The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 21, 2011

Environmentalists show agency support

Environmental leaders in West Virginia see the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to yank a permit from a proposed $250 million mine in Logan County as “a new era of civility” and are encouraging the federal agency to look at other installations.

As miners, industry and political leaders gathered outside the Capitol for a “Rally for Coal,” touting the resource’s economic and energy values, environmentalists arrived with a counter message.

Mining imposes severe negative impacts on folks living where it is produced, said Chuck Nelson, a member of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition’s board.

“Not only is mountaintop removal mining an environmental justice issue, but more so it is a human rights issue,” he said. “West Virginia elected officials have a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to investigating why the health of our state’s people is so poor. The EPA is doing their job by applying the law and the science.”

Nelson called on the EPA to put other pending permits under the same microscope as the Spruce No. 1, which had been approved after a 10-year review, but then was rejected on grounds that the plan couldn’t pass muster with the Clean Water Act.

Activists shadowed pro-coal lawmakers at the Capitol with photographs, water samples and documented damage caused by mining practices.

“I believe the Spruce decision ushers in a new era of civility in mountain communities beneath and near mountaintop removal sites,” said Bo Webb, a volunteer organizer for Coal River Mountain Watch.

“Our representatives should be acknowledging the health effects that mountaintop removal poses and calling for an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal operations.”

Coal operators and government officials are inciting violence in mountaintop mining, ignoring the ill effects on the health of the public, Coal River Mountain Watch co-director Debbie Jarrell said.

“The fear-mongering has to stop,” she said. “Mountaintop removal has to stop. It’s time the politicians get their heads out of the sand and quit being lobbyists for the coal companies.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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