In a drastic departure from Bush administration policy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has held up 79 permits for mountaintop removal coal mining projects in 4 Appalachian states for additional environmental review.
Mountaintop mining is a form of surface mining involving the mining of a mountain’s summit or uppermost ridges. After any forests are clear-cut, explosives are used to remove the top 1,000 feet (300 m) or more of the mountain to expose the coal seams. Opponents of the process have likened mountaintop mining to “strip mining on steroids” due to the process’ impact on the mountain and surrounding valley lands.
“The administration pledged earlier this year to improve review of mining projects that risked harming water quality,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a press release. “Release of this preliminary list is the first step in a process to assure that the environmental concerns raised by the 79 permit applications are addressed and that permits issued are protective of water quality and affected ecosystems.”
Since the EPA initiated its enhanced screening process for surface coal mining in June 2009, a total of 29 pending projects have been removed from the list for various reasons, including circumstances where the applicants have requested that their applications be withdrawn.