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Appalachia Says 'Not Good Enough' to Obama Mountaintop Mining Plan

"The Obama administration could easily change the regulations back to restore longstanding prohibitions on burying streams and rivers with waste, but they seem to be hiding behind an excuse that their hands are tied." She described the administration’s announcement today as mostly “rearranging the bureaucratic deck chairs.”

“If the Clean Water Act were enforced, it would prohibit this type of stream destruction.”

Blanton of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth sees a few rays of hope in today's announcement.

At least the federal government finally recognizes the damage that mountaintop mining is doing to the mountains, the water quality and the lives of the people, she said. The administration mentioned looking more broadly at the entire watersheds for the first time, and it acknowledged the presence of pollutants and heavy metals such as selenium and manganese.

“The fact that they’re even acknowledging the adverse impacts on people and the environment is a positive step,” she said.

Appalachian residents and advocates have been on an emotional roller coaster this year. In January, they cheered the White House arrival of President Obama, who had expressed concern about mountaintop mining. A month later, they watched with dismay as a federal appeals court overturned a 2007 ruling that had required the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct more thorough permit reviews for proposed mountaintop mines.

The EPA, which has the authority to review the permits under the Clean Water Act, then halted a handful of mining plans in March and said it would take a closer look at about 150 more that were pending. A few weeks ago, however, the EPA said it would allow 42 of the first 48 permits through.

One of the most important government moves so far was the request in April for a U.S. District Court to vacate the Bush administration’s last minute changes to the Stream Buffer Zone Rule.

Until last year, the rule prohibited the dumping of mining waste within 100 feet of a stream unless the company could prove that its actions wouldn’t hurt the water quality or quantity, though lax enforcement meant the rule was often ignored. The Bush administration opened a loophole in November, rewriting the rule so it doesn’t apply to permanent excess spoil fills and coal waste disposal facilities.

"The only way to end the devastation in Appalachia is to quickly reverse the Bush administration's rule making it legal to fill streams with mining waste," Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said today.

"The true test of these new policies and of President Obama's legacy on this issue will be whether they change the terrible situation on the ground in Appalachia."

 

See also:

Appalachia's Best Hope for Ending Mountaintop Mining

Religion's View from Appalachia: Only God Should Move Mountains

Dam Breach in Tennessee Releases Tsunami of Toxic Coal Sludge

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Final MOU on MTR.pdf223.7 KB

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Hi

Good work! Your article is an excellent example of why I keep comming back to read your excellent quality content that is forever updated. Thank you!

MTR

I am very disappointed in the Obama administrations foot dragging policy to do the right thing. Coal companies will surely mine coal in the future......Why can't they just stop mountain top removal right now!!!!!!!! It is so wrong. There is no excuse for this destruction to go on.

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