In the debate over Mountaintop Removal (MTR), we as Catholics and as citizens are called to consider more than just short-term economic benefit for our coal production. Although MTR practices may produce fewer fatal accidents than underground mining, they have been associated with health problems among local populations. God has charged us with the stewardship of the Earth, which must call into question the permanent damage of strip mining and water pollution of valley fills.
More than 700 miles of streams across central Appalachia have already been buried as a result of MTR according to a 2005 EPA report. An estimated total of 1.4 million acres of Appalachia's mountains and forests, or an area the size of Delaware, has been forever changed. MTR has also destroyed cemeteries of Appalachia, polluted local water supplies, and dramatically decreased employment in the coal industry.
Fortunately, the EPA raised their standards in 2010 to prohibit valley filling. Without these inexpensive dumping methods, mining companies currently cannot afford to further damage Appalachia. The inactive Clean Water Protection Act (H.R. 1310) in the House and Appalachia Restoration Act (S. 696) in the Senate would both add permanence to the new EPA regulations. Communities damaged by MTR techniques however are not the same as those using MTR coal. When wasting electricity in the United States, we are unknowingly increasing demand for cheap coal and destroying our fragile ecosystems through mountaintop removal.
“The land is mine and you are but aliens… you must provide for the redemption of the land.“
Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell” Numbers 35:34” Leviticus 25:23-24