Thursday, October 30, 2008

Restore and Strengthen Stream Barriers

What is Left After Mountain Top Removal

The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation that would guaranteed the continuation of the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams.

Enormous machines scrape away mountain ridges to expose and mine the coal seams. It is estimated that 1,200 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried under coal mine spoil and hundreds of square miles of forests damaged by this destructive mining practice. Entire valleys and communities have been buried under tons of dirt and rock.

Since 1983, dumping mine waste within 100 feet of streams has been illegal, but many mining companies have ignored the regulation and there were issues with enforcement as well.
Now, Bush would like to gut the law further. Miners would be asked to observe the 100-foot stream-buffer rule unless, of course, they do not want to and can show why avoidance is not possible.

Beginning in the late-1990s, concerned citizens tried to slow things by invoking the so-called stream buffer zone rule, which seeks to protect water quality by prohibiting any mining activity within 100 feet of flowing streams. In 2004 the administration began a systematic effort to weaken this protective buffer. That culminated Friday when the Office of Surface Mining sent its proposal for gutting the rule to the E.P.A., whose concurrence is required.

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