(Thank you to United Mountain Defense for the video from the Knoxville ACoE Public Hearing)
Please take a few minutes out of your day to contact the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) and let them know you support their proposed elimination of the streamlined permitting process — known as Nationwide Permit 21, or NWP 21– which allows coal companies to seek quick approval for their mountaintop removal coal mining projects. The deadline for comments is October 26, 2009.
We are making undreamed of gains in the fight against strip mining and Mountaintop Removal for coal and as a result the coal industry is responding with intimidation and thug behaviour. At the ACoE hearing on October 13, the mining industries public relations firms orchestrated shipping bus-loads of people to the hearings to intimidate and harass anti strip mine activist. In WV, Friends of Coal supporters were shouting environmentalist down as they tried to testify, literally crowding some activist up against a wall while chanting and threatening their safety requiring a police escort through their masses. There was no removal of those people who were disrupting the event and the Army Corps and the cops complied with the threats from the coal thugs by requiring many environmentalists to leave the hearing for their own safety.
These corporate financed efforts are reminiscent of the same tactics that were used in the health care shout downs, tea baggers and overt right wing fox sponsored activities. Many of the pro-coal people who testified escalated the anti-Obama anti-Democrat tactics to an entire new level at these hearings. And they completely missed the point.
Shouting, threatening and bullying do not get in the administrative record–comments do. We can overwhelm the Army Corps of Engineers with comments and neutralize any advantage the tactics of the pro mountaintop removal crowd. The ACoE is accepting written comments until October 26th. Please help flood the ACoE with comments stating your support for the Army Corps’ decision to stop issuing rubber stamp permits.
We need you to take a minute to comment, email, write the Army Corp of Engineers to tell them you support the revocation of NWP 21 in favor of a permit by permit process. No two mountains are the same, no two streams are the same, no two strip mines are the same–the one size fits all practice that is NWP 21 has failed miserably and need to be revoked.
Some points you can make are:
- I applaud the Army Corps of Engineers for its proposal to end the use of the one-size-fits-all NWP 21 permit which allows for a streamlined approval of mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia. For decades, mountaintop removal and valleyfills have had a devastating impact on local communities, the economy, and our environment.
- NWP 21 for permitting mountaintop removal mining should apply to the entire Appalachian region, including northern Alabama. Failure to do so might lead the coal industry to simply relocate operations to those areas with the most lenient permitting process.
- No grandfathering of permits should be allowed. Past permits should be reviewed to make sure they meet the spirit and intent of the Clean Water Act.
- NWP 21 should never have been issued, because filling these streams has more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.
- The use of NWP 21 is a violation of the Clean Water Act because it is suppose to be used for activities that produce “no significant environmental impact” and the destruction of entire mountains and mountain ranges cannot be considered an insignificant environmental impact.
- EPA’s own scientists have determined that mountaintop removal and other surface coal mining activities authorized by NWP 21 are causing cumulatively significant degradation of streams and forests in Appalachia – including the destruction of ecologically valuable headwater streams and the pollution of downstream waters.
- The Corps has long recognized that “the purpose of the NWP program is to reduce regulatory delays and burdens on the public, to place greater reliance on state and local controls, and to free our limited
resources for more effective regulation of other activities with greater potential to adversely impact the aquatic environment.” 56 Fed. Reg. 14, 598—14, 605 (Apr. 10, 1991).
Possible points to make about this:
- Constantly fighting coal companies and failed agencies to protect our homes, lives, water, and communities is a much greater burden on
- We have no state or local controls. WVDEP is a failed agency that fails to control illegal coal company activity.
- Nothing adversely impacts the aquatic environment more than burying it.
Email comments will not be accepted. Send written comments to:
U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
Attn: CECW-CO, Ms. Desiree Hann
441 G Street, NW., Washington DC 20314-1000
Pittsburgh Regulatory Branch: (412) 395-7155 or
Ms. Hann at (202) 761-4560
FAX: (412) 644-2811
SAMPLE COMMENT 1:
I am submitting these comments regarding the review of the use of NWP 21 for permitting mountaintop removal mines. Where shall I begin? I believe the NWP 21 permit process for mountaintop removal mining should be revoked for the following three reasons:
First, I have always viewed the use of NWP 21 to permit mountaintop removal mines as an obvious and egregious violation of the Clean Water Act. NWP 21 is only supposed to be used for activities that produce “no significant environmental impact” and to apply that term to mountaintop removal mining defies rational thinking. The destruction of entire mountains and the filling of miles of streams cannot by any stretch of logic be considered an insignificant environmental impact. The impacts extend many miles downstream from the buried streams. I am not expressing a mere opinion here. I have worked as a professional stream ecologist for the past 30 years and the biological science clearly demonstrates that the effects on streams are significant and most likely permanent. For this reason I do not believe any existing permits should be grandfathered if NWP 21 is revoked.
Second, using NWP 21 to permit mountaintop removal mines streamlines (i.e., rubberstamps) the approval process for mine companies, but deprives coal field residents of their rights to influence the mine permit process in ways that would reduce the impacts on their health, their environment, and the economic viability of their communities. The convenience afforded to the multi-billion dollar international mining corporations through NWP 21q is achieved at the expense of the residents of Appalachia who often suffer economic ruin as a result of the mining activities with no practical avenue of recompense.
Third, delegating the regulation of mine permits to states such as West Virginia is the same thing as forfeiting any regulation of the industry given that virtually all branches of the that state’s government are practically run by the coal industry.
Another point I would like to make is that revocation of NWP 21 for permitting mountaintop removal mining should apply to the entire Appalachian region, including northern Alabama. Failure to do so might lead the coal industry to simply relocate operations to those areas with the most lenient permitting process.
Lastly, I want to comment on the shameful and illegal manner in which public hearings on this issue were conducted. I have seen videos of these events and communicated directly with people who attended them and the Corps failed to protect the first amendment rights of citizens who attended these meetings to comment on this issue. Some of the public hearings amounted to sanctioned riots which coal supporters attended, not to testify, but to disrupt, and to prevent any other concerned citizens from testifying who may have opposed the use of NWP 21 to permit mountaintop removal mining. By failing to control the meeting process so that all in attendance had equal opportunity to testify, the Corps became a party to the denial of these first amendment rights. I believe the Corps at the very least should reschedule these meetings and conduct them in an orderly fashion that protects the first amendment rights of all citizens. Failure to do so would represent clear bias on the part of the Corps for one position over all others.