One of Appalachia's biggest coal companies is getting out of the mountaintop removal business. Patriot Coal signed an agreement with the Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy on November 15 to immediately phase out its practice of large-scale surface mining in Appalachia.
For Appalachians suffering from the effects of mountaintop removal mining -- increased risk of heart disease and birth defects, water and air pollution, and the destruction of 500 area mountains -- this is an historic moment.
While this is great news, there's still work to be done. Other coal companies are moving forward with plans to blow off the tops of mountains and bury streams in dozens of locations across Appalachia.
Tell the EPA to make protecting Appalachia from destructive coal mining a top priority in the next Obama administration!
Subject: Make Protecting Streams from Mountaintop Removal Mining a Top Priority
Dear EPA Administrator Jackson,
Great news -- Patriot Coal Corporation, one of the largest coal mining companies in Appalachia, has declared that it will immediately begin phasing out its mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.
I am so glad to hear that a company has made this commitment, but the EPA still needs to take action to adopt an enforceable rule to protect streams and end mountaintop removal mining.
The company says:
"Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface mining, particularly large-scale surface mining of the type common in central Appalachia, is not in its long term interests. Today's proposed settlement commits Patriot Coal to phase out and permanently exit large-scale surface mining and transition our business primarily toward underground mining and related small-scale surface mining."
"Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors. We believe the proposed settlement will result in a reduction of our environmental footprint."
"This settlement is consistent with Patriot Coal's business plan to focus capital on expanding higher margin metallurgical coal production and limiting thermal coal investments to selective opportunities where geologic and regulatory risks are minimized."
"Patriot Coal urges the Court to approve the settlement because it strengthens the Company's ability to continue operating with our nearly 4000 employees, and significantly increases the likelihood that we will emerge from the chapter 11 process as a viable business, able to satisfy our environmental and other obligations."
Now the bad news: other mining companies are continuing to destroy mountains, bury streams, and subject communities to increased risk of birth defects, respiratory disease and other health problems.
Under your leadership, the EPA has taken important steps to rein in mountaintop removal mining. But, industry groups and states have challenged EPA actions in court, and future restrictions remain in doubt. That's why developing an enforceable rule to protect streams from mountaintop removal pollution should be a top EPA priority for the second term. Relying on unenforceable policy guidance does not provide reliable protection for people and water quality.
Thank you for all that you have done, and I urge the EPA to take additional action to ensure legally binding protections against mountaintop removal.
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