Front Porch Blog

Stream “protection” rule falls short

Each month, Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons reflects on issues of importance to our supporters and to the region.


On July 16, the Department of the Interior released a draft of the long-awaited Stream Protection Rule to regulate surface coal mining. If done right, the final rule could safeguard streams and people by reining in the ravages of mountaintop removal.

While the proposed rule appears to take steps in that direction, it is far too weak and would still allow coal companies to blow the tops off mountains and bury mountain streams with the waste. Comments from citizens like you demanding a strong rule will be critical. (We’ll have more details soon on how you can get involved.)

In announcing the proposal, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke of the body of science that demonstrates the health threats and ecological harm caused by mountaintop removal. We commend this recognition of the facts.

She also tacitly acknowledged that the destruction wrought by mountaintop removal severely impedes efforts to make “coalfield communities more resilient for a diversified economic future,” and we vigorously applaud that.

But we emphatically disagree with the secretary’s statement that the proposed rule represents a “balanced approach to energy development.” There is nothing balanced about blowing the tops off ancient mountains and jeopardizing the health of thousands of Americans.

Appalachian Voices, our partner groups and citizens directly impacted by mountaintop removal have met repeatedly with the Obama administration to press for a rule that would make a positive and profound difference on the ground. Many of you have contacted the administration as well. Still, this proposal falls short.

Our experts are working with our partners to analyze the 2,600-page document, paying particular attention to provisions regarding valley fills, stream buffers, water quality monitoring, watershed impacts, bonding requirements and standards for stream restoration and land reclamation.

This is the administration’s first, and probably only, rule directly addressing mountaintop removal. It’s taken five years. In the meantime, mountaintop removal is still happening, and it’s moving closer to communities. It remains the overwhelming environmental threat to Appalachia’s communities and natural heritage. This rule is the president’s best opportunity to institute lasting protections against the abuse this region has suffered for decades. We need him to take it.

For Appalachia,





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  1. Barbara McLane on September 15, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Water is too precious a resource to be ignoring this issue. And coal is an outdated and dirty fuel which puts people’s lives at risk to mine it, or strip it. And more and more
    natural landscapes stripped for profit. Will it take breathing polluted air and water
    before we can be heard. Yes, I am disappointed in President Obama’s promise to
    promote clean energy and seemingly ignore this issue. We aren’t talking about
    future, we are talking about pollution impacting today, now, affecting everyone.

  2. Edythe Cox on July 22, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    I think it’s time for a “tourist attraction” that lets visitors stay overnight in the heart of MTR and breathe and drink the polluted air and water. Then President Obama can be invited to partake.

  3. Grace Neff on July 22, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    I cannot understand why our President is letting this very destructive, unhealthy practice
    continue unabated when it is so polluting to the environment and the people living and suffering from the terrible aftermath of blowing up their mountains.

  4. Virginia Bennett on July 22, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    The only way the current presidency can make any consequential moves against the ecological rape, defacing, polluting and complete destruction of a millions of years old mountain range by the destructive, weakly regulated coal industry is to decisively strengthen our laws against mountaintop removal.
    We shouldn’t be extracting coal by this method in this day & age!! There are so many clean alternatives to supply us energy, we shoudn’t even BE using coal AT ALL!! Instead of spending fuether money on the extraction of coal & other mineral-based fuels, we should be heavily investing in clean power.
    Legislators– it’s time you became honest men & women, and gave up your protectors from the dirty fuel industries and served US, THE PEOPLE & OUR LAND, by legislating to clean it up and restore it!!

  5. Jim Giglio on July 22, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Which side is the Democratic Party on?

    We know who owns the GOP. But the Dems claim to be on the side of the ordinary folks? Has anybody checked lately? Or have they become yet another wholly-owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry?

  6. rebecca tippens on July 22, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    First of all, we should not be using coal for the sake of the planet and all beings on it; second of all, you cannot measure in monetary terms the affect of ruining, the valuable sparkling water that is our birthright and ours to protect.

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