Bush allows coal companies to dump waste in waterways

Bush is certainly burning the midnight oil lately. In his latest effort to please those dearest to him (i.e. polluting companies), Bush approved a final rule on Tuesday that basically makes it easier for coal mining companies to dump mining waste like dirt and rocks into nearby waterways.

Mining waste is accumulated after miners blow up the tops of mountains to get at the coal deep within the mountain. It’s called mountaintop removal, and it’s pretty much the most damaging form of coal strip mining out there. After the mountain goes Kaboom!, massive amounts of rubble and slurry are left over, which is then usually hauled away and disposed of in nearby valleys. The practice has already buried some 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia with mine waste.

Since 1983, it’s been illegal to dump mining waste within 100 feet of streams in an effort to preserve water quality, but unfortunately this Reagan-era ruling is as flimsy as a kite made out of Kleenex, so mining companies have frequently disregarded or gotten around the law.

But now it’s even easier to mar the nation’s streams. According to a Washington Post article, Bush’s new rule asks companies to either avoid the 100-foot stream buffer zone or show why avoidance isn’t a possibility. If they do go ahead and just dump the waste in the buffer zone, they must at least make a girl’s scout effort to try to minimize or avoid harming streams as best they can. So basically, the coal companies now have a legal right to go ahead and do what they used to only be allowed to do under extreme circumstances and special governmental permission. It looks like the coal companies just got that “get out of jail for free” card they’ve always wanted.

Not surprisingly, the new ruling has environmentalists seething, including Earthjustice senior legislative counsel Joan Mulhern, who has said of the ruling, “The final Environmental Impact Statement [that was conducted prior to the ruling] is a sham. The agency did not even study, among available alternatives, the option of enforcing the stream buffer rule that has been on the books since 1983.”

In fact, this latest ruling is so unequivocally bad for the environment that it took the Bush Administration almost five years to get it passed, but it’s hardly the only new regulation that lets companies pollute more. Coal companies have certainly been in their glory these past few weeks. According to previous Current posts, the Bush Administration is working on making it easier for utilities to put coal-fired generating stations near national parks, allowing utility companies to modify coal-fired power plants and increase their emissions without upgrading pollution-control equipment, and leasing areas near public lands for oil and gas development.

Whew! Bush must be tired with all these devious decisions. Luckily, Obama is on to Bush’s plan and has already made it clear that he wants to scrap as many as 200 of the most controversial decisions of Bush's eight years in office, according to the Independent. The newspaper reports that so far “a team of 48 advisers is already drawing up a list of measures they intend to undo, relating to torture, federal funding for stem cell research, reproductive rights and climate change.” The names of these people have yet to be released, but with Bush working overtime to undermine the US’s already flimsy and few environmental regulations, Obama might want to consider doubling his team of advisors to help wipe clean eight years of mistakes.

By: Jessica A. Knoblauch


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