Some good news has come recently from the Army Corps of Engineers, which has responsibility for administering many of the nation’s water laws and permit programs, including the permit program that allows coal companies to use destructive mountaintop removal mining. The Army Corps has proposed a rule change that would make it much tougher for coal companies to use mountaintop removal in the Appalachian region.
As the name implies, mountaintop removal mining involves blasting the top of Appalachian hills, and harvesting the coal seams exposed as a result. Currently, Nationwide Coal Permit 21 (NWP 21) allows coal companies to discharge coal waste from mountain top removal into waters of the United States, often resulting in degraded or destroyed rivers and streams. Thus NWP 21 acts as a bypass to the individual permit requirements under the Clean Water Act.
One of the changes proposed by the Corps would suspend NWP 21 and require operators to receive individual Clean Water Act permits to discharge fill material in Appalachia. Such permits would be much more difficult to obtain for mountaintop removal surface mining.
Predictably, the mining industry will fight hard against the rule changes proposed by the Corps, and some coal companies are even busing employees to the meetings to oppose the changes. If you would like to publically support the potential changes, the Corps will hold a public meeting at the Laughlin Civic Center in Cambridge, Ohio at 7:00 PM on October 15.