Most Yonder readers don’t live within five hundred miles of a mountaintop removal strip mine, yet we write about it quite a bit here. One reason is that MTR is such an extreme example of a rural environmental tradeoffs (in this case, energy for the destruction of large swaths of the rural countryside) that it is a good barometer. If the federal government cracks down on MTR, then the rest of rural America can look to stricter environmental protection for the issues that affect them. (EPA chief Lisa Jackson above.)
Friday, the federal Environmental Protection agency indicated it intended to get more strict on MTR. The EPA issued a “proposed determination” that a giant mountaintop strip job by Arch Coal in Logan County, WV, would cause “unacceptable impacts.” The Spruce No. 1 mine would be the largest MTR job in West Virginia history. For all things coal, we go to the Charleston Gazette and Ken Ward, Jr. See his story here and blog here. Ward notes that the EPA cites “environmental justice” as a reason for its determination — in addition to environmental ones.
“The mountains being affected by Spruce No. 1 are considered a cultural resource by many residents,” the EPA proposed determination said. “The mountains influence residents’ daily lives and in many cases have helped defined Appalachian society. Removing them may have profound cultural changes on area residents, so it is important that cultural impacts be considered as well.” This is a definite change in the way EPA has been working recently and rural America should take note.