News Flash! : Victory Against Mountaintop Removal

News Flash! : Victory Against Mountaintop Removal

Mountaintop removal in WV. Photo By: Climate Voices
Mountaintop removal in WV. Photo By: Climate Voices

On November 15th, 2012, Patriot Coal Corporation announced that they would immediately begin to halt  large scale surface mining in Appalachia, a practice which many know as: Mountaintop Removal (MTR). Patriot Coal is the one of the largest mining companies in the region and the second largest miner within West Virginia (the state most dramatically impacted by MTR). Environmental groups herald this as an overwhelming victory in the fight to stop this environmentally destructive practice. 

This decision comes after Patriot Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this past July 2012. Then with environmental justice organizations: The Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservatory, and represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Patriot Coal agreed to this conclusion and in result received an additional year to comply with the mandated requirement that they install costly pollution controls at forty-two of their mines (a selenium treatment), as well as an additional year and three months in enact these controls at their Hobet Mine.

The agreement details that Patriot Coal will immediately stop MTR, begin phasing out all surface mining (with the coal of completion by 2014), and increase small scale under gound mining. In a statement released, the company said that they no longer found it in the best interest of the community or the environment to continue this practice. Beyond the apparent environmental impact of MTR, scores of locals account the dramatic health defects they have experienced from MTR, as well as the many MTR accidents that have occurred to workers and residents that have resulted in varying injuries and sometimes in death. Environmental groups state that with the rising of both gas prices and alternative energy sources, it no longer makes business sense to continue MTR.

One key counter concern of this agreement is the potential loss of local jobs with the phasing out of this practice. Some say that this concern is unnecessary as the increase in small scale mining will guarantee many safer jobs for workers. More call for the dire need to diversify the area's economy so that it isn't reliant on the coal industry, as many believe that coal's usefulness is drawing to a close. Environmental groups call for Pacific Coal to treat their workers justly as they begin this transitioning process. 

Ultimately, many appear to celebrate this victory of holding a corporation accountable to the 1972 Clean Water Act. Groups cite their hopes that this decision marks the demise of all MTR practices.

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1 Toxins from the Hobet Mine flow directly downstream into the Mud River Reservoir. This has caused innumerable side effects, including mutations in the local fish population.

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Corey Reidy has been an Indyreader collective member since the start of 2009. And.. she adores it with all her heart. When Reidy isn't editing, writing, interviewing, or other Indyreader-centric organizing, she works to do other forms of radical activism -- including, but not limited to, organizing/being a board member of Hollaback! Baltimore. If she's not organizing, Reidy is most likely reading, biking, or practicing/studying yoga (of which she adores and will 100% go to bat to defend and promote).