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For Immediate Release, February 16, 2009

Contact: Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (503)  283-5474

Center for Biological Diversity Statement on the
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals' Decision to Allow Mountaintop Removal
Coal Mining to Proceed Without Environmental Review

PORTLAND, Oreg.— The Center for Biological Diversity is disappointed by the decision issued on Friday, February 13th, by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, allowing mountaintop removal coal mining to proceed without full consideration of the environmental impacts. Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining in which the peaks of mountains are blasted off with explosives and the waste materials are dumped directly into streams, causing irreversible ecological damage.

“Mountaintop removal coal mining is devastating to mountains, streams and people in Appalachia,” said Tierra Curry, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The devastation caused by mountaintop removal in combination with the millions of tons of pollutants, including greenhouse gases, released by burning coal clearly demonstrates that there is no such thing as clean coal.”

The Circuit Court ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to issue Clean Water Act permits for mountaintop removal coal mines without extensive environmental review. The ruling overturned a decision issued in March 2007 by U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers that required full consideration of the environmental effects of mountaintop removal and slowed the issuing of new permits. Friday’s decision will allow up to 90 more mountain peaks to be annihilated by mountaintop removal mines.

In December 2008 the Bush administration repealed a rule requiring buffers around streams, where wastes from mountaintop removal could not be dumped. With repeal of the rule, coal companies will be able to dump tons of mining waste directly into streams without violating the Clean Water Act.

“Either Congress or the Obama administration need to reinstate the Stream Buffer Zone rule and to pass the Clean Water Protection Act,” said Curry. “But better yet, mountaintop removal should be prohibited and the burning of coal immediately phased out to save the planet from dangerous climate change.”

Since mountaintop removal coal mining began in 1970, an estimated 1.5 million acres of hardwood forest have been lost, over 470 mountaintops have been permanently destroyed, and 1,200 miles of streams have been buried.

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