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EPA Halts Mountaintop Mining « The Washington Independent

Yes, elections do matter.

Putting a quick halt to an Orwellian Bush administration rule allowing mining companies to kill mountain streams, the Environmental Protection Agency this afternoon announced that it will delay hundreds of mining permits while it takes a closer look at how the operations will affect local waterways.

“EPA will use the best science and follow the letter of the law in ensuring we are protecting our environment,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement.

Of all the methods used to extract coal, none is so destructive to ecosystems as mountaintop mining — a process in which the tops of mountains are literally blasted away to access the coal seams beneath.

A 25-year-old Interior Department regulation prohibits mining companies from dumping debris into valley streams, but in December the Bush administration eased the rule to allow such dumping if the companies can make a case that it’s unavoidable. Complicating the picture, a Virginia-based federal appeals court last month ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to grant mining permits. With the EPA’s announcement today, the agency has indicated that the Army Corps won’t have the final say.

In a statement issued moments ago, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope cheered the EPA’s decision:

With the bulldozers and dynamite standing by, the Obama administration has taken decisive action to protect the streams, mountains and communities of Appalachia.

Already close to 2,000 miles of streams have been contaminated or destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining, and communities throughout the Appalachian region suffer daily from contaminated drinking water, increased flooding, and a decimated landscape … Reviewing the permits will stop the bleeding, and now EPA should begin to fix the Bush-era regulatory loopholes that made mountaintop removal possible.

The coal industry’s many friends in Washington won’t like this decision. Stay tuned for a larger battle to come.

TWI: friend to mountains, streams, and all the little woodland creatures everywhere. Follow us on Twitter here.

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