This week, more than 150 activists from around the country walked the halls of Congress, urging their elected leaders to end mountaintop removal coal mining. We're trying to persuade Congress to pass the Clean Water Protection Act (H.R. 1310), a bill that would close the regulatory loophole enacted by the Bush administration which allows coal companies to pollute and bury Appalachian streams with mining waste.
A New York Times editorial, appropriately entitled Appalachia's Agony, sums up the issue quite well. Here's an excerpt:
"There is a long and tortured legal history surrounding mountaintop mining, but the essential question is this: Is dumping mine waste into streams a violation of the federal Clean Water Act?
"On its face the answer is yes, but various regulatory maneuvers have allowed this practice to proceed. The worst of these was a 2002 rule by the Bush administration that in effect removed mining waste from the list of the law's prohibited pollutants. The rule has made it easy for the Army Corps of Engineers to issue mining permits and hard for the courts to deny them.
"A bipartisan group of 119 members of the House recently reintroduced legislation that would redefine mining waste as a pollutant. In so doing, Congress would reassert the original intent of the Clean Water Act and end the practice of dumping waste in valleys and streams."
The editorial also makes a plea to President Obama to follow through on the concerns he raised on the campaign trail last year when he said there must be a better way to mine coal "than simply blowing the tops off mountains." To prevent further damage to Appalachia's water, wildlife and communities before the legislation becomes law, which could take quite a while, the editorial specifically calls on the Obama administration to suspend federal mountaintop mining permits.
That is an excellent idea, and one that NRDC will propose when we and our allies meet with EPA officials.
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