Front Porch Blog

Well, that was quick

Rep. David Vitter

Sen. David Vitter

The new U.S. Senate couldn’t even make it one week before introducing a horrible bill. The 114th Congress began on January 6, and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) only managed to restrain himself 24 whole hours before introducing legislation to weaken the Clean Water Act.

Sen. Vitter’s bill, S.54, would limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to veto permits for mountaintop removal valley fills. It is our view that valley fills—in which the dirt and rock from blasting the tops off the mountains are dumped into streams and valleys—should not even exist. We’ve got the science to back that up. But Vitter and other coal industry allies in Congress want the fills to continue to be permitted, and want them regulated exclusively by the Army Corps of Engineers, completely removing the EPA from the process.

These coal industry advocates want the Corps in charge not because they think the agency has the same level of water quality expertise as the EPA, but because the Corps does not have the same expertise, and is therefore more likely to just hand out permits that pollute our water.

The big difference between this Congress and last Congress is that bills like S.54 have a chance at passing the Senate. Vitter’s bill is virtually identical to multiple bills that have been introduced in the past, but they didn’t get committee hearings, and never even came up for votes. This year, they probably will.

Thanks to years of hard work by Appalachian Voices and our coalition partners, we have champions in the Senate who will work to stop these dangerous bills from becoming law. Senate Republicans established a precedent over the past eight years that all bills need 60 votes to pass, and the coal industry will have a very difficult time finding 60 senators to vote for more mountaintop removal mining pollution. But we will have a fight on our hands.

President Obama is also expected to use his veto power to stop the worst bills from becoming law. We hope not to depend on vetoes, but if we can’t stop something bad from passing the Senate, the President is our backstop.

Our greatest hope for the next two years is that the White House takes advantage of its veto power and doesn’t let the threat of coal industry bills to prevent strong actions to stop mountaintop removal. Because there’s a lot left to do, and not a lot of time in which to do it.

About Thom Kay

AV's Legislative Director, Thom spends his days between Durham, NC and Washington D.C., knee deep in politics and legislation, working to persuade decision-makers to protect Appalachian communities from mountaintop removal and to invest in a new economy for the region. He is the least outdoorsy person at Appalachian Voices, and he's just fine with that.


  1. Harold Lorentson says:

    The environment must be protected, you are killing the future! Wake up money and fame you are so dumb. You should look at your children and grandchildren you want to kill their future on this earth!?

  2. Zach says:

    He’s an idiot. His drinking water should come from the output of this fill project. When he drinks it I’ll say he can approve it. Money before mind!

  3. Stop all bills that pollute our waters. Water is a essential for life and should not be a political football.

  4. Robin Lee Horne says:

    The GOP will not be happy until they turn West Virginia into a filthy, polluted parking lot.

  5. Bayou Woman says:

    I’ve arrived at your site via a post script in the back of John Girsham’s book “Gray Mountain”. I want to apologize that a La. Senator is behind such a terrible bill. As a wetland advocate down here in south Louisiana, I know first-hand how slow moving the Corps is, and you are right. They make wetland determinations down here that boggle the mind, and they move slow as syrup. So, no, in no way do you want the ACoE involved in your permitting processes. Best of luck to you all, and keep up the good work.

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