March 25, 2009
Elizabeth Maclin (202) 431-2676
Erin Mooney (571) 331-7970
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Trout Unlimited Applauds U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Decision to Review Mountaintop Removal Mining’s Impact on Rivers and Streams
ARLINGTON, VA---Trout Unlimited (TU) applauds yesterday’s decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to put two mountaintop removal coal-mining projects in Appalachia through further review because of the EPA’s belief “that the proposed project[s] will result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to aquatic resources of national importance.”
“I congratulate the EPA for its review of a process that has been detrimental to many watersheds in West Virginia,” said Larry Harris, a TU National Leadership Council representative from West Virginia. “Filling in headwater streams may be good for the economic well being of coal companies, but is harmful to the health of the streams and the well being of local citizens.”
“The EPA made the right decision yesterday,” said Elizabeth Maclin, TU’s Vice President for Eastern Conservation. “No other practice comes to mind that is more destructive to rivers than mountaintop removal mining. That it is legally permitted by the federal government is mind-boggling.”
The EPA expressed “serious concerns” about the need to reduce the potential harmful impacts on water quality caused by certain types of coal mining practices. A commonly used mining practice is “mountaintop removal mining” where mountain peaks are blasted away and the mining waste is dumped directly in rivers and streams, burying them.
Mountaintop removal mining has buried or degraded nearly 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams to date as well as caused additional harm to downstream areas by introducing sediment pollution, altering stream hydrology, and increasing flooding.
In yesterday’s announcement, the EPA specifically addressed two proposed mountaintop removal mining coal operations in West Virginia and Kentucky. The projects would allow mining companies to fill streams with mining waste at the two sites. The EPA sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommending that the West Virginia permit application be denied and that the Kentucky application be revised to ensure protection of the local streams.
Mountaintop removal mining practices create a survival risk for brook trout and other wild trout populations, and impede efforts to restore brook trout in already degraded watersheds. While neither of the two proposed mines in question would affect habitat for brook trout, the only trout native to the East, many streams in the Appalachian Mountains subject to mountaintop removal mining are, or historically were, habitat for brook trout. Brook trout currently live in only a fraction of their original range.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.