The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that the Obama administration “moved to curtail the practice of mountaintop mining to extract coal, angering mining companies that said the move threatens thousands of jobs.” The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had held up 79 permit applications for mountaintop removal projects. Yonder readers will remember that coal companies in the eastern mountains now remove the entire tops of mountains to take the coal underneath, pushing the tops of the hills into the valleys and streams below. The EPA said these 79 permits may violate the federal Clean Water Act. “Each of them, as currently proposed, is likely to result in significant harm to water quality and the environment,” the EPA said in a statement Wednesday.
The National Mining Association said the EPA’s ruling will discourage new mining investment. “If they’re not intending to damage the coal industry, then they’ve made an enormous miscalculation,” said Luke Popovich, a NMA spokesman. Blocking mountaintop mining has become a major issue in West Virginia, pitting landowners and environmentalists against coal companies and the United Mine Workers.