Environmentalists are aghast. The rule will leave some 350 miles of Appalachian creeks permanently buried, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center, and hydrologists question whether current technology can rebuild healthy streams in the mountains.
Moving on to the next mountain
It’s unclear what the future holds for Appalachia’s hardwood forest or the coal underneath. True, the debate on coal has shifted: Mining advocates acknowledge the industry needs more environmentally friendly technologies to mine and burn it, said Wesleyan College history professor Robert Rupp. “Ten years ago you wouldn’t have heard that.”
But while President-elect Barack Obama spoke against mountaintop removal during the campaign, key congressional leaders from both parties say they’re content with the law as is.
Back on Kayford Mountain, the walnut and hickory and maple trees have all shed their color. On Gibson’s front porch, cordwood is stacked neatly for the coming winter, right under a sign saying “Larry’s Place – Almost Heaven.”
Just over the ridge, miners have started on their next hill. They’re awaiting permission to blow the top off Coal River Mountain, where buried seams hold a 14-year supply of coal.
Gibson and his allies say the mountaintop would be an ideal place for wind turbines.
The mining companies say they have no problem with wind power. It’d be a perfect use for the area – after they get the coal out.
Douglas Fischer is editor of DailyClimate.org. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org