Major daily newspapers across the country and across Appalachia want mountaintop removal stopped.


Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

1. All four national newspapers are against it.

In circulation, coverage and influence, there are four national newspapers in the United States: USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. All four have editorialized against mountaintop removal coal mining. These four general-interest newspapers are all among the five top selling newspapers in the country. The fifth, the Wall Street Journal, a business publication, has not editorialized on the issue.
  • New York Times: "The Obama administration has pledged to restore the old buffer zone restriction. But it has said nothing at all about redefining mining waste as an illegal pollutant, which it was before the Bush people came along. A bill before the House would do exactly that. The administration should do it first" (June 19, 2009).

    "Local residents who have watched the destruction of their landscape hope [Judge Robert Chambers'] ruling will lead to tighter regulation of other mountaintop mining proposals. The greater hope is that the government can be persuaded to stop the practice altogether" (March 29, 2007).

  • USA Today: "Using lakes, streams or rivers as dumping grounds is exactly what the Clean Water Act was created to prevent, but the Bush administration interpreted the law in ways that undercut its original purpose. . . . the larger responsibility falls to Congress and the Obama administration, which should move quickly to remove any ambiguity" (January 12, 2009).

  • Washington Post: "The Bush administration recently issued rules explicitly allowing [mountaintop removal] permits, but U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II quickly said no. In a sharply worded opinion, he ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had overstepped their authority by crafting rules that allowed waterways to be used as dumps for mining waste. The agencies essentially tried to rewrite the Clean Water Act through their regulation, the judge held, and that power belongs only to Congress. . . his ruling was a clear, firm and welcome reminder of the law's fundamental requirement to protect the nation's waters. . . . He was right to slam the door on this rule" (May 28, 2002).

    "[U.S. House members wrote] 'Any change that has the effect of allowing valley fills to destroy waters of the United States is unacceptable,' adding that such regulations 'would be wholly inconsistent with Congress' purpose and intent when it enacted the Clean Water Act.' They've got it right. The administration ought to be looking for ways to protect the streams in West Virginia and other mining regions, not to facilitate their burial" (April 13, 2000).

  • Los Angeles Times: "The best approach to mountaintop mining would be to ban it completely. It's cheaper and less labor-intensive than underground mining, but not worth the environmental cost. . . Obama can't sidestep this issue forever. . ." (June 15, 2009)

2. Major daily newspapers in Central Appalachia are against it.

The largest newspaper in each of the four states under assault by mountaintop removal has editorialized against it. These are the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia, Louisville Courier-Journal in Kentucky, Nashville Tennessean in Tennessee, and Norfolk Virginian-Pilot in Virginia.
  • Louisville Courier-Journal: "Mountaintop removal is a violent attack on the Appalachian landscape. Mr. Obama is taking no steps toward outlawing mountaintop removal, nor is he really even attempting to reduce the number of mountaintop removal operations. The primary difference between the old rules and the new is a little more red tape. . . Installing a more elaborate federal bureaucracy is a poor substitute for substantive reform. The Appalachian mountain chains are one of our region's, and indeed our country's, greatest resources. Mr. Obama should make clear that he won't stand for their continued destruction" (June 16, 2009).

  • Nashville Tennessean: "Fortunately, [Senator Lamar Alexander] has not backed away from his bill [to ban mountaintop removal] . . . The mining industry is powerful in West Virginia and Kentucky, which together are home to nearly half of the nation's 81,000 miners. More than any others, those states bear the scars of their sometimes-harmful practices. Tennesseans, with the help of Sen. Alexander, are signaling that they will reject destruction of its mountains" (August 6, 2009).

  • Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Among the most destructive environmental abuses in this nation, the most deliberate, unconscionable and widespread has to be the form of coal-mining known as 'mountain-top removal' mining. Indeed, 'mining' is hardly the word for this premeditated, callously calculated, man-made catastrophe. . . It should be banned as soon as possible" (August 2, 2009).

  • Charleston Gazette: "Federal and state regulators keep defending the indefensible. We hope [the U.S. Interior Department Office of Surface Mining's] promise to intervene in this [Massey Energy] permit is a sign that things are finally starting to change. Unless they do, more and more of West Virginia's 'summits bathed in glory,' as hailed in the state song, will vanish. A special committee is seeking a new West Virginia slogan. If decapitation-style mining isn't curbed, the winner may be 'Making Molehills Out of Mountains'" (May 21, 1998).

  • Norfolk Virginian-Pilot: ". . . ending mountaintop removal would have long-term economic benefits for Appalachia - and for a nation that eventually will have to step in to help communities left behind, and to clean up the environmental damage" (March 30, 2009).

  • Roanoke Times: "Make no mistake; the Bush regulation is terrible. Waterways need protection, and if it would be another hindrance to mountaintop-removal mining, so much the better" (August 21, 2009).

3. Editorials from elsewhere against it.
  • Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Reps. Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Frank Pallone of New Jersey have proposed a law that would expressly forbid dumping mine waste into waterways. Their colleagues need to get busy and pass it. Greater energy independence is an important goal for this country, and efforts to see how coal can help to achieve it should continue. But devastating the mountains of Appalachia -- a natural treasure and a cultural touchstone for millions of Americans -- cannot be justified in its pursuit" (September 8, 2007).

  • Boston Globe: "Each week, coal companies use explosives equal to the Hiroshima bomb to turn mountaintops into rubble and expose coal seams. The consequences are ghastly. . . . passage of the Clean Water Protection Act would help usher in that new era [of energy production that lessens the nation's dependence on coal]" (March 16, 2008).

    "A bill pending in Congress would reinforce the Clean Water Act's prohibition of dumping industrial waste - including mine waste - into streams. Congress should pass the measure, even at the cost of adding to the nation's utility bill. . . The country should stop sacrificing Appalachian springs - and forests - to its addiction to cheap energy" (September 4, 2007).

  • The Economist (London): ". . . the underlying question is why America allows this practice at all. . . . When a coal company blows the top off a mountain in West Virginia, it's destroying the environment in order to destroy the environment. [West Virginia Senator Jay] Rockefeller may be constrained by political exigencies to defend companies that do this, but it's pretty shameful stuff" (October 23, 2009).

4. Where are the pro-mountaintop removal editorials?

If this were a controversial issue, we would expect to find major daily newspaper editorials on opposite sides expressing opposite opinions. We don't.

Some have avoided editorializing at all on the subject, for reasons we can only speculate about. Out-and-out support for mountaintop removal coal mining, however, is missing.

Why? Because, in the court of public opinion, this is not a controversial issue. Major daily newspaper editorial boards are about as likely to endorse mountaintop removal as they are to endorse dog-fighting.

Some small newspapers, of course, have endorsed mountaintop removal. The Charleston Daily Mail (circulation 21,723) is an example: "Unreasonable delays in permitting and further curbs on mountaintop removal mining will damage the area's economy severely" (October 15, 2009).


For more information on the campaign to stop mountaintop removal coal mining:
Kate Russell
(614) 263-4600