Mountain Monday: The Clean Water Protection Act is Back!
Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
From the east coast, to the west coast, to the states where it’s taking place, Americans want an end to mountaintop removal coal mining. With that in mind, we have great news! On March 4th 2009, Congressmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ), John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) introduced H.R. 1310 with 117 original co-sponsors in the 111th Congress; that’s more than twice what it had at the beginning of last session!
Select news and blog coverage so far – thanks everyone (more to come, of course):
Jeff Biggers – Black Waters No More: Clean Water Protection Act Reintroduced Today
Susanna Murley – Clean Water: A blow against mountain top removal mining
Kate Sheppard – Clean Water: A blow against mountain top removal mining
Dana Kuhnline – Clean Water Protection Act Introduced in 111th Congress
By The Queen of Democracee – Support the Clean Water Protection Act
ThePeoplesVoice – Clean Water Protection Act Introduced In US Congress With 117 Co-Sponsors, Bill would protect mountain communities and streams
Annie Kate – From the Inbox – Clean Water Protection Act
PJ Finn – The Right Thing To Do
Jeff Larsen – A message for Congressmen Ehlers and Hoekstra
UneFemmePlusCourageuse – This is definitely something I’m for.
Clem Gulatta – Reintroduced Clean Water Act Could Mean the end of Toxic Coal Water
Waltzing Fool – John Yarmuth is my Hero
Kate Sheppard – Watching your waste – Congress takes a step toward regulating coal waste, but what about the EPA?
Susanna – Clean Water: A blow against mountain top removal mining
Jared Saylor – Moving Mountains by Removing Them
By The Queen of Democracee – Five States are taking action against mountain top removal
Also check out Technorati’s automated search for a complete listing:
Press Release from the Alliance for Appalachia
Clean Water Protection Act Introduced in Congress with 117 Cosponsors:
Act Would Protect Mountain Streams and Communities
Rep. Frank Pallone, (202) 225-4671
For Additional Quotes or Interviews, Hi-Resolution Images and other information contact:
Stephanie Pistello, (917) 664-5511 Stephanie@appvoices.org
The Alliance for Appalachia TheAllianceForAppalachia.org
WASHINGTON, DC – The Clean Water Protection Act has just been reintroduced by Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ), John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) with 117 Cosponsors, including 17 members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee into the United States House of Representatives. The bill will protect communities and water quality by outlawing the dumping of mining waste into streams.
“The Clean Water Protection Act is the first broad Congressional initiative aimed at reversing the Bush Administration’s eight-year effort to savage our national waterways and the popular laws that protect them,” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr said, explaining his support of the bill.
The Clean Water Protection Act was introduced to address a 2002 Bush administration executive rule change that altered the long-standing definition of “fill material” in the Clean Water Act. The new definition permits mining waste to be used to fill streams, allowing companies to blast apart mountains for coal and place the resulting millions of tons of rubble, or “excess spoil” into nearby valleys, creating “valley fills” that cover hundreds of acres of land and bury hundreds of miles of streams.
“Congress meant for the Clean Water Act to protect our nation’s water resources; the Administrative rule change endangers those resources,” said Rep. Pallone, the author of the legislation. “The dangerous precedent set by the Bush Administration’s rule change undermines the Clean Water Act.”
The Clean Water Protection Act has taken on an increased urgency following a widely critiqued 4th Circuit Court decision February 13th that allows companies to conduct mountaintop removal without acting to minimize stream destruction or conducting adequate environmental reviews.
“We’re hopeful the Obama administration, which has said they are opposed to mountaintop removal coal mining, will be responsive to the public outcry against mountaintop removal,” said Ann League, of Save Our Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee. “The 4th Circuit Court decision makes it even more urgent that the president and Congress move quickly to stop this destruction.”
At the close of the 110th Congress, 153 co-sponsors had signed the Clean Water Protection Act. Members of the regional coalition The Alliance for Appalachia are confident that the bill could pass the House in the 111th Congress.
“On one side of the debate, you have a majority of the public who wants to end mountaintop removal, you have a President that agrees, you have a rich and vibrant grassroots movement within the Appalachian coalfields working to protect their communities, and you have a Congress that is promoting clean energy and environmental issues,” said JW Randolph of coalition member Appalachian Voices. “On the wrong side of the debate are less than a handful of senior congressmen and senators who are promoting devastating Bush-era rules.”
“Washington is finally starting to pay attention to our struggles in Appalachia,” said Carolyn Van Zant, a West Virginia volunteer with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, who traveled over seven hours to Washington at the end of January to encourage legislators to support the bill. “Over 470 of our mountains have been destroyed, and over 1,400 miles of streams have been buried. My county, Mingo County, has some of the poorest health and highest poverty in the United States. Mountaintop removal is ruining our community with blasts and flooding – and it is literally making us sick.”
“We live in a so called free country–but our basic needs are not being met. In the US today, clean water is a luxury – a luxury my family does not have access to,” said Erica Urias, a member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.
The Alliance for Appalachia is a regional coalition of 13 groups in 5 states working to end mountaintop removal coal mining and support the creation of a just, sustainable economy in Appalachia. Members include: Coal River Mountain Watch, SouthWings, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, The Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Appalshop, Heartwood, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development and Appalachian Voices.
Visit TheAllianceforAppalachia.org for more information.
Press Release from Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr.
LAWMAKERS INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO PROHIBIT DUMPING OF INDUSTRIAL WASTE INTO RIVERS AND STREAMS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 4, 2009
CONTACT: Andrew Souvall / Pallone (202) 225-4671
Abigail Shilling / Reichert (202) 225-7761
Stuart Perelmuter / Yarmuth (202) 225-5401
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ), Dave Reichert (R-WA), and John Yarmuth (D-KY) were joined by 114 of their colleagues in introducing bipartisan legislation today that would prohibit the dumping of industrial waste into rivers and streams.
The Clean Water Protection Act of 2009 protects the definition of ‘fill material’ in the Clean Water Act from being expanded to include mining wastes and other pollutants. The legislation restores the prohibition on using waste as “fill” that had been included in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ regulations since 1977.
The legislation will create a statutory definition of “fill material” that expressly excludes waste materials and will clarify environmental law consistent with the purpose of the Clean Water Act- to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.
Since 1970, more than 470 mountains in central Appalachia have been blown to bits and a million and a half acres of hardwood forests have been destroyed due to mountaintop removal. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2003 that more than 1,200 miles of headwater streams were buried and polluted by the toxic waste from this destructive method of mining. The report also found that the impacts of mountaintop removal valley fills will ultimately have a “disproportionately large impact on the total aquatic genetic diversity of the nation.”
The health problems caused by exposure to these chemicals and heavy metals include cancer, organ failure and learning disabilities. In addition, there have been multiple cases of children suffering from asthma, headaches, nausea and other symptoms likely due to toxic contamination from coal dust.
“This bipartisan legislation is a simple way to protect water quality and the quality of life for those affected by mountaintop mining,” Pallone said. “It is unacceptable to allow the excess spoil from this type of mining to be dumped in mountain streams where it can pollute waterways, and in some cases potentially endanger the lives of area residents. The federal government should not continue to give massive mining companies a free pass to dump their waste into nearby streams, and should instead protect residents who have been negatively impacted by this activity for too long.
“We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment, and this legislation is a strong measure of good stewardship for our waterways, and the communities around them,” Reichert said. “Our children – and future generations – will be protected through this bipartisan legislation.”
“The damage being caused by mountain top removal is irreparable, and each day that we fail to act our water is poisoned, our land is destroyed, and our communities are harmed,” Yarmuth said. “We must enact the Clean Water Protection Act and put an end to the destruction that is devastating the natural resources for families and communities in Kentucky and throughout the region.”
Mountaintop removal is a mining method where the top of a mountain is blown off to extract thin seams of coal. It permanently destroys streams, forests and mountains. The broken rock, or “excess spoil” from this process is usually dumped into nearby valleys, creating “valley fills” that cover hundreds of acres of land and bury hundreds of miles of streams.
On February 13, 2009, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, overturned a federal judge’s ruling that required greater environmental review of permits for mountaintop removal in West Virginia. The Court ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can issue Clean Water Act permits for valley fills without more extensive reviews. This ruling was a reversal of a U.S. District judge’s ruling that the Corps was not requiring enough environmental review before issuing these permits.
The lawmakers believe that while this decision was a great victory for coal mine operators in Appalachia, it was a terrible defeat for the communities in that region. The ruling will permit mining companies to conduct devastating mountaintop removal coal mining without acting to minimize stream destruction or conducting strong environmental reviews. Today, dozens of permits could be expedited as a result of this ruling.
Press Release from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Effort Renewed in Congress to Protect Eastern Kentucky Waterways
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 4, 2009
Teri Blanton, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, 606-859-1648, email@example.com
Stephanie Pistello, Alliance for Appalachia, 917-664-5511 Stephanie@appvoices.org
Jennifer Krimm (Rep. Ben Chandler), 202-225-4706
Stuart Perelmuter (Rep. John Yarmuth), 202-225-5401
Two downstream lawmakers are leading a broad bipartisan effort in Congress to protect the waters of Eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia.
Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville and Rep. Ben Chandler of Central Kentucky, along with 117 of their colleagues, are cosponsors of the Clean Water Protection Act, reintroduced Wednesday in Congress.
The bill will protect communities and water quality by outlawing the dumping of toxic mining waste into streams.
“The damage being caused by mountaintop removal is irreparable, and each day that we fail to act our water is poisoned, our land is destroyed, and our communities are harmed,” Rep. Yarmuth said. “We must enact the Clean Water Protection Act and put an end to the destruction that is devastating the natural resources for families and communities in Kentucky and throughout the region.”
“The Clean Water Protection Act is much-needed legislation to safeguard Kentucky’s fragile streams and creeks while maintaining a strong and viable coal industry,” said U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler. “In these hard economic times, Kentucky enjoys some of the lowest energy costs in the nation. However, we don’t have to sacrifice our environment, our watershed and our communities to do so.”
The CWPA was introduced to address a 2002 Bush administration executive rule change that altered the long-standing definition of “fill material” in the Clean Water Act. The new definition permits mining waste to be used to fill streams, allowing coal companies to dump millions of tons of rubble, or “excess spoil” into nearby valleys after they blast apart Kentucky’s mountaintops.
The resultant “valley fills” have buried thousands of acres of forests and hundreds of miles of streams, including the headwaters of the Kentucky, Upper Cumberland, Big Sandy and Licking rivers.
As a result, sedimentation is the number one pollutant in eastern Kentucky streams.
“This bipartisan legislation is a simple way to protect water quality and the quality of life for those affected by mountaintop mining,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, the bill’s author and chief sponsor. “It is unacceptable to allow the excess spoil from this type of mining to be dumped in mountain streams where it can pollute waterways, and in some cases potentially endanger the lives of area residents.”
“The federal government should not continue to give massive mining companies a free pass to dump their waste into nearby streams, and should instead protect residents who have been negatively impacted by this activity for too long.”
The Clean Water Protection Act has taken on an increased urgency following a widely critiqued U.S. Fourth Circuit Court decision last month involving a West Virginia case. The court ruled that coal companies can dump their wastes without acting to minimize stream destruction or conducting adequate environmental reviews.
Several eastern Kentucky residents were in Washington in January with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth to sign up members of Congress as cosponsors of the Clean Water Protection Act. They plan to go back later this month, along with allies from other central Appalachian states, western coal mining states and several Native American tribes to strengthen that support.