Let's get clear about the terminology. Though Spruce No. 1, the largest to date mountaintop removal proposal, is considered a "mine," you need some pretty big quotation marks to call this heinous environmental crime anything close to mining.
Mining implies jobs (lots of them) and some adherence to national laws governing the process of extracting minerals from the earth (The U.S. Mining Act). But mountaintop removal (MTR) dispenses with the need for either.
Instead of bringing prosperity to the region by producing a sustainable mining industry with long-term employment opportunities, MTR replaces manpower with explosives. Blowing the tops off of mountains with millions of pounds of toxic explosives then dumping the remains in rivers and streams, it turns out, is cheaper than getting coal the old-fashioned way.
Today EPA head Lisa Jackson announced a history-making veto of the Spruce No. 1 MTR project. The EPA rarely used the veto (only 12 times since 1972) but this is the first time the veto is being used on a project that was already permitted. The project has been tied up in numerous lawsuits since receiving a permit in 2007, so it is eligible for a veto.
The EPA conducted an independent study and found that Spruce No. 1, the largest proposal of its kind to date, would result in "... significant and irreversible damage that comes from mining pollution — and the damage from this project would be irreversible." The report found impacts in four major categories — community water quality, fish & wildlife, inadequate mitigation, and cumulative mining impacts (ie. too much mining in one location).
With Palm Sunday just a few days away and Easter around the corner, I move to celebrate the resurrection of one environmental savior — the EPA. So ... can I say it? "Hallelujah!"
If you want to learn more or take a pledge to end mountain top removal for good, check out the newly launched campaign by Rainforest Action Network.