This ruling touches close to home:
The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams.
It has been used in Appalachian coal country for 20 years under a cloud of legal and regulatory confusion.
The new rule would allow the practice to continue and expand, providing only that mine operators minimize the debris and cause the least environmental harm, although those terms are not clearly defined and to some extent merely restate existing law.
The Office of Surface Mining in the Interior Department drafted the rule, which will be subject to a 60-day comment period and could be revised, although officials indicated that it was not likely to be changed substantially.
The regulation is the culmination of six and a half years of work by the administration to make it easier for mining companies to dig more coal to meet growing energy demands and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
I am aware of the need to balance energy demands with environmental concerns, but this ruling doesn’t even attempt to do so- it simply paves the way for unrestrained mountaintop removal. The consequences of this are going to be disastrous in my state, both environmentally, and possibly politically for the GOP. While there is a powerful coal lobby, the jobs simply are not there to bring out the vote the way it once used to- so much so that groups like ‘Friends of Coal’ have had to pop up over the past few years to help prop up the political standing of the coal mining industry.
I will leave it to others to explain in further detail the environmental issues related to filling in and polluting miles of streams and rivers, but you can almost guarantee there will be additionally flash-flood disasters as well as many other environmental problems that will most certainly arise. With the growing environmental lobby, the expansion of green technologies in WV, and the reliance on tourism as a main source of state income (note to Washington- exploded mountains ain’t pretty), this “parting gift” to the Coal industry from the Bush administration may be the beginning of the end of a resurgent Republican party in WV and more than likely will be the beginning of a whole new series of environmental disasters.