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Activists Stage Creative Sit-In at EPA Headquarters to Call for Stronger Action on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Blasting John Denver’s ‘Take me Home, Country Roads’ in the EPA HQ, activists said: “We’re sitting down so the EPA will stand up for Appalachia’s drinking water.”


Today, activists
with the Rainforest Action Network staged a sit-in at the EPA
headquarters to demand stronger protection for Appalachia's drinking
water and an end to the devastating practice of mountaintop removal
(MTR) coal mining.

After entering the EPA building, activists
sat down in the center of the lobby, locked themselves together with
metal 'lock boxes,' and began to play West Virginia's adopted state
song, John Denver's 'Take me Home, Country Roads,' mixed with
intermittent sounds of Appalachia's mountains being blown apart by MTR
explosives. An additional activist climbed to the top of the EPA front
door on Constitution Ave and blocked the door with a banner reading:
'Blowing up mountains for coal contaminates Appalachia's water, Stop

"We're sitting down inside the EPA to demand the EPA
stand up to protect Appalachia's precious drinking water, historic
mountains and public health from the devastation of mountaintop
removal," said Scott Parkin of Rainforest Action Network, who
participated in the sit-in. "At issue here is not whether mountaintop
removal mining is bad for the environment or human health, because we
know it is and the EPA has said it is. At issue is whether President
Obama's EPA will do something about it. So far, it seems it is easier to
poison Appalachia's drinking water than to defy King Coal."

the nation's eyes on the BP disaster, the EPA, without publicly
announcing the action, recently gave the green light for a major new
mountaintop removal coal mining permit in Logan County, West Virginia.
The permit would allow the destruction of nearly three miles of
currently clean streams and 760 acres of forest, in a county where at
least 13 percent of the land has already been permitted for surface coal
mining. This is the first permit decision the EPA has issued under the
new MTR guidelines, which came out last April and were anticipated to
provide tougher oversight of the practice.

"This is a
devastating first decision under guidelines that had offered so much
hope for Appalachian residents who thought the EPA was standing up for
their health and water quality in the face of a horrific mining
practice," said Amanda Starbuck of the Rainforest Action Network. "The
grand words being spoken by Administrator Jackson in Washington are
simply not being reflected in the EPA's actions on-the-ground. Moving
forward, it is clear that the EPA cannot end mountaintop removal coal
mining pollution, as it has committed to, without abolishing mountaintop
removal all together."

For decades, Appalachian residents
have been decrying the impact of mountaintop removal coal mining-the
practice of blowing up whole mountains (and dumping the toxic debris
into nearby streams and valleys) to reach seams of coal.
Environmentalists, leading scientists, congressional representatives and
even late coal state Senator Byrd have all called for the end to this
mining practice.

A paper released in January 2009 by a dozen
leading scientists in the journal Science concluded that mountaintop
coal mining is so destructive that the government should stop giving out
new permits all together. "The science is so overwhelming that the only
conclusion that one can reach is that mountaintop mining needs to be
stopped," said Margaret Palmer, a professor at the University of
Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences and the study's lead author.

1992, nearly 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been filled at a
rate of 120 miles per year by surface mining practices. A recent EPA
study found elevated levels of highly toxic selenium in streams
downstream from valley fills. These impairments are linked to
contamination of surface water supplies and resulting health concerns,
as well as widespread impacts to stream life in downstream rivers and
streams. Further, the estimated scale of deforestation from existing
Appalachian surface mining operations is equivalent in size to the state
of Delaware.

The Pine Creek permit is currently awaiting
approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Hi-res photos at:

file playing inside the EPA can be heard here:

@dirtyenergy for live
twitter updates of today's events

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is headquartered in San Francisco, California with offices staff in Tokyo, Japan, and Edmonton, Canada, plus thousands of volunteer scientists, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens around the world. We believe that a sustainable world can be created in our lifetime and that aggressive action must be taken immediately to leave a safe and secure world for our children.