmental, water and health impacts that result from mountaintop mining operations."

Yet the agency just recently approved new and massive mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia.

"The permit that the EPA just released this week is not consistent with what the scientists are saying," said Joan Mulhern of Earthjustice. "The Obama Administration has pledged in general to . . . do what the science dictates. This unequivocal new study has got to drive them to phase out the practice."

Scientists and environmentalists have criticized the administration for continuing to approve mountaintop removal mines even after promising to follow the best science on the issue.

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