Coal News

Christian Coalition Takes Stand on Mountaintop Removal

In March, the National Council of Churches announced that a multi-denominational coalition of 28 Christian groups petitioned the EPA to restore original Clean Water Act protections which would prohibit mountaintop removal mining coal companies from labeling coal waste as “fill.”

“As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of God’s creation, to love and care for our neighbors, and to speak out against injustice,” said Peter Illyn, executive director of the Christian environmental ministry, Restoring Eden. “As Appalachia’s communities and ecosystem suffers, we feel called by our faith to speak out against the unnecessary practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.

“We believe only God should move mountains. Closing the Clean Water Act loophole is a good first step,” Illyn said.

Agencies Move to Regulate The Coal Industry — Sort Of

In a historic move, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new water- quality guidelines that would severely limit impacts caused by mountaintop removal mining vally fills in central Appalachia.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) is also drafting proposed regulations for mountaintop removal coal mining that would restore a 100-foot buffer zone for streams, among other regulations. The rules will only apply to new permits and not to existing operations. Regulations are scheduled to be finalized by mid-2012.

The EPA also released two public op- tions to regulate toxic coal ash waste (CCW) in May, one which would treat—but not label—the ash as hazardous material and one which would consider CCW as non- hazardous. Neither option addressed the disposing of coal ash in abandoned mine sites, a practice which some scientists believe is poisoning nearby groundwater.

Banks, Universities Changing Their Tune On Fossil Fuels

A Synapse Energy Economics study reported that the federal government is providing billions of dollars in subsidies through tax credits, loans, tax-exempt bonds and support of international institutions that finance fossil fuel use and extraction.

But after months of pressure from environmental groups and private citizens, JPMorgan Chase joined Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo in reviewing financial connections with companies that engage in mountaintop removal.

And last but not least, students at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill won a commitment from Chancellor Holden Thorp to phase out burning coal in the school’s power plant by 2020 and to end the use of moutaintop removal mined coal sooner. The university is looking into biomass, energy conservation and efficiency methods to meet electricity on campus.

In Other Coal-Related News…

Greenville, OH: Greeneville residents blocked the U.S. government’s plans to sequester CO2 emissions deep beneath their homes, protesting and holding community actions until the project was scrapped.

West Virginia: The EPA announced up to $800,000 in Brownfields grants to help turn abandoned industrial properties throughout the state—including several old mine sites—into useful community spaces.

Pittston, PA: The EPA conducted a five-day training exercise in late April to test the emergency response system for the Butler Mine Tunnel Superfund site, part of the new requirements by the EPA to help minimize the impact of discharges from the tunnel.

Hong Kong, China: Joy Al-Sofi recently won first prize in a competition of the Hong Kong Writers Circle for a monologue focusing on the dangers of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Columbus, OH: Rather than bring their facility into compliance with the Clean Air Act, American Municipal Power elected to permanently shut down its coal-fired power plant near Marietta, Ohio.


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