It’s official. Mountaintop removal wins.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday approved a last-minute rule change by the Bush administration that environmentalists fear will lead to coal companies burying more Appalachian streams with excess rock and dirt from surface mining.
The change rewrites a 1983 rule that prohibited dumping the fill from mountaintop mining within 100 feet of streams. Environmentalists argue that regulators have not properly enforced the rule, and there were some exceptions that allowed mine debris in stream areas. Government figures show that 535 miles of streams were buried or diverted between 2001 and 2005, more than half of them in the mountains of Appalachia.
The 11th-hour change before President Bush leaves office would eliminate a tool that citizens groups have used in lawsuits to keep mining waste out of streams. Mining companies had been pushing for the change for years, and Kentucky elected officials had weighed in on both sides of the debate in recent weeks.
Looks like eastern Kentucky is going to get a lot less mountainous.