I've seen first-hand the results of mountaintop removal mining, an extremely destructive form of coal mining that entails blowing up mountains, removing the tops, and dumping the rubble into streams, filling entire valleys and waterways.
My family’s homeplace was destroyed by it, and the ruthlessness of the coal mining industry. Our drinking water was contaminated, and blasting shook our house and our community every day. We also dealt with extreme dust pollution and noise pollution, and flyrock, or large boulders that the explosion spits out through the air.
I’m so thankful that people like you are getting involved in this fight. I’ve been in this for 20 years, and for so long, I felt like I stood alone. One voice doesn’t go very far. Many voices do. I am asking you to join this chorus of voices so that we are heard by our nation’s leaders.
- Donna Branham, Mingo County, West Virginia
Donna’s story is not unique — there are families across Appalachia who are living with the same injustice.
The health impacts of this radically destructive form of mining are staggering. No one can survive without clean water and scientific research shows that people living near mountaintop removal mines face greater threats to their health and their lives. Cancer rates are two times higher; babies are 26 percent more likely to be born with birth defects. How long will we let this go on?
Last year, President Obama and his administration showed a strong commitment to the law and science by vetoing one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed, Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia. The Spruce mine was slated to become one of the largest mountaintop removal mines in Appalachia. With its veto, the EPA spared the surrounding communities, which are already suffering from extensive mountaintop removal mining in their area, from further health impacts. Unfortunately, however, a recent court decision overturned the veto, reviving the grave threats to these communities.
Meanwhile, coal companies and their lobbyists are pushing for more than 100 new mountaintop removal mining permits, seeking permission to blow more mountains up and destroy more mountain streams in even more communities. Now, it is all the more important for the Obama administration to keep up the fight to prevent this huge mine from destroying more of Appalachia's waters.
Please take action now to tell President Obama and his administration to follow the Clean Water Act and to stand up for clean water and justice in every one of its individual permit decisions across Appalachia.
The EPA showed a strong commitment to the law, science, and the health of waters and communities who depend on a safe environment by vetoing the permit for one of the largest mountaintop removal mines ever proposed, the Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia.
I believe that this permit should have never been issued under the Clean Water Act in the first place by the Army Corps of Engineers, and I support the EPA's decision to veto the Spruce mine's permit.
I urge the Obama administration to instruct all of its agencies to enforce and follow the Clean Water Act and take the health and waters of Appalachian communities seriously. The White House must stand by the EPA's continuing enforcement of the Clean Water Act in Appalachia, and it must also instruct the Army Corps of Engineers to revoke the unlawful permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine.
I also urge the EPA to continue doing its job, as commanded by Congress 40 years ago, to bring all American waterways under the law's full protection. I am counting on EPA to do everything within its power to prevent the Spruce No. 1 Mine from destroying more of our life-giving streams. And I expect to see the EPA prohibit other destructive mountaintop removal mines, which severely harm Appalachian waterways and communities.
And finally, I write to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to revoke the permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine, which I believe is unlawful due to the scientifically-demonstrated unacceptable adverse effect it will have on vital headwater streams and downstream waterways. I also urge the Corps to cease permitting of mountaintop removal coal mines. It's time for the Corps to fulfill its legal duty under the Clean Water Act, too.
The Obama administration's unified leadership and action on this issue are imperative. Today, coal companies are pushing for more than 100 new mountaintop removal mining permits, seeking permission to blow more mountains up and destroy more mountain streams in even more communities. When so many local communities are facing this devastation, we need all federal agencies to follow EPA's lead and hold firm to the foundational laws and people of this land by preventing more irresponsible mining operations like the proposed Buffalo Mountain Mine in West Virginia, the Ison Rock Ridge Mine in Virginia, and the Stacy's Branch Mine proposed in Kentucky, and others like them.
Furthermore, I strongly urge you to recognize that the only way to meet the safeguards of the Clean Water Act and protect communities is to stop valley fills and mountaintop removal all together. Efforts that just try to manage the problem around the edges by allowing a few valley fills at a time (called "sequencing") or through mitigation that has proven to be unsuccessful are contrary to the law, science and common sense.
Please take these actions to follow the law and protect the people and waters of Appalachia--all of us are depending on you.