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By Samuel R. Avro on Dec 23, 2008 with no responses

Environmental Groups Sue Bush Over Coal Mining Law

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Environment groups, coal industry at odds over a change by the EPA in the water pollution rules.

A coalition of environmental groups has gone to court seeking to overturn a Bush administration law which they say will make it easier for mining companies to dump waste into nearby streams.

A coalition of environmental groups have gone to court seeking to overturn a Bush administration change in a law which may effect mountaintop coal removal.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), earlier this month, signed off on a change in a 1983 rule that prohibited such dumping within 100 feet of streams.

“This administration chose its allegiance, that of protecting the economic interests of the coal industry over protecting our mountains, streams and watershed,” Kathy Selvage of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards said in a press release.

If not overturned, the groups argue the repeal will allow coal mining industries to begin mountaintop mining and dumping mining waste into streams.

Earlier this month, Bank of America announced that they will cease their financing of mountaintop coal removal operations. The move was in response to pressure placed on the bank by one of the most powerful environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Mountaintop coal removal accounts for about 10% of U.S. coal production.

The suit contends that the agency did not consider other alternatives when it studied the environmental impact of its proposal. It also alleges that the EPA went against its own studies showing damage from mountaintop removal in order to go through with the rule change.

“The notion that coal mining companies can dump their wastes in streams without degrading them is a fantasy that the Bush administration is now trying to write into law,” said Judith Petersen, executive director of Kentucky Waterways Alliance.

Political leaders in many of the states which mine for coal have been divided over the issue. On the one hand, they don’t want to upset the coal industry which provides for so many jobs and much revenue to the state coffers. But at the same time, there are many environmental groups joining together to fight the change. These groups are spread out over a number of states, including Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Mining officials say that the new rule codifies existing practices and that there won’t be any noticeable change.

“It doesn’t change the water quality standards. The clean water standards still have to be met,” said Luke Popovich, vice president of external communications for the National Mining Association. “The irony is that there will be virtually no change in the practice of mining in this rule. It’s going to be no different than what it was in the Clinton era.”