Obama Presidency
Obama Presidency

Obama Suspends New Coal Mining Permits

| by Sierra Club
The Obama Administration just made a major announcement – they have directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not issue any new mining permits until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a chance to take a hard look at well over 100 pending permits to bury streams with mining waste, an essential part of the mountaintop removal coal mining process.

Beginning with EPA’s recommendation today to deny a permit to bury a stream in West Virginia, this review, using the best available science, will likely halt the flood of permits that was unleashed by the 4th Circuit court decision last month.

That federal court of appeals decision left it up to the Army Corps of Engineers – and several companies had already utilized their permits to start blasting away. These dozens of permits would have obliterated huge swaths of Appalachia—all to continue our dependence on outdated and dirty energy.

Today’s announcement is huge progress after eight long years of lawlessness in Appalachia. It signals a departure from the policies of the Bush Administration and reflects President Obama’s commitment to science and justice in government. In a statement announcing the decision about the West Virginia permits, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said,

“I have directed the agency to review other mining permit requests. EPA will use the best science and follow the letter of the law in ensuring we are protecting our environment.”

Already close to 2,000 miles of irreplaceable streams have been contaminated or destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining, and communities throughout the Appalachian region suffer daily from contaminated drinking water, increased flooding, and a decimated landscape.

But today’s decisive and timely action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the stage to protect Appalachian communities and end destructive mining. This sends a clear signal that it is time to move beyond coal and toward clean energy solutions that will create good, green jobs here in Appalachia and across America.

This decision also comes on the heels of two recent major pushes to end mountaintop removal coal mining. First, we teamed up with Ashley Judd and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth to bring attention to the travesty of this type of mining.

Then last week more than 150 clean energy activists from Appalachia and around the U.S. came to Washington, DC, to meet with their Congressional representatives and various agency officials to call for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining and the passage of the Clean Water Protection Act.

We applaud EPA Administrator Jackson’s and President Obama’s continued commitment to science and environmental justice. We thank the community activists who have fought long and hard to protect our mountains and to ensure a sustainable future for Appalachia. Today’s announcement underscores that grassroots organizing and fighting for justice can and will prevail when we all work together.