Thursday, December 10, 2009

GAO says little surface-mined land gets developed

Surface-mine operators say replacing hills and mountains with flat or relatively flat land provides needed land for development in Central Appalachia, but the mines actually provide little in the way of post-surface mine development, says a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

GAO also found "while the area of Appalachia affected by surface coal mining has increased, it has also become more concentrated in a few coalfield counties," Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette reports. Ward first reported about the low percentage of surface mine land used for development a decade ago, and we recently noted a Lexington Herald-Leader story about the issue in Kentucky.

The report, commissioned at the request of several lawmakers, offered no recommendation for action, but did include a wealth of data about mountaintop removal, Ward writes. Among the highlights: approved permit land that had never been reclaimed in West Virginia increased from 184,000 acres in January 1990 to 245,000 acres in July 2008; acres under open permits have become more concentrated in both Kentucky and West Virginia; and only 12 of 212 permits issued in West Virginia from 2000 to 2008 proposed a post-mining land use of industrial or commercial development. (Read more)

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