Why Has it Taken SO LONG?

…and so many miles of streams gone–entire watersheds? I look at Goose Creek and Nameless, and try to imagine how I would have felt had these irresponsible “laws” allowed them to become lost to “overburden” and acid mine waste.
Press release 3/23/07 from EarthJustice

“Today, we applaud the ruling in federal court stating that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the law by issuing mountaintop removal mining permits that allowed vital headwater streams to be permanently buried.

“The federal government has been illegally issuing such permits. Doing so has led to widespread and irreversible devastation to the streams, mountains and lands across Appalachia. The judge

The Corp’s witnesses…conceded that the Corps does not know of any successful stream creation projects in the Appalachian region

has made it clear that the Corps must now comply with the Clean Water Act and stop issuing illegal permits.

“This decision does give the Corps another chance to try and show that they can issue permits for valley fills in streams without violating the law. But the evidence to date shows that the Corps has no scientific basis–no real evidence of any kind–upon which it bases its decisions to permit this permanent destruction to streams and headwaters. They have shown no evidence to support their claims that this destruction can simply be ‘fixed’ through mitigation. In fact, as the court opinion correctly notes: “The Corp’s witnesses…conceded that the Corps does not know of any successful stream creation projects in the Appalachian region.”

“Mountaintop removal mining valley fills cannot comply with the Clean Water Act without strict environmental limits. We hope the Corps recognizes this fact and realizes that approving illegal mountaintop removal mining permits does nothing to protect the environment, violates the law and is destroying the lives and culture of the people of West Virginia and the region.”

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Amen! I was just telling my hubby that I’m going to write a letter to Gov. Manchin and Senator Byrd about Mountaintop Removal….that by allowing it, they are betraying the state and people they represent…i feel it’s a crime. In our state’s case, it’s not the Republicans who are allowing the environment to be raped.

    But both their pockets are lined with coal money, which probably speaks louder than the few concerned citizens who speak out. Either way, they don’t get my votes and I let them know why.

  2. I love those mountains, and every time I drive back home to WV, I see more and more mountain tops that have been “skinned” by surface mining. It is a horrible thing to do to a beautiful state, and even worse what happens to the formerly pristine streams.

  3. I have a friend who lived in West Virginia, she said the view looks great from the ground but fly over it and it looks like a bomb went off. According to her no one has even tried to repair the damage caused by the mining.

  4. Some good may yet come. We need to all get writing our reps (Boucher in particular needs to hear from those of us in the 9th….The term “clean coal” needs to be addressed with a beginning to end timeline. They have conveniently forgotton the getting of it when terming it clean. It is unclean, and immoral, to valley fill. As long as mountain top removal continues, there is no such thing as clean coal.
    Just go look at the communities that have had their mountaintops removed.
    Hard to be clean with no water.

  5. to add to what Annie said… there are a number of good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are jumping on the “clean coal” bandwagon for the supposed economic growth it might offer southwestern Virginia. A fellow blogger and area political activist, Brian Patton (brianpatton.org), is one of them. They seem to be willfully blind to the destruction of mountaintop removal. My guess is they are remembering the heyday of unionized coal production in the early 70’s before foreign coal took the market, when most of the mines were underground (due in no small part to stricter enforcement of reclamation & water laws) and most of the miners well-paid. It is hard news to these folks that we wont ever get that particular sort of temporary prosperity back. But God help us if they “win” and the hidden dirt of “clean” coal keeps spreading thru our little beautiful corner of Appalachia. Once you rip the top off a mountain, only God and time can “fix” it. Thanks for spreading this bit of good news. Let’s hope it doesn’t get overturned on appeal by a Bush crony.