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March 12, 2010

On March 15, Take Action to Stop Dumping Mine Waste Into Our Water

This post was co-written by Bruce Nilles and Mary Anne Hitt, director and deputy director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, respectively.

There is nothing clean about destroying homes and communities to get coal out of the ground. Mountaintop removal coal mining is a dirty secret in our nation's energy supply. More than 470 mountains in Appalachia have been destroyed by this process of detonating explosives to expose the thin layers of coal at the surface. Coal companies dump the resulting mining waste and debris in valleys, and they have filled and destroyed approximately 2,000 miles of streams to date. As a result, we Appalachians suffer from the loss of our rivers, streams, and forests; contamination of our drinking water; increased flooding; and other impacts.

There is Bush-era waste loophole in the "fill rule" that allows polluters to bypass water quality standards and dump untreated mining waste in streams, lakes, and rivers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to close the waste loophole in the Clean Water Act, and President Obama should instruct the agency to do so immediately.

Time is running out for EPA to fix the Clean Water Act before the end of the Obama administration's first term, given the time required to change regulations. EPA needs a green light now from the White House to begin, and President Obama should give it to them. The Obama Administration has an opportunity to end the dirtiest form of coal mining by reinstating the longstanding prohibition on filling waters with waste immediately.

Help stop the dumping of mining waste in our water. Please call the White House on March 15 and ask President Obama to restore the Clean Water Act's prohibition on filling waters with waste: 202-456-1414 (9AM-5PM Eastern Time).

Put it in your calendar now - call the White House on Monday!

Mountaintop removal mining is strip mining on steroids. Peer-reviewed research published in the distinguished journal Science found the impacts of valley fills and mountaintop removal are "pervasive and irreversible, and that mitigation cannot compensate for losses" to our water quality, wildlife, and quality of life.

It doesn't have to be this way. We can keep the lights on without destroying the streams and communities of Appalachia. Only five percent of our nation's electricity comes from mountaintop removal coal, an amount that could be easily made up from a wide range of cleaner energy sources (or even coal from underground mines in elsewhere in Appalachia).

In the mountains of Appalachia you will find hard-working, patriotic Americans who are dedicated to their families and communities. These mountains are world famous for whitewater rivers, scenic beauty, bluegrass music, and old-fashioned hospitality. Those of us who had the great fortune to grow up here consider it to be heaven on earth. But time is running out for our mountains, streams and communities.

Will you join us in calling the White House on March 15 and asking President Obama to restore the Clean Water Act's prohibition on filling waters with waste?


Together, we can demonstrate to the White House the urgent need for action to restore the prohibition of dumping mining waste in our water.

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