President Obama Seeks Reversal Of Mountaintop Mining Rule

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is taking steps to
reverse a last-minute Bush-era rule that allows mountaintop mining
waste to be dumped near streams.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday the administration
will ask a federal court to abandon the rule that made it easier
for coal mining companies to dump waste near streams. If the court
agrees, the Obama administration could start drafting a new
regulation that better protects waterways and communities sooner
than if it sought to rewrite the measure itself.

Salazar said the rule, finalized with a little more than a month
before President George W. Bush left office, was bad policy. Two
lawsuits pending in federal court sought to block or overturn the
rule. The Obama administration's decision puts the federal
government in the rare position of siding with the parties that
filed the lawsuits.

"The responsible development of our coal supplies is important
to America's energy security," Salazar said in a conference call
with reporters. "But as we develop these reserves we must also
protect our treasured landscapes, our land, our water and our

Earthjustice, which represents the plaintiffs in one of the
lawsuits, accused Salazar of attempting to spike the litigation.

"This came out of the blue," spokeswoman Joan Mulhern said,
adding that no one in the administration talked with Earthjustice
before Monday's announcement.

Mulhern also complained that reverting to the status quo is not
enough because it won't prevent coal companies from filling valleys
with mine waste. "That's not helping the communities concerned
with mountaintop removal."

Prior to the change, regulations in place since 1983 have barred
mining companies from dumping waste within 100 feet of streams if
the disposal would diminish water quality or quantity.

"The Secretary of the Interior's move to undo a seven year
rulemaking process is precipitous and will only add to the
uncertainty that is delaying mining operations and jeopardizing
jobs," National Mining Association Chief Executive Hal Quinn said
in a statement. "We trust the Secretary of the Interior does not
plan on engaging in a de facto rulemaking, thereby avoiding the
transparency integral to a fair and legal regulation."

The action is the latest by the Obama administration to address
mountaintop removal for coal, a process in which mining companies
remove vast areas to expose coal. While they are required to
restore much of the land, the removal creates many tons of rocks,
debris and other waste that are trucked away and then dumped into
valley areas, where streams flow.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it was
cracking down on mountaintop removal by taking a closer look at 150
to 200 permits.

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Caylor says it's
unclear what the administration's action will mean for the
industry. A primary reason for the Bush administration's changes
was to clarify whether the 1983 rules covered ephemeral streams
that occasionally carry water.

"The original rule was clear that it did not apply to these
little, small, dry ditches," Caylor said. "It helped by
clarifying it because there was starting to be litigation."

Salazar said he talked to West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin before
Monday's announcement. Manchin spokesman Matt Turner said the
governor invited Salazar to the state to visit a mountaintop
removal mine.

"There has to be a balance and that is what he (Manchin) is
looking for," Turner said. "There has to be a realistic
understanding of how much energy comes from coal. We just can't
instantly wean ourselves from this energy source."

Manchin complained to the administration after the EPA announced
it wanted to review permits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was
considering for mountaintop removal mines in West Virginia,
Kentucky and Virginia.
Associated Press Writer Brian Farkas and AP Business Writer Tim
Huber contributed to this report from Charleston, W.Va.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Pam Location: Viper, KY on Jun 17, 2009 at 05:40 AM
    I can see where strip miners would be upset that they may lose their jobs & I agree that at the moment we are very dependent on coal, but what will happen to us when the coal is gone? Will we still have potable water when that happens? If we turned off the electricity produced solely by mountaintop removal, would we still be able to live off the land using clean water? If we take care of the water, it will be with us for as long as we are here. Can we say that about coal?
  • by ns. Location: salyersville on Apr 30, 2009 at 09:49 AM
    Im for all the minning,drilling for coal,oil and gas that we can do here in america. Im against anyone or anything that makes it tougher. Obama is putting us deeper and deeper in debt in every way he can. All while he and his beloved supporters want to stop us from using and selling our natural resources which makes us even less wealthy and less powerful.while we borrow more and more from places like China that mine and burn all the coal they can get as fast as they can get it. Then we'll all have alot more to worry about than srip minning and oil wells in Alaska...
  • by jake Location: ky on Apr 30, 2009 at 06:08 AM
    Where are all these better greener jobs. This country has to have energy. Are they going pay all of us out of work strip miners $70,000 a year to fan the windmills and keep them turning. its easy to say you can replace jobs, but mining jobs are high paying jobs.
  • by Melissa Location: Kentucky on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:16 AM
    My family and I, " A G R E E " with Joey@11:33PM 100 %. Turn OFF ALL their ELECTRICITY right now! Shut them down and make them see what it is really like to be without a Coal Fired Nation. We feed the flames at the Steel Mills, we feed their wasteful City Lights they love so much, and the Gas Pumps, their Water Plants and MUCH more, even their JOBS. Remind them WHO we are! SHUT THEM DOWN...before they take our lively hood away. Miners have had a BIG HAND in building this Country and Defending it, they could have not built all these Cities or even the Military without our HEAT. Now they just want to dog us and forget about us? I don't think so....SHUT THEM DOWN!
  • by Roan Location: Harlan on Apr 28, 2009 at 07:44 AM
    I am glad that Obama has made a step in the right direction. I hope he will also make the right decisions in helping coal miners transition into better, greener jobs when the time comes. If I was a surface miner, I'd be considering getting my underground card. It seems like this administration will be easier on the underground industry....
  • by Joey Location: Prestonsburg on Apr 27, 2009 at 08:33 PM
    And he does it again,The President will not be happy till all of the mines are shut down.And everyone in the coal business is at the food stamp office.He is not MY president,I voted againest him,But you can't fight the tree huggers.I would like to see all coal workers just stop producing for about 2 months,Then let the tree huggers be in the dark ages for a conputers ,a.c.,or lights.Let them find out where their electricity really comes from.Maybe they would shut their BIG MOUTHS ,and realize they have to have COAL,but I doubt it.
  • by Jack Location: Harlan poor house on Apr 27, 2009 at 07:50 PM
    I hope this puts the issue to rest. Mining is dangerous, dirty, unhealthy, and bad for the environment in ever respect. People can find jobs in other less destructive areas. Adventure tourism is promicing, and lots of green jobs will more than make up for the lost jobs in mining. Obama won, so get use to it.
  • by effie Location: floyd county on Apr 27, 2009 at 07:15 PM
    i agree this world is in a lot of trouble do to bush. i hope that president obama can gwt us out os this
  • by effie Location: harld on Apr 27, 2009 at 07:13 PM
    i agree with pesident obama this world is messed up so cause of bush i hope the new president runs this world better than bush sr and jr
  • by Anonymous on Apr 27, 2009 at 07:10 PM
    will this slow down the mines?
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