Fed court ruling on MTR mining dangerous@by:By Bo Webb CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I am not a legal expert. I don't how or why U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson came to determine in her recent ruling that the Obama administration overstepped its authority in revoking a permit last year for the largest proposed strip-mining operation in central Appalachia.
Perhaps within the legal confines she had before her this was her only conclusion. But, as a witness to the consequences of mountaintop removal, I can only view this ruling as a cold shoulder, a failure to acknowledge those who live (and die) in mountaintop removal communities. In spite of present and growing scientific evidence that mountaintop removal is causing great harm to human health, this ruling has potentially opened the door for the coal industry to unleash as many as 100 new mountaintop removal permits.
Up to now the EPA has cited the Clean Water Act in their rulings pertaining to MTR. It is the EPA's job to protect our water, and they should continue their efforts to do so, but that is not the only available legal weapon at their disposal. It is not only our water that is being poisoned. We know that the air we breathe in MTR communities contains silica dust, diesel fuel, ammonium nitrate and other toxins. Just recently we have discovered that our garden soils are deadly as well with elevated levels of toxins. When considering the fact that more than 5 million pounds of ammonium nitrate diesel fuel mix have been detonated daily, six days a week, for the past 15 years of full blown MTR, it is no wonder people are sick and dying, and birth defects in mountaintop removal communities are off the charts; the fallout is killing us. Our water, our air and our soil are contaminated. We are witnessing a health crisis possibly unlike any in U.S. memory calling for all hands on deck to end this unnecessary and harmful type of mining.Political leaders everywhere, like it or not, are on the spot; and in the end history will hold them accountable. The science cannot be denied any longer; it is confirmed by accelerated rates of cancer, respiratory illnesses, heart disease, stunning numbers of birth defects, and death in mountaintop removal communities. In the interest of public health an immediate moratorium on all new MTR permits needs to be declared now. In the best interest of public health, both executive and congressional branches of our government have emergency powers to intervene and declare a moratorium on MTR permitting. What are they waiting for?What are they waiting for? In general, politicians are in favor of the status quo. Don't rock the boat, keep the campaign investors happy and your chances to be re-elected are increased. In other words, don't dare to lead. Declaring a moratorium on mountaintop removal may seem a nearly impossible task to some minds, given the partisanship in Washington. However, it is one issue that can bring the two sides of the aisle together in a common cause to convey separate core principles. The Republican Party has strongly adopted the right to life platform. Nowhere on a broad scale is there a better example of endangerment to an unborn baby's life and health than in an Appalachian mountaintop removal community. On the other hand, the Democratic Party prides itself on social justice issues and the rights of the common citizen. No better example of social injustice exists in America today than in the hollows and valley communities beneath mountaintop removal operations.Ending mountaintop removal is in the best interest of both parties and all politicians. Most of all, it is in the best interest of innocent American citizens who suffer from the constant assault of mountaintop removal in their daily lives.Webb, of Naoma, is a 2010 recipient of the Purpose Prize.