From today's press release:
<<WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) has drafted new rules that would let mining companies dump waste from mountaintop coal mining operations into rivers and streams, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
The proposed rules are aimed at lifting regulations prohibiting mining companies from disposing of material considered waste, including rock and dirt, in the nearby waterways, the newspaper said.
Mountaintop coal mining has been limited by federal rules and court challenges aimed at restricting how much of the waste from these operations can be dumped in waterways.
According to a draft "final rule" prepared jointly by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, the administration would eliminate that "waste exclusion," the report said.
The White House has been supportive of efforts to help the mining industry but has not approved the final plan, officials told the newspaper.
If approved, the proposed rules would provide a major boost to coal mining operations in West Virginia and Kentucky and stepped-up hardrock mining in western states, the report said.
The newspaper said the proposed changes could undermine efforts by environmentalists and community groups to fight mountaintop mining operations that they say cause unacceptable damage to rivers and streams.
Administration officials described the proposed new rules as basically an effort to bring the Corps rules in line with their interpretation of the Clean Water Act, the paper said.
The officials told the paper there is nothing in the act that prohibits the dumping of such mining waste in rivers and streams, played down any threat to the environment.
"The changes would harmonize the definition the Corps has been operating under with that of the EPA," said Greg Peck, an EPA official who has been involved in the rulemaking.
But officials of the environmental groups Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice, who obtained copies of the final draft rules on Thursday, described them as a major departure in policy, the Post said.
The groups believe the new rules could significantly weaken their legal case in fighting mountaintop mining operations in West Virginia and Kentucky, the newspaper said. >>
I find it to be pretty ironic that the administration is doing this to help bring the Corps rules in line with their interpretation of the Clean Water Act. Who's doing the interpreting?????? Even if the waste is only rock and dirt, waste of this scale can severely and adversely affect stream and river hydrology.