After the political "changing of the guards" in Washington this year environmentalists had high hopes that the weakened (some might say corrupt) EPA would get back on track and start enforcing the many laws designed to protect public lands from the grasp of greedy private interests.

Those hopes came crashing down in May when the EPA allowed several mountaintop removal permits to go through, despite the fact that the process by which the permits were granted violated existing laws such as the Clean Water Act. Myself and others lamented the EPA's failure calling on the EPA to stop green lighting the 'Appalachian Apocalypse.'

With steadily mounting pressure from public advocacy groups, and the now pending Appalachian Restoration Act, it seems that the EPA has toughened up.

Today it announced that 79 permits for mountaintop removal appear to be in violation of the Clean Water Act and are being held for further review. According to Bloomberg's latest update:

The majority of permits flagged for further review failed to demonstrate how the mining operation would minimize impacts on the aquatic ecosystem, the EPA said. Efforts to mitigate the impact of filling streams with mining debris “may not be adequate to offset proposed impacts."
The Sierra Club is hailing this move as a "sea change" in the EPA's regulatory enforcement powers. In the past eight years, not a single permit for controversial mountaintop removal operations was rejected.

Mountaintop mining provides approximately four percent of the nation's coal, and (of course) the mining industry is claiming that it will hurt the economy of the coal states if mountaintop mining ends.

The reality is that it will hurt the record-breaking profits of the companies like Massey, Consol and Apex, who would be forced to return to old-fashioned coal mining -- the kind that creates long term jobs and ensures environmental and economic stability for the mining region.

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