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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

Calling Out Big Coal at the EPA

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Environment, energy, mountaintop removal coal mining, politics, air and water, health, forests, Appalachia, It’s Getting Hot in Here, Common Dreams, New York Times,

EPA mountaintop removal protest

While the health care bill was being hammered out, a different sort of political drama unfolded in Washington at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency, where environmental activists camped out for 32 hours to send a strong message to administrator Lisa Jackson: End mountaintop removal coal mining. The protest didn’t attract many prominent headlines in the shadow of the health care fracas, but like Obama and the Democrats it got the job done.

The protesters’ “purple mountains majesty” tents, built around tripods on which protesters perched, attracted just the sort of attention they were looking for, according to the blog It’s Getting Hot in Here, which publishes “dispatches from the youth climate movement”:

Sure, it’s just a tweet, but parsing Jackson’s no-doubt-carefully constructed missive is telling. As Jeff Biggers notes at Common Dreams, she uses the acronym MTM, for “mountaintop mining,” a term favored by the coal industry over the more specifically descriptive MTR, for “mountaintop removal.”

EPA tripod sitterAlso, Jackson’s focus on human health and water quality sticks to the agency line on this issue. Biggers notes that an EPA spokeswoman yesterday said the protest was “based on a fundamental misunderstanding of EPA’s role” and explained that the EPA does not regulate the mining industry, but is only “responsible for ensuring that projects comply with the Clean Water Act.”

“Except,” notes Biggers, “it’s the mining industry that isn’t complying with the Clean Water Act.”

At GristJoshua Kahn Russell writes that actions speak louder than tweets:

One of the chief goals of the EPA protest, which was organized by the Rainforest Action Network, was to get Jackson to accept a citizen-guided flyover of mountaintop removal sites in Appalachia. We’re still waiting for her to tweet her RSVP.

Sources: It’s Getting Hot in Here, Common DreamsGrist 

Images by Chris Eichler, courtesy of Rainforest Action Network.