43,000 Comments Ignored by Bush EPA

The Coal Industry pretty much does what it wants in the poorest regions of Appalachia. Here, giant toxic sludge lakes loom over tiny communities. Here, mountain top removal has destroyed ancestral homelands and cemeteries. Here are the highest cancer rates in the United States.

Hobet 21, spanning across two WV counties, is larger than Manhattan Island

Nothing much gets in the way when the Coal Industry commits these crimes. Certainly not state or federal environmental agencies. However, over the past decade there has been one pesky thorn in the industry’s side: citizen lawsuits. But worry no more.

As another parting favor to Big Coal (which spent millions helping to elect him in 2000 and 04), George Bush decided to “clarify” the laws governing mountain top removal. This clarification, of course, leaves judges little room to interpret the laws in favor of citizens. For example, no longer can judges say that valley fills violate the Clean Water Act, because the EPA has “clarified” that they do not. 

It didn’t matter that 43,000 different, individualized comments were sent to the EPA urging them not to change the laws. It didn’t matter that coalfield community members went to the UN for help. Nothing could stop the rubber stamping EPA from following out King Bush’s orders.

Now, nothing can slow down the continued devastation. In the words of Maria Gunnoe, a former pizza hut waitress who took a stand (a stand that has led to two attempts on her life), “Oh my God. Now What?”

I guess we can hope and pray that Obama and the new Congress will step in (while there is something left to save). For anyone interested in working hand and hand with affected community members, attend a mountain justice spring break, winter, or summer camp. Or better yet, contact Coal River Mountain Watch or OHVEC directly to see how you can volunteer.

to learn more, visit www.crmw.net

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