Monday, September 28, 2009

Is an end to mountain-top removal in sight?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 2:52 PM

Let's hope.

The Obama administration is quietly putting together plans for a major new scientific study of the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining.

On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a notice seeking nominations for scientists to serve on an ad hoc panel to "provide expert advice to the EPA on a draft assessment of the ecological impacts" of mountaintop removal.

The Obama administration has already promised to take "unprecedented steps" to reduce the damaging environmental impact from mountaintop removal across the Appalachian coalfields.

Unlike other EPA moves on mountaintop removal, though, agency officials on Friday did not issue a news release or other media announcements concerning the science panel. Instead, the announcement was a simple notice published in the Federal Register.

The announcement said, "Recent published scientific information reveals that mountaintop mining and valley-fill operations in Southern Appalachia may be linked to degraded water quality and adverse impacts on in-stream biota."

The federal government already spent nearly seven years and $5.5 million on a broad study of mountaintop removal as part of a court settlement of a major lawsuit over mining permit practices.

That study, released in final form in October 2005, concluded that mountaintop removal was devastating the region's environment, destroying hills and forests and burying or otherwise damaging hundreds of miles of streams. President George W. Bush's administration reversed the study's intended purpose -- to come up with tougher new regulations -- and instead drafted plans to streamline permitting of new mines.

Since that study was completed, research by EPA experts and other scientists has continued to detail mountaintop removal's damage and point out that stream restoration and land reclamation projects by mining companies don't seem to work.

Read more from The Charleston (Va.) Gazette.

Further reading: G20 agrees on phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies (Reuters)

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