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Policies & Politics

Environmentalists Taking EPA Mining Rules to Court

Despite activists’ efforts earlier in the month to stop the Bush administration’s 11th hour changes to environmental regulations, the EPA has gone ahead with undoing some rules. Specifically, they have signed off on loosening 1983’s coal dumping regulation, which prevent dumping within 100 feet of a river.

Fortunately, environmental groups are taking the ruling to court, saying that the already lax enforcement of the law has led to environmental destruction. Over 500 miles of rivers and streams have been adversely affected by dumping since 2001, and further weakening of the law could be devastating.

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Industry is insisting that this change is merely clarifying the past regulation, which some say was worded vaguely. But what appears more likely is that coal companies are looking to make them selves immune from ramifications for past and future environmental destruction by arguing that this new weakened law is all that was intended to begin with.

If the lawsuit is unsuccessful, Obama’s administration will have the ability to undo Bush’s regulation, but the process will take months and may not be an immediate priority of the president.

In other coal news, some unlikely allies are being made in Appalachia, where destructive mining techniques are causing former coal miners to side with environmentalists. In states such as Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, mountaintop removal is permanently destroying natural beauty for the sake of extracting the cheap, dirty fuel source.

But in West Virginia, small town residents are beginning to fight back as they see their landscapes disappear. Towns that once thrived off of coal mining are having a change of heart as it now estimated that this practice will destroy 11.5% of the four states’ forests by 2012.

As clean coal shows itself to be a hoax, dumping continues to threaten riparian ecosystems, and people of all political leanings show outrage over their damaged landscapes, the need to take action becomes more apparent by the day.

Photo Credit: Jen SFO-BCN on Flickr under Creative Commons license.




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