For Immediate Release, June 30, 2010

Contact: Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681

EPA Quietly Approves New Mountaintop Removal Permit in Appalachia

HUNTINGTON, W.V.— With the nation’s eyes on the Gulf of Mexico disaster, the Environmental Protection Agency, without publicly announcing the action, has approved a major new mountaintop-removal coal mining permit in Logan County, West Virginia. The permit approves the destruction of nearly three miles of currently clean stream and 760 acres of forest, in a county where at least 13 percent of the land has already been permitted for surface coal mining. This is the first permit decision the EPA has issued under its new mountaintop removal guidelines, which promised “unprecedented steps” to reduce the negative impacts of surface coal mining on water quality, aquatic life and human health in Appalachia.

“After very publicly stating in April that ‘no or very few’ new valley fills would be permitted, the EPA quietly permitted three new valley fills,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “By approving this permit EPA is willfully ignoring the science showing that mountaintop removal causes irreversible damage to both people and wildlife in Appalachia.”

Pollution from mountaintop removal mining has been found to cause deformities and reproductive failure in downstream wildlife and has been associated with cancer clusters in human communities exposed to high levels of coal-mining activity. Human health impacts result from contact with polluted water and from exposure to airborne toxins and dust. Mountaintop removal also causes widespread damage of private property. Earlier this month a state of emergency was declared in southern West Virginia after flooding ravaged the area; a recent study has found that mountaintop removal and valley fill operations lead to increased risk of flooding.

“The available science clearly demonstrates that the Obama administration should ban mountaintop-removal coal mining and fund the development of an alternative green economy in Appalachia,” said Curry.

Mountaintop-removal coal mining has already destroyed more than 500 mountains, more than 1 million acres of hardwood forest, and more than 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia. A study in the journal Science found that the damage caused to the environment by mountaintop removal is irreversible and cannot be repaired with mitigation.

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