Friday, July 17, 2015

Proposed rule to protect streams from mining would be tougher on coal but allow valley fills

Valley fills like this would still be allowed.
The Obama administration has proposed new rules for protecting streams from the effects of coal mining, continuing a battle between the industry and regulators that has lasted more than a decade and intensified as controversy over mountaintop-removal mining has increased.

The proposed regulations "would impose tougher standards for water quality around coal mines while requiring companies to take more responsibility for cleaning up waterways damaged by mine pollution or covered by mining spoils," reports Joby Warrick of The Washington Post.

"Coal operators would have to conduct expanded monitoring and perform additional environmental restoration, but would be freed from the threat that a 32-year-old ban on mining activities within 100 feet of streams might be used to stop them from dumping waste rock and dirt into streams" to create valley or head-of-hollow fills, reports Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette.

"Specifically, the rule mandates that coal companies test and monitor the condition of streams affected by their activities before, during and after a mining operation, according to a summary of the proposal released by the Interior Department," reports Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times. "It would also require that companies restore streams and other mined areas to 'the uses they were capable of supporting before mining activities'."

The department estimated that the proposed rule, which would take effect after a year of public comment and review, would cost about 460 coal jobs but add 250 reclamation jobs. The coal industry said the job losses would be much larger. "Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett said the Obama Administration has tried to hide the impact," Sean Cockerham of McClatchy Newspapers reports. "The Office of Surface Mining's own analysis of an earlier version of the rule said that it would cost 7,000 jobs." Bissett told Valerie Volcovici of Reuters that Interior officials "cooked their own books."

Republican politicians from coal states decried the move as the latest evidence of President Obama's "war on coal," but environmental groups said the rule should have been stronger.
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