Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining, Scientists Say
A group of 12 eminent scientists have called for a halt to mountaintop mining. At a press conference, the hydrologists, ecologists and engineers (some of them National Academy of Sciences members) said they’d discovered extensive evidence of permanent damage to the environment and dangers to human health from the practice of blowing off the tops of mountains to expose hidden coal seams.
Their findings appear in a peer-reviewed article called Mountaintop Mining Consequences, in the latest edition of the journal Science. Among those consequences: the destruction of expanses of deciduous forests and hundreds of miles of streams that affect the health of entire watersheds. Remediation efforts – which, they said, are inadequate by definition because of the nature of the destruction – may focus on certain areas of streambeds, but once pollution enter those streams it can travel great distances and contaminate large bodies of water many miles away.
Lead author Margaret Palmer of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science summed it up in a statement: “The scientific evidence of the severe environmental and human impacts from mountaintop mining is strong and irrefutable. Its impacts are pervasive and long lasting and there is no evidence that any mitigation practices successfully reverse the damage it causes.” The scientists received no outside funding for their study.
Environmental groups are hopeful that the study will encourage leaders to stop the practice once and for all.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, the EPA approved a permit that will expand the largest mountaintop removal coal mine in West Virginia.
– Suzanne Bopp