The Bush administration wants to give a break to strip miners and “quit requiring coal operators to prove that their surface mining will not damage streams, fish and wildlife.”
Under proposed new regulations that it will put out Friday for public comment, strip mine operators would have to show only that they intend “to prevent, to the extent possible using the best technology currently available,” such damage.
“With this proposal, we can establish a consistent, nationwide means to reduce the impacts of surface coal mining and provide clear rules specifying what mining activities can and cannot be conducted near bodies of water,” said C. Stephen Allred, Assistant Secretary of Interior for Land and Minerals Management…
Interior officials have said that complying with that buffer zone requirement is impossible in “mountaintop removal mining,” which involves shearing off the tops of ridges to expose a coal seam. Dirt and rock are pushed below, often into stream beds, a practice known as valley fill.
The new regulations would allow mining that would alter a stream’s flow as long as any damages to the environment are repaired later.
John Kerry issued the following statement today, following reports that the Bush Administration intends to expand rules that allow mountaintop mining:
“I am dismayed that the Bush Administration is taking steps to ensure more mountaintops are destroyed, more rivers and streams are polluted, and the health and way of life of Appalachian communities are even more threatened,” Kerry said. “This awful practice along the banks of our nation’s rivers and streams does irreparable damage to our environment and is not sustainable. By expanding the scope of mountaintop removal, the Bush Administration is obliterating hundreds of miles of streams and rivers, as well as countless Appalachian communities.”
Past federal regulations have banned mining within 100 feet of streams. The Bush Administration plan would enshrine the practice, which involves using explosions to blast off the top of a mountain. The rubble ends up choking valleys and streams below.