[Update and correction posted, 3/25/09:
It seems that AP and about a dozen other news reports misinterpreted EPA's statements on mountaintop removal. EPA issued a grumpy and disheartening clarification statement late yesterday afternoon stating that they were only putting a hold on two permits filed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and as far as the hundred or so other permits held up until recently by 4th Circuit Court litigation, EPA says they "will take a close look" but they "fully anticipate that the bulk of these pending permit applications will not raise environmental concerns."
WTF?! So EPA doesn't think that decapitating entire mountains then dumping their remains on top of verdant valleys, streams and watersheds might raise any “environmental concerns?!” I'd of course expect this from Stephen Johnson and Bush and Co's EPA, but I sat there at Power Shift 2009 when Lisa Jackson promised that EPA was "back on the job" and vowed that science, not industry interests would rule again at EPA. Guess some things don't change much...
See the related stories at end of post for more analysis of yesterday's roller-coaster ride, courtesy of the EPA's dueling press releases.]
BREAKING NEWS: EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced today that her agency would put the breaks on hundreds of permits for new coal mining projects using the devastating practice known as mountaintop removal. The process decimates entire mountains to get at the coal inside before dumping debris in adjacent valleys, burying watersheds and streams and displacing neighboring communities.
According to AP:
The Environmental Protection Agency is putting on hold hundreds of mountaintop coal-mining permits until it can evaluate the projects' impacts on streams and wetlands.This brief but much needed respite gives time for activists and affected communities to redouble efforts to press for a permanent end to mountaintop removal. Passage of the Clean Water Protection Act in Congress or administrative action by President Obama and the EPA could severely curtail or even permanently end this destructive practice.
The decision was announced Tuesday by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. It targets a controversial practice by coal mining companies that dump waste from mountaintop mining into streams and wetlands.
It could delay more than a hundred permits being sought by companies wanting to begin blasting mountaintops to access coal.
The EPA also denied two permits the Army Corps of Engineers was planning to issue that would allow companies to fill thousands of feet of streams with mining waste in West Virginia and Kentucky.
The agency says the projects could damage aquatic resources.
You can take action to hasten the end of mountaintop removal here and here. PowerPastCoal.org is also encouraging citizens to call the White House switchboard (1-202-456-1111) and write letters to the editor to their local papers (samples provided) thanking President Obama and the EPA for cracking down on mountaintop removal.