Mountaintop removal miningMountaintop removal: It’s the mining process so destructive, they couldn’t even come up with a spinny euphemism that makes it sound like a good idea. The EPA struck a blow against the high-impact mines today, killing one of the largest proposed mines in history, Spruce No. 1 in West Virginia, by revoking its permit to dispose of mining waste in local waterways.

The permit was approved by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007, and the Bush-era EPA didn’t challenge it. But mining activities at Spruce No. 1 have been delayed by litigation, and in the meantime, the administration has changed hands and the EPA has gotten a little tougher on mountaintop-removal mining. Now that the agency has vetoed the mine’s permit, the project is effectively dead.

Who’s happy:

  • Environmentalists. Reports on the mine concluded that it would be a complete environmental disaster. You name a thing, this mine would fuck it up — picture buried streams, poisoned waters, ruined animal habitats. All that is based just on what they plan to do with the rubble, and doesn’t even take into account the destruction engendered by removing parts of the mountain. All told, the mine would have disposed of 110 million cubic yards of coal-mine waste directly into streams, according to the EPA report.
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  • Environmental justice advocates. There’s a reason why mountaintop-removal mining never seems to happen on, say, the Upper East Side. Well, okay, more than one reason, but the point is, mines like this disproportionately affect poor rural populations. In this case it’s Appalachian communities that are among the most impoverished in the country.
  • Local animals, people, air, water, mountains, etc. Not to anthropomorphize overmuch, but we’re envisioning Appalachia as just one big Disney musical number right now.

Who’s pissed:

  • The mining industry. Because duh.
  • Politicians. West Virginia’s senators are Democrats, but not John Kerry-type Democrats. They’ve been lobbying hard against the veto, and they’re not going to take it lying down. The acting governor and former governor are pretty riled, too, and the acting governor plans to go forward with a lawsuit to overturn the decision. Their rationale? The economy, stupid. Because in order for West Virginia to prosper, you have to bury parts of it under millions of tons of waste.
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  • Egg farmers and cattlemen. Some non-coal industries also opposed the veto. They’re concerned about the precedent the EPA is setting by retroactively vetoing the approval of Spruce No. 1’s water permit. Clean water permits are important to industry — but so are things like nontoxic water and the ability to breathe.

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