Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining Divides Communities Over Jobs and the Environment

Interview with Dr. Dan Doyle, physician with the New River Health Association, serving Fayette County, W. Va., conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Tensions are rising in the coal fields of southern Appalachia, as more militant – though nonviolent – protests are being staged to end mountaintop removal coal mining, and the demand for coal and its availability in the region is declining. In West Virginia, even some pro-coal officials estimate that the coal industry will play out in the state over the next 20 years, although vast amounts will remain accessible in the American West for much longer.


Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Mountaintop Removal |

Judge OKs corps permit for Logan County mine

By Ken Ward Jr.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In another significant legal victory for the coal industry, a federal judge on Friday refused to block a Clean Water Act permit for a mountaintop removal permit in Logan County.

U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers ruled against an effort by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition to stop the Reylas Surface Mine, proposed by Highland Mining, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources.


Read More…

Written by Administrator in: Mountaintop Removal,Water Quality |

Study finds toxins from mountaintop coal mining sites

By Alice Su

The U.S. Geological Survey has found high levels of toxic compounds in soil and water around mountaintop-removal mining sites in central Appalachia, a potentially groundbreaking finding with human health consequences.

After a year of testing air, water and soil, researchers concluded that people in mountaintop mining communities in southern West Virginia live in an environment with significant chemical discrepancies from the rest of the state. This could suggest that documented health problems in the region are linked, at least in part, to the mining operations.

Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Mountaintop Removal,USGS |

The Latest from Dave Cooper, Mountaintop Removal Road Show

Friends of the Appalachian Mountains,

It’s going to be a hot summer but there are many cool events happening in the mountains of Appalachia to end mountaintop removal mining, including a mass mobilization in West Virginia on a mountaintop removal mine site July 25 – August 1.

Below is a quick listing of some of these events, and an important request.

Vehicle Needed

Do you have a good-running vehicle that you can donate to the campaign to end mountaintop removal?  We are looking for a large car, station wagon or minivan.  Young people are currently being transported around Appalachia in the back of old pickup trucks held together with rope and bungee cords.  I am worried about their safety on these curvy mountain roads.  It doesn’t have to be a pretty vehicle but it needs to be in safe condition.  You will be donating to a non-profit organization, so it is tax-deductible.   Please email me back if you, your church or school might have such a vehicle that you could donate.  Email  – Thanks!

The Whippoorwill Festival – Skills for Earth-Friendly Living July 12-15

The Whippoorwill Festival is Thursday July 12 through Sunday July 15 near Berea KY.  This low-cost, family-friendly festival seeks to prepare our minds and bodies for a future with severe climate change and shortages of fossil fuels.

We will have four days of workshops on topics like raising backyard chickens, finding edible mushrooms in the forest, how to survive without a salary, backyard fruit trees, fermenting kim che and sauerkraut, making cool clothing from old thrift store sweaters, primitive nutrition, composting toilets, voluntary simplicity, permaculture, worm composting, herbal first aid, growing herbs, deer processing, rocket stoves, fiber arts, hide tanning, deep ecology, yoga, how to play the banjo, and many more – over 70 workshops.

In the evening we will have guest speakers, group theater and live music featuring the great Reel World String Band, The Tillers (from Cincinnati), Appalatin (from Louisville) and Berea’s homegrown favorite Sugar Tree, plus singer/songwriter Jack Herranen from Knoxville.  We have great music at Whippoorwill.

The Whippoorwill Festival is low cost ($20 per person per day – kids 16 and under free) and family friendly.  The ticket includes tent camping and three free meals per day are provided by Food Not Bombs.

Four day discount tickets are available for $60 until June 30, then the price goes up to $80, and you can register now at or click here

We hope to see you there!

Dont Frack Ohio – July 14-17 in Columbus Ohio

Don’t Frack Ohio starts this week in Columbus Ohio and will feature three days of trainings and workshops to oppose fracking for natural gas, followed by a People’s Assembly to pass citizens’ legislation to end fracking.

Featuring “Gasland” filmmaker Josh Fox and “The End of Nature” author and co-founder Bill McKibben

No Nukes Y’All – Thursday – Sunday June 28-30, Chattanooga TN

Faeturing David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists and S. David Freeman, former Head of TVA (and many other institutions), energy advisor to US Presidents and now advising Friends of the Earth.

Talks will include the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan, US nuclear complex and also a Positive Energy FUTURE!

Mountain Keepers Music Festival – See Mountaintop Removal on Kayford Mountain, West Virginia – Saturday and Sunday June 30 – July 1

Mountain music, potluck supper, celebrate Appalachian culture and meet the famous “Keeper of the Mountains” Larry Gibson – just east of Charleston WV

See mountaintop removal from Kayford Mountain!

For directions, just google “Directions to Kayford Mountain”

Allgood Festival – Thornville Ohio July 19-22

Want to help raise money to end mountaintop removal and get free tickets to the Allgood music festival near Columbus, Ohio (at Legend Valley aka the Buckeye Lake Music Center)?  Allgood 2012 features the Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh and Friends, the Flaming Lips and many many more.  Mountain Justice and/or RAMPS personnel will be staffing a booth selling water and energy drinks to the sweaty thirsty masses from 11 AM to 4 AM.  Sounds like fun?  You will have to work the booth 3-4 hours per day but then you can go see music.  Its hard work but we get 12 free tickets.  If interested, please email me back and we will put you on the list.

Stop the Kaboom Festival July 20-22 Hedgesville WV (eastern panhandle)

This festival was created to raise awareness and funding for the fight against the acts of mountaintop removal and hydraulic fracturing.

Last year the Stop The Kaboom festival raised over 400 dollars to support the RAMPS Campaign in Southern WV. This year the Stop the Kaboom Festival will split the funds between the RAMPS Campaign – a nonviolent direct action organization against mountaintop removal – and Frack Ban, a community group that is trying to keep hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, “fracking” out of Morgan County, WV.

Mountain Mobilization, West Virginia July 25 – August 1

Hosted by RAMPS – Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival

Come to southern West Virginia on July 25. RAMPS will host a mobilization where people will prepare to take nonviolent direct action to shut down a strip mine. We are calling for as many people as possible to come together and do what the politicians, the regulators and the courts have been unwilling to do; to defend the land and the people; to stop strip mining.

The success of this depends on your participation. Whatever your skills, availability, or ability to risk arrest, there are ways for you to make this mobilization a success. To join ongoing working groups or find out more about ways to participate, please email We also deeply need your financial support.

Please donate today so RAMPS can continue its vital work. Most importantly, spread the word.

Clifftop Music Festival August 1-5 near Beckley WV

Celebrate traditional and old time music at the Appalachian String Band Festival (known as Clifftop)

See you in the mountains!

Dave Cooper

The Whippoorwill Festival – Skills for Earth-Friendly Living
July 12-15 near Berea, Kentucky

Written by Administrator in: Hiking-Outings,Mountaintop Removal |


By John McFerrin

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has filed a notice that it is appealing the U.S. District Court decision that overturned the agency’s veto under the Clean Water Act of the Spruce No. 1 mine, one of the nation’s largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mines. The appeal will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

This is an appeal from the March 23, 2012, decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In that decision, the District Court held that the Environmental Protection Agency did not have the authority to veto a permit issued by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The permit, as issued by the Corps of Engineers, would have allowed Mingo-Logan Coal Company to fill more than six miles of streams. For more details, see the April, 2012, issue of The Highlands Voice.

Nutshell version

Corps of Engineers said the mining was OK. Environmental Protection Agency said it was it wasn’t. Court said EPA didn’t have the authority so the mining was OK. EPA disagrees so it is appealing to a higher court.

What we’re fighting about

As a legal matter, the question is one of the legal authorities of agencies to act. When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 it gave the Army Corps of Engineers authority of issue permits which allowed the filling of waters of the United States. These are known as Section 404 permits, named for the section of the Clean Water Act which authorized them. At the same time, the Clean Water Act designated the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency to oversee all Clean Water Act activities, including those carried out by the Corps of Engineers in issuing fill permits. That authority included the right to comment on Section 404 permits. If the permits approved by the Corps were determined to contradict the water protection provisions of the Clean Water Act, then the EPA has the right to veto the permit.

The legal question before the District Court, and now the Court of Appeals, is the extent of EPA’s authority and how that authority is to be exercised.

Although not parties to the original court action, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, along with Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and Sierra Club have participated as friends of the court (also known as amicus curiae, for anyone who wants to show off his or her Latin). This status is for those who are not parties but have an interest in the outcome.

What’s at stake

As a practical, on the ground, matter what is at stake is the mining of 2,278 acres and the destruction of over six more miles of the ecologically rich Pigeonroost and Oldhouse Branches of Spruce River of the Little Coal River and further harm to the people living near the mine, many of whom have already suffered overwhelming impacts of nearby mountaintop removal already under operation. More specifically, the proposed mine project will:

  • Dispose of 110 million cubic yards of coal mine waste into streams.
  • Bury more than six miles of high-quality streams in Logan County, West Virginia, with millions of tons of mining waste from the dynamiting of more than 2,200 acres of mountains and forestlands.
  • Bury more than 35,000 feet of high-quality streams under mining waste, which will eliminate all fish, small invertebrates, salamanders, and other wildlife that live in them.
  • Pollute downstream waters as a result of burying these streams, which will lead to unhealthy levels of salinity and toxic levels of selenium that turn fresh water into salty water. The resulting waste that then fills valleys and streams can significantly compromise water quality, often causing permanent damage to ecosystems and streams.
  • Cause downstream watershed degradation that will kill wildlife, impact birdlife, reduce habitat value, and increase susceptibility to toxic algal blooms.

At the time of the veto of the permit, an EPA spokesman said, “The proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Peter S. Silva.

For more information about EPA’s action, see the February, 2011, issue of The Highlands Voice.

Editor’s note: When referring back to the April, 2012, issue for information on this issue, you should be sure you read Cindy Rank’s story on the myths surrounding this controversy. It appears on page 14 of that issue. That was a rerun of the story from an earlier issue but it is so helpful and insightful on this controversy that it bears rereading. The Voice may start running it periodically whenever this controversy comes up, just like It’s a Wonderful Life on TV every Christmas.

Written by Administrator in: Mountaintop Removal,The Highlands Voice |


By Cindy Rank

Always the question arises with each new legal challenge: What does it matter? … In the overall scheme of things, what does this one permit for Highland Mining Company’s Reylas mine in Logan County matter?

Not exactly a medically correct use of the term, but one can experience a taste of schizophrenia traveling back and forth from Upshur County WV to the lush mountains of Virginia with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond.

Indeed, crossing Rich and Cheat and Shavers Mountains to attend Highlands Conservancy meetings in and around the Monongahela National Forest for over three decades has always brought me a certain sense of calm, a personal joy in seeing the vast expanses of green rolling hills. Hearing the birds, enjoying clear flowing streams.

A few weeks ago Paul and I drove even further east to join family members vacationing in the mountains of Virginia – beyond Seneca Rocks and the breathtaking views of Germany Valley and striking ridges of North Fork Mountain over into the George Washington National Forest with more of the same over Shenandoah Mountain. Such trips are so full of beautiful sights and sounds that one can be fooled into thinking all’s right with the world, that humankind appreciates the natural beauty that surrounds us, that we recognize the value of these hills and hollows we call home. REALITY

Any more it’s impossible for me to take in such grandeur without also seeing in my mind’s eye flashes of the devastation happening to similar mountains not so very far to the south and west of these Allegheny Highlands, e.g. scenes of the Mud River valley where forested ridges are being leveled daily or of the view from Kayford Mountain where the Red Warrior, now Samples, mine have lowered ridges for several miles to the north and nearly circle around the Gibson family cemetery and the few homes nearby.

Within this swirl of conflicting images I ask myself what does it matter?

Other mountains fall prey to the ever broadening sprawl of the megalopolises like Washington, DC or New York City …. And obviously there are still lots and lots of green rolling hills and rich forested mountains……So what’s the point?

But before the question even reaches my lips, I’m haunted by testimony by the scientists I heard in court during the Reylas trial just days before our trip to VA and by the heartrending testimony of the dozen or more strong women from communities throughout southern WV, Ky, Tenn and southwestern VA who spoke at the Central Appalachian Women’s Tribunal on Climate Justice May 10th in Charleston, good women struggling to maintain their own and their families’ sanity and physical health in the midst of blasting and pollution from the mines that surround them. Their individual stories are powerful and heartbreaking and often included mention of the increasing numbers of health studies that point ever more directly to a variety of health problems that are statistically greater for people living near huge mountaintop removal mines.

YES, Reylas matters…..
It is one more unnecessary assault on the human and other natural resources that we all depend on. It is one more nail in the coffin of buried and polluted streams and destroyed groundwater and decimated communities being left behind in the wake of the phenomenon we know as 21st century strip mining.

The science is overwhelming. …In study after study, research shows that water quality and aquatic life in streams below these big mines and valley fills is slowly declining.

Despite the fact that the laws are clear about the need to strike a ‘balance’ between developing one resource (coal) while protecting others (water in particular), the legal hair splitting continues. [Trust me, anyone prone to migraine headaches should never sit in a courtroom during any of these mining trials.]

In the specific case of the Reylas mine the newest legal wrinkle involves the recent (November 2011) interpretation by the Army Corps of Engineers of how it implements a section of its regulatory program that has to do with state certification of fill permits.

While the Corps issues Section 404 (of the Clean Water Act) fill permits, individual states determine state specific criteria that must be considered in granting any 404 permits. The state then ‘certifies’ (under the provisions of Section 401 of the CWA) whether or not a particular 404 permit meets those specific requirements – hence the terminology 401 Certification.

For nearly 40 years the Corps has viewed this certification as the floor of water quality protection needed in issuing 404 permits for activities within the individual state, the minimum protection to be afforded upon its own independent review and approval of a permit application.

As of November 2011 the Corps no longer views state 401 certification as a floor but rather as a ceiling of protection. The Corps now regards those certifications as conclusive and relies on those certifications in lieu of the agency’s own independent water quality analysis.

We thought we were rid of the rubber stamp Nationwide Permits so frequently used to blithely allow filling of so many miles of rich stream valleys with waste rock from large strip mines. Now according to Corps regulatory review of November 2011 we seem to be headed back to square one.

Unless the Environmental Protection Agency specifically steps in and advises of other water quality aspects that need be considered, or some other requirement of Federal Law is unmet, state certification is the final arbiter of compliance with applicable effluent limitations and water quality standards required under provisions of section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

This practice and regulatory interpretation has had serious adverse environmental impacts in Appalachia, where the Corps has approved hundreds of permits allowing the filling of headwater streams with mining waste, causing widespread stream impairment from mine runoff containing high levels of pollutants such as total dissolved solids, sulfates, conductivity and selenium. State water quality permits, certifications, and reviews have ignored, or been inadequate to prevent, these serious impacts. The Corps has nevertheless used this interpretation to avoid analyzing these impacts and to allow ongoing stream impairments.

Of course permitting also requires consideration of the cumulative impacts of these mining operations and we know how ineffective both state and federal agencies have been on this score these past many years.

With the Reylas challenge (as with many of the other mines often referred to in the pages of the Voice) it is not just the one mine, or the one fill, or the one stream that is being destroyed, but rather the cumulative effect of the many mines in any number of watersheds in southern WV that is causing the ever downward spiral of water quality throughout the region.

In Dingess Run, though dead fish aren’t floating belly up in the streams [yet], already mining in the watershed has increased selenium levels and contributed to a reduction in the quality of the entire watershed that has prompted ‘impaired’ status be applied to the watershed.

There is little doubt that the Reylas mine will only further negatively impact the downstream reaches of Bandmill Hollow and Dingess Run.

— Final briefing and closing arguments in the case haven’t been rendered as of the writing of this article —

Written by Administrator in: Mountaintop Removal,The Highlands Voice |


Formally, this event was billed as the “Central Appalachian Women’s Tribunal on Climate Justice,” and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy was one of the co-sponsors. The day’s program stated that the aim was to be “Raising the voices of grassroots women… in the United States, and around the world; exposing the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining and its role in climate chaos. Event presenters included the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the Loretto Community at the United Nations. The Loretto Community was founded in 1812 by two women who taught children in Kentucky and wished to expand their spiritual, environmental, and educational outreach. Similar gender and climate justice tribunals have taken place in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The tribunal planned to highlight how women living in persistent poverty areas and impoverished communities are being affected by climate-related issues.

The audience included women of all ages, one 6 weeks old, some 7 decades older. It was especially gratifying to meet a group of enthusiastic students from Xavier University.

The format was that of a legal proceeding, with “jurists” listening to testimony in four “cases” by “witnesses,” and “experts”. WVHC’s mining chairperson, Cindy Rank, presented expert testimony in the case of “Damages to Air, Land, and Water.” Actually, the vital nature of clean water was stressed by all participants in each of the cases. Following each presentation the jurists made responses.

WVHC’s mining chairperson, Cindy Rank, presented expert testimony

The expert testimonies were detailed yet succinct and the stories told by the witnesses were heartfelt and often heartbreaking. Many attendees were moved to tears. One jurist termed the effects of mountaintop removal mining as “climate Holocaust.”

Near the end of the session, the jurists read a list of recommendations they’d compiled based on the testimony they’d heard. These recommendations will be taken to a United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro next month. There are also plans to present the list to women in positions of power here in this nation.

Just after the session ended word came that sponsors of the tribunal had won a coveted spot as an officially recognized event as part of the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June. Results of this and other women’s group tribunals on issues around the globe will be part of that presentation.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Mountaintop Removal,The Highlands Voice |

Jack Spadaro receives conservation award

By Taylor Kuykendall, Reporter


The National Wildlife Federation honored longtime West Virginia coalfield conservation and mine safety activist Jack Spadaro with a 2012 National Conservation Achievement Award.


“I say to you: The people and the living forests of my region of Appalachia have enormous
worth and dignity, and I love them and will stand by them for as long as I live,” Spadaro said in a prepared acceptance of the award.
Written by Administrator in: Mountaintop Removal |

American Rivers names America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2012

Clean Water rollbacks threaten #1 Potomac River and rivers nationwide


Amy Kober, American Rivers, (503) 708-1145
Ed Merrifield, Potomac Riverkeeper, (202) 222-0707
Hedrick Belin, Potomac Conservancy, (301) 608-1188
Joan Rose, Public health and clean water expert,
Michigan State University, (517) 432-4412
John Hayes, Potomac River guide, (703) 402-4837

May 15, 2012

Washington, D.C. – With Congress considering drastic cuts to national clean water protections, and rivers nationwide facing threats from natural gas drilling, pollution, and new dams, American Rivers today released its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®. American Rivers named the Potomac River, known as ‘the nation’s river’ as it flows through the capital, the most endangered in the country. While the Potomac is cleaner than it used to be, the river is still threatened by urban and agricultural pollution– and it could get much worse if Congress rolls back critical clean water safeguards.

As our country commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act this year, the Potomac is emblematic of what’s at stake for rivers nationwide. American Rivers launched a national call to action, giving citizens the opportunity to contact members of Congress and speak up for clean water.

“This year’s Most Endangered Rivers list underscores how important clean water is to our drinking water, health, and economy,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. “If Congress slashes clean water protections, more Americans will get sick and communities and businesses will suffer. We simply cannot afford to go back to a time when the Potomac and rivers nationwide were too polluted and dangerous to use.”

Before the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, the Potomac was a cesspool of sewage and industrial pollution. Thanks to the Clean Water Act, the Potomac and rivers across the country are cleaner and safer for drinking, boating, and fishing. But the Potomac is still suffering – a University of Maryland report card has given the river a “D” grade for water quality for the past two years.

“The Clean Water Act is the reason the Potomac River is no longer called a “national disgrace.” Most of the palpable problems are gone; however, there are many emerging threats that can’t be seen. Residents of the Washington D.C. metro area– including the President and Congress– need to realize they are composed mostly of Potomac river water and they need to protect and enforce the laws that safeguard their health,” said Ed Merrifield, President of Potomac Riverkeeper.  “We need strong federal leadership as we redouble our efforts at the local level to achieve the goal of a healthy, clean Potomac,” said Hedrick Belin, President of the Potomac Conservancy. “We look forward to partnering with American Rivers, Potomac Riverkeeper, and others to continue to make progress cleaning up the Nation’s River.  This regional treasure contributes so much to our community’s quality of life, and our neighborhoods deserve healthy, clean streams and creeks.”

“When members of Congress fill a glass of water or drink their morning coffee, that water comes from the Potomac River. It’s time to draw the clear connections between healthy rivers, drinking water, and public health in Washington, DC, and in communities nationwide,” said Irvin.

American Rivers called on Congress to kill any legislation that weakens the Clean Water Act or prevents the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from restoring protections for small streams and wetlands under the Act. American Rivers also called on the Obama Administration to finalize guidance clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act and issue a rule-making to ensure that all waters get the protections Americans expect and deserve.

Now in its 27th year, the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2012:
#1: Potomac River (MD, VA, PA, WV, DC)
Threat: Pollution
At risk: Clean water and public health

The Potomac is the ‘nation’s river,’ rich in culture and history and the lifeblood of our nation’s capital. The river provides drinking water to more than five million people and offers abundant opportunities for recreation. However, the Potomac is threatened by agricultural and urban pollution that will only get worse if Congress rolls back national clean water protections. If Congress puts polluters before people, our nation’s river — and many other rivers nationwide — will become a threat to public health, unsafe for drinking water, wildlife, or recreation.

#2: Green River (WY, UT, CO)
Threat: Water withdrawals
At risk: Recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat

The Green River is the largest tributary of the Colorado River, and carves some of the most iconic river canyons in the U.S. Thousands of anglers fish its glorious water and thousands of rafters marvel at the river’s majestic canyons each year, generating a robust rural economy across three states. However, a proposal to pump a massive volume of water out of the Green into a 500-mile pipeline across Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range threatens world-class recreation, rural economies, critical fish habitats and the water supply for the lower Colorado River Basin. The Governors of Utah and Colorado must join Wyoming’s Governor Mead in opposing the pipeline and standing up for more efficient, cost-effective water supply solutions.

#3: Chattahoochee River (GA)
Threat: New dams and reservoirs
At risk: Clean water and healthy fisheries

The Chattahoochee River provides drinking water for millions in metro Atlanta, is one of America’s best trout streams, and was recently designated as our country’s first National Water Trail. However, a water war between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida has spurred proposals for costly new dams and reservoirs that would harm water quality, destroy recreation opportunities, and ruin wildlife habitat. The Army Corps of Engineers must deny permits for these reservoirs and state decision makers must embrace more cost effective solutions like water efficiency in order to ensure a reliable water supply and healthy river for generations to come.

#4: Missouri River (IA, KS, MN, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY)
Threat: Outdated flood management
At risk: Public safety

The Missouri is the nation’s longest river, supplying drinking water, commerce, and recreation, and impacting the safety and well-being of millions. However, the river and its communities suffer from outdated flood management, as evidenced by the massive flooding in 2011. In order to improve public safety, decision makers must prioritize using floodplains and wetlands to absorb and store flood waters, and Congress must fully fund the Missouri River Recovery Program and long term planning studies for the river.

#5: Hoback River (WY)
Threat: Natural gas development
At stake: Clean water and world-class fish and wildlife

The Hoback River is treasured for its sparkling clear water, thriving native trout fishery, and excellent paddling opportunities. Unfortunately, proposed natural gas development threatens the river and local residents with toxic pollution. To ensure the Hoback’s clean water, air quality, scenery, and world-class fish and wildlife are not compromised, the leaseholder must agree to sell or donate its oil and gas leases to a conservation buyer.

#6: Grand River (OH)
Threat: Natural gas development
At risk: Clean water and public health

A State Wild and Scenic River, the Grand is a haven for rare birds and other wildlife and boasts the best water quality of any stream flowing into Lake Eerie. However, natural gas development threatens the river’s clean water and public health. The State of Ohio must strengthen safeguards to ensure natural gas development and the disposal of wastewater does not harm the river, its clean water, and local communities.

#7: South Fork Skykomish River (WA)
Threat: New dam
At risk: Habitat and recreation

The Skykomish is one of Washington’s most popular rivers for fishing, paddling, and scenic beauty. However, a proposed hydropower dam would destroy the wild character of the river’s South Fork, and reduce two spectacular waterfalls to a trickle. Decision-makers should abandon this damaging project and focus on better energy alternatives to ensure those needs are balanced with the need for healthy rivers and a strong outdoor recreation economy.

#8: Crystal River (CO)
Threat: Dams and water diversions
At risk: Fish, wildlife, and recreation

The Crystal River provides essential habitat for fish and wildlife, beautiful vistas and recreation for visitors, and is one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in Colorado. However, new hydropower dams, reservoirs, and water diversions threaten to destroy the river’s unique values. Local water districts should reject the dam proposals and support federal Wild and Scenic River designation for the Crystal River, while embracing more efficient and cost-effective water supply solutions.

#9: Coal River (WV)
Threat: Mountaintop removal coal mining
At risk: Clean water and public health

The Coal River supplies drinking water for local communities, supports fish and wildlife, and boasts a water trail for fishing, boating, and other recreation. However, the river is threatened by mountaintop removal coal mining, which has already buried, poisoned, and destroyed miles of streams in the basin. Congress must restore Clean Water Act protections to the Coal’s headwater streams in order to prevent more destructive mining and permanently safeguard clean water and public health.

#10: Kansas River (KS)
Threat: Sand and gravel dredging
At risk: Public health and wildlife habitat

The Kansas River provides drinking water for 600,000 people and is the state’s most popular river for canoeing, kayaking, and other recreation. However, the river is threatened by sand and gravel dredging, which would cause severe harm to clean water, wildlife, and recreation opportunities. The Army Corps of Engineers must complete a comprehensive study of the impacts of dredging, deny all new permit requests, and plan to end dredging on the Kansas River by 2017.


For the fourth consecutive year, America’s Most Endangered Rivers® is sponsored by The Orvis Company, which donates 5% of their pre-tax profits annually to protect nature.


American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit, and

Local news on the press release

The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 15, 2012

Two W.Va. rivers on endangered list

By Sarah Plummer Register-Herald Reporter



The State Journal

Potomac, Coal named among America’s Most Endangered Rivers

Posted: May 14, 2012 6:09 PM EDT Updated: May 15, 2012 6:22 AM EDT

By Pam Kasey – email



 Coal Tattoo

Coal River again makes ‘most endangered’ list

May 15, 2012 by Ken Ward Jr.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,EPA,Mountaintop Removal,Water Quality |

EPA is appealing the Spruce veto decision



May 14, 2012


Contact: Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (202) 797-5237,

Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, (304) 645-9006,

Cindy Rank, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, (304) 924-5802,

Debbie Jarrell, Coal River Mountain Watch, (304) 854-2182,

Janet Keating, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, (304) 522-0246,

Sean Sarah, Sierra Club, (330) 338-3740,


EPA Strongly Defends Its Veto of One of Largest Mountaintop Removal Mines Ever Proposed

Agency files appeal to persevere in protection of Appalachian waters, communities


Washington, D.C. — On Friday afternoon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a notice that it is appealing the U.S. District Court decision that overturned the agency’s veto under the Clean Water Act of the extremely destructive Spruce No. 1 mine, one of the nation’s largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mines.  The appeal will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.


On March 23, in a case brought against the EPA by the Mingo Logan Coal Company, the operator of the proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the coal company’s attack on EPA’s science-based veto decision. Earthjustice and several Appalachian client groups vowed to persist in their fight for clean water, healthy communities, and protections from the most extreme form of energy extraction in this nation. After this court decision, more than 60,000 Americans sent messages to the EPA in support of its veto, urging it to continue exercising and defending its full authority to protect Appalachian citizens from this extremely harmful mining practice.

The following is a statement from West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch, and Sierra Club – all of whom are amici curiae (or “friends of the court”), represented by Earthjustice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, in support of EPA’s veto:

“We are heartened to see the Environmental Protection Agency press forward in its commitment to enforce the 40-year-old Clean Water Act and to ensure that the full protections of that law are finally brought to Appalachia, where they’ve been ignored for too long.  As EPA’s Spruce veto determination recognized, sound science shows that it is unacceptable for a coal company to destroy more than 2,000 mountain acres and fill over six miles of vital streams with mining waste pollution, and we will continue standing behind EPA’s decision to prevent the irreversible devastation to waterways and communities that the Spruce No. 1 mine would bring.

“The fundamental right of all Americans to safe and clean water was established 40 years ago with the passage of the Clean Water Act. No one in Appalachia or beyond should be forced to live with the water pollution and wholesale environmental destruction that coal companies are wreaking through mountaintop removal mining. We’re glad to see the EPA’s decision to stand up to the coal industry and continue defending the basic right of everyday Appalachian families to clean water.”



 Earthjustice ( is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment.

Written by Administrator in: EPA,Mountaintop Removal |

Mountain Justice Summer Camp in West Virginia – Starts Next Week!

Friends of the Appalachian Mountains,

The Mountain Justice Summer camp in West Virginia starts next weekend and I hope you will consider joining us. We need people like you to help us end mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia!

You don’t have to be an expert on coal mining or energy issues or Appalachia to participate in our camp – we welcome newcomers to Appalachia and we are a friendly group of people. Our camp is low-cost (sliding scale and no one is turned away if they cannnot afford to pay), its in a historic lodge on top of a beautiful mountain in southern West Virginia – and we even have good food.

Mountain Justice is an non-hierarchical, all-volunteer organization – we don’t have any paid staff, an office or even a fax machine. Heck, we have never had much in our bank account, because we rely solely on donations and volunteers. But we do have a youthful energy that has continued to pump vitality into the anti-mountaintop removal campaign for the past eight years – we have been meeting on a monthly basis since 2004. Mountain Justice is an amazing organization and I’m proud to be part of it.

Mountain Justice Summer Camp is a week-­long program of education, workshops, entertainment, sustainable living techniques and direct action training to prepare people of all ages and from walks of life to join the movement to end mountaintop removal mining (MTR) and to help promote environmental justice for Appalachia and beyond.
Our camp will be at the Appalachian South FolkLife Center near Pipestem WV (Beckley area). Most people will camp in tents but we also have dorm-style cabins with bunk beds and showers. In past years the weather has been glorious for our camps at the Folklife Center, about 70 degrees with a nice steady mountain breeze.

We will teach you about mountaintop removal, underground coal mining, Appalachian cultural awareness, water testing and science, the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), and non-violent direct action training. You will get to see a mountaintop removal mine first hand, and meet some of the amazing local people in West Virginia who are fighting to end it. In the evenings we will feature documentary films, Appalachian and mountain music, plus a square dance and a no-talent show.

Many of the faces in Mountain Justice have changed over the years but our commitment to end mountaintop removal has not wavered. We always welcome new people into the campaign – so I hope you will consider joining us. We need people like you!

To learn more about our camp and to register click here or go to our website

I hope to see you next week in the mountains of West Virginia!

Also coming up over Memorial Day weekend (May 25-28) is the Heartwood Forest Council in the Allegheny National Forest of north-central Pennsylvania.

Heartwood is a regional network of public forest defense and advocacy grassroots organizations, with member groups in most states where the Eastern Hardwood forests once covered majestic and wild, from the Ozarks to the Appalachians.

The 22nd Annual Forest Council will be hosted by the Allegheny Defense Project (ADP), and held at Camp Olmstead at 316 4th Ave., Warren, PA 16365.

This year’s Forest Council will explore the impacts of Marcellus drilling/hydro-fracking, the Seneca bid to take management of the Kinzua Dam Hydro power rights, coal, solar and wind issues. All of these issues suggest that we think deeper about energy production and consumption in our society and our daily life, as we prepare to reclaim the structures that have led to such tremendous inequity around the globe.

The primary focus or goal of the weekend is to share skills and provide training for activist Forest Watch, and coordinate local and regional forest protection and advocacy. Speakers this year will include Thomas Buchele, the Clinical Professor of Law and Managing Attorney, Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center (“PEAC”) at Lewis and Clarke Law School who has fought for the protection of public lands for more than 25 years.

To register for the Heartwood Forest Council go to

Dave Cooper


Written by Administrator in: Mountaintop Removal |

ALMOST LEVEL, WEST VIRGINIA (or at least parts of it)

By John McFerrin

The ongoing discussion of mountaintop removal mining routinely contains some version of this exchange: “No more ‘West Virginia Hills.’ They’re flatting our state!” To this the pro mountaintop removal part of the conversation says, “Oh, pshaw, you bunch of Chicken Littles. We’re only doing mountaintop mining on a tiny fraction of the state.”

The conclusion we are supposed to draw from this exchange is that the problem is minor and that the irrational opponents are alarmists. Can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, etc. If mining coal requires breaking the few mountains in this tiny fraction, then we need to just accept it.

The problem with this argument is that the mining is so concentrated. We have mining in a small percentage of the state only because mountaintop removal does not exist in the eastern part of the state and is relatively rare in most of the state. Look at the map on this page. The black blobs are mine sites, either already active or sites for which permits have been issued or are pending Most of Mercer, all of Monroe, all of Summers Counties are free of mining. It you had the entire map, you could see that the farther east you go the less mining there is. Then look at Mingo, Logan, Wyoming, and Boone Counties. Black everywhere.

The “tiny fraction of the state” is another way statistics mislead. If your hair is on fire and your feet are encased in a block of ice you are, on average, a comfortable temperature. If only a few of the fifty five counties are flattened while others are untouched, then mountaintop removal must be trivial.

The thing the map cannot show is that

there are people who live in those counties There are communities there. There are hollows that are, or were, every bit as beautiful as the ones in other parts of the state that we rave about and picture in tourist brochures. There are people there who have every bit as much a right as anyone else to live healthy, peaceful lives. These are not trivial. They deserve more respect than they get now.

The map is based on GIS data from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The actual map that is copied above is much larger. Shrinking it to fit means that much detail is obscured. To see the whole thing, go to the link It is a large (13.64MB) pdf file. There you can see it in more detail, zoom in on certain parts, etc.

Written by Administrator in: Mountaintop Removal,The Highlands Voice |


By John McFerrin

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and the Sierra Club have asked the United States District Court to prevent the Loadout, LLC from further filling streams with mine waste from its Nellis Surface Mine in Boone County. The groups contend that the operation would violate the federal Clean Water Act.

This is not the first time these parties have been in court over this controversy. The mine in controversy proposes to fill permanently 11,162 feet of steams. Its justification for filling these streams is using what is known as “mitigation.” In mitigation, a mine creates other streams that will, in theory at least, take the place of those which were destroyed. It submitted the application to the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 2007.

Here the mitigation that the Corps approved would require Loadout, LLC to create a total of 13,564 linear feet in two separate stream channels within the perimeter ditches located around each valley fill. In the words of the Corps, the destruction of “Wilderness Fork and Dave Fork are compensated for by Created Stream 1 and Created Stream 2.”

The Corps admits that the created stream channels would be less functional than the buried streams and would transport less water and nutrients downstream. Those channels may not fully support benthic communities and probably would not replace all functions and values lost as a result of the filling of the ephemeral and intermittent streams associated with this mine.

The Corps admits that the new channels will not do nearly as many of the things that headwater streams are supposed to do. It makes up for this by making the created “streams” about 2,000 feet longer than the ones that will be filled. The Corps also admitted that the valley fills would cause increased discharges of acidic drainage, specific conductivity, metals, and dissolved solids.

Also relevant in the controversy is the quality of the streams to be filled. The watershed has, up to now, been free of mining. As a result, the headwater streams of Fork Creek that would be permanently filled are in unaltered watersheds that have good aquatic system health and thriving macroinvertebrate communities. Fork Creek is listed as attaining all designated water quality standards.

The area is also the ancestral home of West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Board member Julian Martin. He was born near the mine site and still visits relatives nearby (See accompanying story).

Applications such as this one must be advertised for public comment. In this case, the Corps of Engineers advertised the application and accepted comments before the stream mitigation plan was complete. Because of this, the mitigation plan was not subjected to public comment.

The groups went to court, contending that the mitigation plan was at the core of the company’s justification for being able to destroy these streams. It would be a violation of the public notice provisions of the Clean Water Act for the Corps of Engineers to approve the application without having subjected the mitigation plan to public comment.

In 2009 the Court sided with the Plaintiffs. It concluded that the mitigation plan was such an important part of the application that it had to be submitted for public comment. It sent the application back for the Corps to try again.

Now the Corps has tried again and, according to the Plaintiffs, still could not get it right. It had ignored most of the Plaintiffs’ comments, including scientific evidence that stream creation (the mitigation contemplated here) if difficult and really doesn’t work. Even though the Court had ordered the Corps to consider the entire permit, it failed to consider large parts of it.

The bottom line is that the National Environmental Policy Act requires that federal agencies take seriously the environmental consequences of their decisions. Even after the Court sent the permit back to the agency, it did no more than go through the motions of accepting and considering comments.

The Plaintiffs have asked the Court to suspend the permit and enjoin and further mining. A hearing on the request will be held on May 15

Written by Administrator in: Mountaintop Removal,The Highlands Voice,Water Quality |

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