Ahead of climate change legislation, the case against mountaintop removal

crippling-sign

Addressing coal mining's crippling effects

This month has seen arrests and demonstrations across the country in protest of mountain top removal. From zombie protests in San Francisco to peaceful sit-ins in DC, groups are applying pressure to the Obama administration to end a practice that has eaten away at the fabric of Appalachian life.

Mountaintop removal is the coal mining practice of removing the tops of mountains to reveal coal seams within. The remaining sludge is dumped into valleys- “valley fills.”

The Environmental Protection Agency admits that this practice causes considerable environmental damage, especially to water supplies, which become polluted with toxic minerals or can be covered entirely. Ingesting this tainted water damages internal organs. Other effects include the destruction of flora and fauna and “social, economic and heritage issues,” according to the EPA.

In Quarrier, West Virginia, 8 activists with the group Climate Ground Zero chained themselves outside a coal mine in protest. They are currently being held on $16,000 cash bail. In New York, protestors demonstrated outside of JPMorgan Chase, the largest Wall Street financer of coal company Massey Energy, in an effort to stop Massey from destroying Coal River Mountain, possibly the last preserved swathes of land in West Virginia.

In the last year the EPA has halted permits for mountaintop removal, or put them under review. Coal companies claim the technique has not proven harmful, that the EPA has not been transparent, and that the loss of permits could cut thousands of jobs. A special report from Clean Skies News takes a look.

Expect there to be more demonstrations as coal state politicians like West Virginia Senators Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller work to decide the fate of climate change in America. Today, climate legislation passed through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where Democrats used their majority to break through a Republican boycott. The legislation  requires U.S. industry to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 20 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels.

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