Saturday, April 3, 2010

New Regulations Will Put an End to Mountaintop Mining

Mountaintop coal mining operation in WPhotograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images) est Virginia.
Obama administration proposals will make destructive mountaintop mining operations effectively impossible
by Suzanne Goldenberg

The Obama administration effectively called time Thursday on one of the most destructive industries in America, proposing new environmental guidelines for mountaintop mining removal.

(The move was seen as a bold action from the White House, which has in the past disappointed environmental organisations for failing to move more aggressively on pollution and climate change.

But in a conference call with journalists, just an hour after the administration for the first time finalised regulations setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars, officials spelled out guidelines that they acknowledged would make it virtually impossible for mining companies in Appalachia to carry on with business as usual.

The economics of mountaintop mining removal involve a highly destructive practice of blasting through hundreds of feet of mountaintop to get at thin but valuable seams of coal. The debris is removed to "valley fills", and nearly 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia have been buried beneath such fills.

In recent years, opposition to the practice has spread from local activists to celebrities, with Robert Kennedy Jr and Darryl Hannah demanding an end to the method.

Lisa Jackson, the head of the Enviromental Protection Agency, said today it is unlikely that valley fills would meet the new standards. "You are talking about either no or very few valley fills that are going to be able to meet standards like this," she said. "What the science is telling us is that it would be untrue to say you can have any more than minimal valley fill and not see irreversible damage to stream health."

Jackson said the new guidelines were not intended to end coal mining. But she admitted it would be hard work for mining companies to meet the new standard. More>>>