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The Bush administration's environmental record: Mountaintop Mining

 
  

Project: The Bush administration's environmental record

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January 7, 2004

       The US Office of Surface Mining (OSM) announces that it intends to “clarify” the buffer zone rule of the Surface Mining Act of 1977, which governs permits for coal strip mines that are located within 100 feet of a stream. The Bush administration disagrees with the current interpretation of the rule which prohibits mining near streams unless it can be shown that the activities will not “adversely affect the water quantity and quality or other environmental resources of the stream.” The White House claims that the buffer zone rule is confusing and its current application too restrictive on the coal mining industry. Instead, the administration proposes a policy that would call on coal operators to minimize the impact on streams “to the extent possible, using the best technology currently available.” Critics warn that the proposed “clarification” would encourage a method of surface mining known as “mountaintop mining,” which involves the removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams. The method is extremely destructive to the environment because the resulting debris is bulldozed into nearby valleys, often completely burying streams in a practice known as “valley fill.” [Charleston Gazette, 1/8/2004; Associated Press, 1/7/2004; Los Angeles Times, 1/18/2004; Environmental News Service, 1/8/2004; The New York Times, 1/13/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Federal Register, Vol 69., No. 4]
People and organizations involved: US Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Bush administration  Additional Info 
          

May 28, 2004

       The US Army Corps of Engineers relaxes water quality and stream protections for mountaintop removal mining without consulting the Environmental Protection Agency. According to internal agency “guidance” obtained by Inside EPA, the Corps has recommended its staff to approve proposed clean water projects that would allow sewers and constructed ditches—rather than newly created streams, wetlands or water habitat—to qualify as mitigation projects replacing streams buried by mining operations. Commenting on the policy, Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Daniel Rosenberg says, “As if letting coal companies get away with destructive mountaintop removal mining isn't bad enough; the Bush administration says it's a fair trade to replace buried pristine natural streams with sewers and ditches.” [Inside EPA, 5/2004; Natural Resources Defense Council, 5/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, US Army Corps of Engineers
          


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