04 Dec 2009:
Byrd Decries “Fear” Tactics
to Protect Mountaintop Removal Mining
U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and longtime supporter of coal mining, has delivered an unexpectedly strong message to the coal industry
, chastising its leaders for ignoring the reality of climate change and rebuking what he called a strategy of “fear mongering, grandstanding and outrage” to protect the state’s mountaintop mining industry. Mountaintop removal
is a mining practice in which companies blast off the tops of mountains to get at coal seams below, then dump the debris in valleys. In a letter
, the 92-year-old senator said the nation still needs coal as an energy source, but that there is
growing bipartisan opposition to mountaintop removal mining, which has buried an estimated 2,000 miles of streams in mining debris and severely damaged more than a million acres of forest. “We have our work cut out for us in finding a prudent and profitable middle ground,” Byrd wrote. As a senator, he said, he represents the interests of the entire state, “not just those of coal operators and southern coalfield residents who may be strident supporters of mountaintop removal mining.” The practice has sparked recent protests in Appalachia, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has frozen dozens of pending projects as it evaluates the impact on streams and water quality. Watch an e360 video report about mountaintop removal mining
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