Clean Water in Appalachia

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June 21, 2010

Clean Water in Appalachia

J.W. Randolph (Charlottesville, WV), Appalachian Voices. "The Appalachian Restoration Act."

JW Randolph grew up in Chattanooga, TN where he was an outdoors enthusiast and loved the Chattanooga River. In 2005, he was introduced to the coal mining process known as "mountaintop removal" and it launched him on his current crusade with a group called "Appalachian Voices."

He is now advocating for the passage of two pieces of Federal legislation, the Appalachian Restoration Act and the Clean Water Protection Act.

According to Mr. Randolph, 2000 miles of stream in Appalachia have now been buried in coal mine rubble. Many toxic minerals leech into the runoff and accumulate in the streams, which feed most of the region's major rivers.

He acknowledges the need for energy and jobs (70% of US electricity comes from coal) and states that he is not against the extraction of energy resources but that it needs to be done in a far less destructive manner. Also, mountaintop removal (which he describes as "strip-mining on steroids" utilizes immense earth moving machines that have put thousands of miners out of work. Unemployment is highest, in Appalachia, where they do the most mountaintop removal.

There is strong bipartisan support, at least, for the Clean Water Protection Act.

President Obama, according to Randolph, has been proactive in using the EPA to limit the damage done by valley fills.

Sharon asked about working with the mining companies rather than being punitive, and about ways to obtain the desired results without driving up energy costs to consumers. Randolph agreed that mining company cooperation would help a lot but it has not been seriously forthcoming. Mountaintop removal, when they can get away with it, eliminates jobs, ruins the environment and poisons the water. Only 5% of coal-generated electricity comes from coal obtained through mountaintop removal.

The forests in the Appalachian region are in what is called the "mixed mesophytic" zone. It is one of the most fragile and diverse ecosystems in the world.

See: and write your Senator or Congressman.