Groups Demand EPA Regulate Toxic Water Pollution from Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
As my colleague Mary Anne Hitt noted in her "highlights of 2014" column we've had some significant victories in the fight against the destruction of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia over the past year.
But there is still so much to be done to stop this horrible practice from devastating our communities, our health and our wild Appalachian places. That's why the Sierra Club joined a coalition of groups taking legal action this week to compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce clean water protections that West Virginia and Kentucky state agencies have failed to uphold.
For years, our coalition of national and local Appalachian groups—including the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) and attorneys with Appalachian Mountain Advocates—have raised concerns about the extraordinary extent to which West Virginia and Kentucky state agencies how bowed to coal industry pressure when it comes oversight of mountaintop removal coal mining. State agencies have failed to prevent the widespread contamination of state waters by these mines.
The EPA is required to respond to legal petitions, but has not responded since these groups first petitioned back in June of 2009. Even after we filed a notice of our intention to hold the agency accountable in court two months ago, we still have received no word from it.
Communities in Appalachia have been living with mountaintop removal pollution for too long. The EPA needs to step up and seize the opportunity to protect Appalachian residents from rampant water pollution. We've shown the federal government that Kentucky and West Virginia are refusing to hold mining companies accountable for dangerous pollution—the EPA must take action.
The Sierra Club and our coalition of partner groups want the EPA to immediately revoke the authority of those states to implement the Clean Water Act. Or, even better, if the EPA thinks change is possible it can start working with the states tomorrow to make sure they finally get serious on this critical issue.
Mountaintop removal coal mining is poisoning our waterways in Appalachia, and experts predict many may be on the brink of collapse. Recent health studies have also shown that the air around mountaintop removal sites is harmful. The EPA must step up and protect the communities in Appalachia.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
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A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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