Mountaintop removal mining under fire

January 12, 2015

Mountaintop removal mining is currently under heavy fire, as environmental group the Sierra Club files suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to do more to regulate it. The news comes on the heels of a study that is also making headlines, linking the practice with the health problems of nearby residents. 

The Sierra Club claims in its suit that the EPA has not done enough to prevent waterway pollution in places where coal is mined through mountaintop removal, such as West Virginia and Kentucky. However, the technique is highly popular because it is one of the most efficient ways to harvest coal that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to access. 

"Mountaintop mining has been targeted unfairly," says industry group Walker Machinery Company, in an online brochure. "Its equipment and placement of materials are no different than road building or any other significant earth moving or construction project. Its opponents promote an anti-coal, anti-business agenda that uses environmental issues as a mere pawn to redistribute wealth, grab power, and put forth liberal, social ideology."

While most if not all coal mining companies would argue that this is the case, they nevertheless need to be prepared for whichever way the political winds might blow in the coming months. Right now, it looks like federal officials are poised to move counter to their interests. Indeed, the EPA is already showing signs of enacting tougher rules for the industry, going so far as to revoke a permit for one mountaintop removal operation in West Virginia. 

Environmental consultants can help mining companies develop an effective strategy for complying with federal rules while also protecting business interests.