Could it be? Dare we think it? Is it possible that the Environmental Protection Agency might finally be getting serious about providing some protection for Appalachia's environment and people?
For more than a decade, the ancient, serene and beautiful mountains, valleys, and streams of central Appalachia have literally been under assault by corporate coal profiteers. Using a brutally destructive mining method called "mountaintop removal," the corporations explode to bits the top third of mountains to get at the coal, then they cavalierly bulldoze the resulting rubble and toxic coal waste down the mountainsides, filling the valleys, burying streams, poisoning the water supply, and destroying livelihoods.
As mountain after mountain has been wasted, the EPA has stood silent as the Army Corps of Engineers has rubber-stamped Big Coal's selfish devastation. "The whole permitting process has become toothless," says one observer.
But she's not just any ol' observer. She's Lisa Jackson, the new head of the EPA, who recently declared, "We're going to do our jobs." Two subsequent steps suggest she might. First, the agency has preliminarily rejected the approval of 79 more mountaintop removal permits. Second, agency officials are quietly putting together a major new scientific study of the impacts that the explosive process has on streams, water quality, and aquatic life.
A 2005 EPA report has already documented this devastation, but — incredibly — the Bush team perverted the findings to allow more devastation! Now, however, it appears that science, nature and people might at long last be considered and possibly — just possibly — given priority over undiluted industry greed.
To stay informed and help push for environmental sanity go to ilovemountains.org.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.