Thursday, March 27, 2014

House moves to block new rules that would protect streams from mountaintop removal mining

"The Republican-controlled House on Tuesday passed legislation blocking the Obama administration from issuing a rule intended to protect streams and the public health from mountaintop mining in Kentucky and other states," James Carroll reports for The Courier-Journal. "On a mostly party-line vote of 229-192, lawmakers approved a bill that would reinstate regulations issued during the George W. Bush administration that allow the coal industry to dispose of mine waste near streams and as a result, supporters said, would protect 7,000 mining jobs." The measure faces doubtful prospects in the Senate.

Rep. John Yarmuth
One opponent of the bill, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, "warned that the measure ignored the long-term environmental and health impacts of coal mining in Appalachia and other regions," Carroll writes. Yarmuth displayed a plastic bottle filled with orange-colored water to House members, saying, “This is what comes out of the taps in Appalachian communities where the water is contaminated by dangerous mine waste. It fills their wells and flows through the streams in their yards. It is the result of an inadequate law that is failing to protect public health and safety near mountaintop removal mining sites."

The Obama administration, which opposes the House bill, has yet to propose a new rule, but "it is believed the administration wants at least a 100-foot buffer between mine waste and streams," Carroll writes. The White House said the current measure “inadequately protects drinking water and watersheds from strip mining,” In February a federal judge "vacated the Bush stream buffer zone rule, saying it did not take into account the effects of mountaintop mining on threatened and endangered species." (Read more)

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