EPA’s Jackson speaks on mountaintop removal

September 9, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.

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It is not a process that’s appealing to look at.

— EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on mountaintop removal

While we’re considering EPA’s efforts to block the largest mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia history, and waiting on the agency to come up with a list of other permits it wants to more closely review … let’s take a look at some recent comments from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on this very topic.

Jackson was quizzed about mountaintop removal last week on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show. Here’s some of it:

And it is true that much of the science shows that when you have a lot of, when you start to see a preponderance of stream miles filled in, you start to see higher conductivity levels, which is indicative of higher suspended solids, which starts to effect the aquatic ecosystems sort of from the bottom up.  And so activists and people who live in the area have raised concerns about why this practice had been allowed to continue.

That’s because there were rules put forth under the Bush Administration that allowed, it was sort of a funny name, it was the stream buffer rule, but the buffer rule interpretation actually allowed no buffer between the stream and the fill.  EPA has committed to reviewing projects.  It’s been a contentious issue from the start, certainly in Appalachia.  We are in the process of reviewing about 84 permits right now that were put on hold by litigation.  And in the next few weeks we’re going to have to make a determination under the Clean Water Act as to whether those permits can meet the Clean Water Act standards or whether they should be held up and potentially ultimately vetoed.  EPA has the authority to veto the permits.  The permits themselves are issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  So EPA plays sort of an oversight role there. 

Ohio PIRG Citizen Action has kindly posted a transcript here, and you can listen to the show here.

10 Responses to “EPA’s Jackson speaks on mountaintop removal”

  1. […] hundreds of mountaintop removal sites now in the balance, this is the moment of truth for the EPA, Administrator Lisa Jackson, and President Obama to make good on promises to reign in this clearly environmentally devastating […]

  2. […] hundreds of mountaintop removal sites now in the balance, this is the moment of truth for the EPA, Administrator Lisa Jackson, and President Obama to make good on promises to reign in this clearly environmentally devastating […]

  3. Jason Robinson says:

    jackson seems to think that science can provide an answer to the question “Should we continue this practice”. I disagree, and I think that any other honest scientist will disagree. When she asks “Is it legal”, that is a different issue altogether. Much of the discussion concerns whether “what is legal” and “what we Should Do” are inclusive.

    her comments to the effect that she has never seen the effects of surface mining for coal, in appalachia, and her immediate conflation of appalachian coal mining with western mining, show that she is either 1) uninformed about the issue she is being interviewed over 2) uninterested in the distinctions or 3) cynically gaming the system to maintain the status quo, all the while paying lip service to “science” when it suits her list of talking points.

    ahh, i am a cynic. no doubt. those were really poor questions and the radio host led her away from those questions immediately.

  4. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Jason,

    Two quotes come to my mind regarding all of this …

    One came from this story, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/13/science/earth/13TUND.html, by Andy Revkin in the NY Times, from a guy with a forestry doctorate from Yale and Harvard law degree:

    “Science can inform what your options are, but at the end of the day, every single resource management decision is political.”

    The other quote is from none other than Karl Rove:

    “Elections have consequences.”

  5. Thomas Rodd says:

    Will someone please change “reign in” to “rein in” before they re-post this quote again and again and again. . . .?

  6. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Tom,

    I believe what you’re referring to is a post on a different — several different — blogs … I make plenty of mistakes on Coal Tattoo, but I don’t think that’s one of mine.

    Ken.

  7. Red Desert says:

    I agree with Jason. MTR is a huge deal. Kind of shocking that head of EPA hasn’t made an effort to see it first hand. She conveniently hid behind the EPA’s role in permitting these mines, which she clearly noted–which she definitely wanted the listener to understand–was limited to enforcing the Clean Water Act.

    (That’s not completely true, is it? Didn’t EPA take a broader look at the impacts of MTR in the famous EIR? Wouldn’t that be the case for any study of mining impacts? I don’t know, I’m asking. My point is, EPA has a role beyond permitting under the CWA. )

    One other thing I found really interesting was her take on all the new gas discoveries. She refused to allow that it could be a substitute for coal–we need all that gas for industrial feedstock was the point she made. Almost sounded like something you’d hear from a coal lobbyist.

  8. […] hundreds of mountaintop removal sites now in the balance, this is the moment of truth for the EPA, Administrator Lisa Jackson, and President Obama to make good on promises to reign in this clearly environmentally devastating […]

  9. […] truth, Lisa Jackson and the EPA have recognized that thousands of miles of streams have been sullied and jammed with mining waste from mountaintop […]

  10. […] truth, Lisa Jackson and the EPA have recognized that thousands of miles of streams have been sullied and jammed with mining waste from mountaintop […]

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