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Mountaintop Removal 101 1: What is mountaintop removal?

A destructive form of extracting coal that removes hundreds of vertical feet of a mountain using heavy explosives to access thin seams of coal underneath. This overburden is then dumped directly into adjacent valleys, burying headwater streams. 2: How does each of the following affect the environment?: Clearing- Before mining can begin; all topsoil and vegetation must be removed. Because coal companies frequently are responding to short-term fluctuations in the price of coal, these trees are often not used commercially, but instead are burned or sometimes illegally dumped into valley fills. Blasting- Many Appalachian coal seams lie deep below the surface of the mountains. Accessing these seams through surface mining can require the removal of 600 feet or more of elevation. Blowing up this much mountain is accomplished by using millions of pounds of explosives. Every week, the explosive equivalent of the Hiroshima bomb is detonated in Appalachia. Digging- Coal and debris are removed using enormous earth-moving machines known as draglines, which stand 22 stories high and can hold 24 compact cars their buckets. These machines can cost up to $100 million, but are favored by coal companies because they displace the need for hundreds of jobs. Dumping Waste- The debris, called overburden or spoil, is dumped into nearby valleys. These valley fills have buried and polluted nearly 2,000 miles of headwater streams. In 2002, the Bush Administration changed the definition of fill material in the Clean Water Act to include toxic mining waste, which allowed coal companies to legally create valley fills. Processing- Coal must be washed and treated before it is shipped to power plants for burning. This processing creates coal slurry or sludge, a mix of water, coal dust and clay containing toxic chemicals such as arsenic, mercury, lead and chromium. The coal sludge is often contained in open impoundments, sometimes built with mining debris, making them very unstable. Reclamation- While reclamation efforts are required by federal law, coal companies often receive waivers from state agencies with the idea that economic development will occur on the land. In reality, most sites receive little more than a spraying of exotic grass seed, and less than three percent of reclaimed mountaintop removal sites are used for economic development. According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency impact statement on mountaintop removal in Appalachia, it may take hundreds of years for a forest to re-establish itself on the mine site. 3: Where is mountaintop removal happening? Mountaintop removal takes place primarily in eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, southwest Virginia, and East Tennessee. 4: What can be done to stop mountaintop removal? In 2002, changes to the Clean Water Act by the George W. Bush administration provided created a loophole to allow coal companies to dump mining waste into our nations waterways, paving the way for mountaintop removal mining to flourish. The Clean Water Protection Act in the House of

Representatives would provide a long-term legislative fix that would be difficult for any presidential administration to change. 5: What agencies are involved in regulating mountaintop removal? The agencies involved are the Presidents Council on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, which includes the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. 6: What is one reason why we dont need to use this type of process? Provides for an extremely small amount of our electricity Economic Impacts of Mountaintop Removal 7: Summarize the economic impacts of mountaintop removal Loss of jobs, creates barriers to development, raises economic distress in the region Ecological Impacts of Mountaintop Removal 8: Summarize the ecological impacts of mountaintop removal Large amount of pollutants, destroys habitats, destroyed geography, contamination of resources we used Community Impacts of Mountaintop Removal 9: How does mountaintop removal affect the local community? Forces residents out of homes, dangerous conditions, creating tensions, lowering health standards in the areas