Coal Tattoo

EPA’s Jackson speaks on mountaintop removal

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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.