Month 7, Day 9: Even Though I’m Not A John Denver Fan

The Rainforest Action Network sent me an email. They’re apparently camping out in EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s vicinity, letting her know that mountaintop removal mining is a Bad Thing. Which it is.

We’re here at the EPA today with a giant sound system playing Lisa Jackson her own words over and over at a deafening volume, mixed with the sounds of dynamite blowing apart mountains, and a little of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” for good measure. We hope this intensely emotional soundtrack filling the halls of the EPA all day long will guarantee they hear us this time.

They requested me to go to their online action site and send an email. Which I did. I’m also going to print it and fax it/send it.

Dear Administrator Jackson,

There are many reasons to oppose mountaintop removal mining.  The obvious ones are local in essence: an MTR project means millions of tons of toxic debris winds up in the waterways; it means that what was once a flourishing forested area will be transformed into a blasted, dessicated moonscape; it means that once the project is over, local ecosystems and economies are blighted, perhaps beyond recovery.

Those are the obvious reasons.  The less obvious reasons are national and global in essence: America and the world need to stop burning coal as soon as humanly possible, because of the extraordinary amount of harm it does through increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.  The goal of the EPA should be what its name implies: protecting the environment.

There really is no good reason for green-lighting the Pine Creek MTR proposal, which is projected to destroy almost a thousand acres of pristine forest and over two miles of streams.  Please reverse your decision.  Mountaintop removal is a bad idea in every sense, and it is time for your agency to offer genuine stewardship instead of an “Environmental Protection Racket.”

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 20: MTR-FKR?

The EPA is collecting comments on a proposed mountaintop removal site. It would be a good idea to go to this piece on DK in order to familiarize yourself with the process; it’s worth the trouble. We have got to get off the fossil fuel habit.

Here’s the comment I submitted as an email. See my note below the block for a supplemental note.

I am writing to urge the EPA to veto the proposed surface mining operations at the Spruce No. 1 Mine. There are multiple reasons for this.

The mining industry is not in compliance with federal law regarding reclamation of Mountaintop Removal sites. While a federal statute exempts them from restoring the land to its “original contour” if the land is developed for “industrial, commercial, residential or public use,” a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that a very small percentage of the MTR sites are reclaimed. The vast majority are barren, dead, denuded.

When forests are cut down, we lose the benefit of the carbon they store. Greenhouse emissions related to MTR operations add almost twenty percent to the coal’s carbon footprint. When we are finally recognizing that excess CO2 emissions have the potential to trigger catastrophic global warming scenarios, it is the height of destructive folly to destroy a “carbon sink” in order to access coal.

Mountaintop removal is recognized to bring about devastating effects both on local ecosystems and human communities. Coal companies have a terrible track record of reclamation, as noted above — and the MTR processes leave huge areas open to massively destructive erosion, fouling of waterways, and poisonous waste deposits that have profound impacts on the health of residents.

Mining companies have terrible human rights records. For over a century, coal mining operations have routinely given pride of place to profit rather than worker safety. The violations committed by Massey Coal are just the most egregious example of what is essentially an industry tradition; when an industry treats its workers as expendable, we should not be surprised when it also treats local residents, local ecosystems, and public opinion as irrelevant.

When the true costs of fossil fuels are considered, the notion that coal is cheap is revealed as illusory. We can no longer afford such fantasies; coal is one of the most expensive fuels we’ve got — it’s just that our grandchildren are going to be paying for our prodigality. It is vital that the EPA refuse to give the go-ahead to mountaintop removal mining at the Spruce Number One site.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

The site has a comment submission form with a 2000 character limit, so I had to edit the piece above (which went as an email to a little bit to make it fit. Once the form was submitted my writing went off into space. Who knows if it’s ever going to surface again?