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What Is Mountaintop Removal and How Is it Regulated?


Posted by Charlotte A. Weybright on November 22, 2007

The federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) has proposed severely weakening a rule that buffers streams from the impacts of mountaintop removal mining — a form of coal mining in which entire tops of mountains are removed and the debris dumped in valleys and sometimes directly into streams. The new rule will result in polluted streams and decimated populations of fish and wildlife throughout the Southeast Rivers and Streams Ecoregion, one of the richest, rarest and most biologically important.

Since 1983 the current stream buffer zone rule has protected land within 100 feet of a stream from being disturbed by mining unless a company can prove it will not affect water quality or quantity. Under the proposed new rule, strip mine operators would have to show only that they intend to prevent, “to the extent possible using the best technology currently available,” such damage. If the new rule goes forward, coal companies will be allowed to dump massive amounts of waste directly into streams, destroying them completely.

Central Appalachia provides much of the country’s coal, second only to Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. In the United States, 100 tons of coal are extracted every two seconds. Around 70 percent of that coal comes from strip mines, and over the last 20 years, an increasing amount comes from mountaintop-removal sites.

Although Mountaintop removal is not permitted by the Clean Water Act, the Bush Administration has chosen to ignore the Clean Water Act and has encouraged strip mining companies to use the process.

Earthjustice, an environmental organization which fights legal battles on behalf of our environment, was recently successful in stopping the issuance of five permits. The federal judge in West Virginia ruled in favor of Earthjustice and declared five permits illegal. But that won’t stop the strip mining companies. What is needed is your voice to let your Congressional representatives know that you disapprove of this practice.


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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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November 2007



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory