Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Bush Continues "Loot and Run" Strategy, Wins Approval to Expand Mountain Top Removal

Like a losing army that loots and then sets fire to a village before retreating, the Bush Administration continues to employ a "loot and run" strategy, gutting as many environmental regulations as they can before leaving office.

As I reported in October, the Bush Administration has been rushing to codify new mining waste rules that would clear away a critical protection against the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining that is decimating mountains, watersheds and communities across the region. Yesterday, they won approval of the new "Stream Buffer Rule" - I put that in quotes since it's not much of a buffer for streams anymore - which will make it even easier for mining companies to dump "mining waste" - aka the tops of whole mountains! - on top of running streams.


According to Bush's Interior Department spokesperson crony, Peter Mali, “This rule strengthens protections for streams." Of course, that's the kind of bold-faced lie we've come to know and love from the outgoing administration. In reality, as the New York Times makes clear, "The rule gives coal companies a legal right to" dump mining waste in streams, which, "in the past, they could do only in exceptional circumstances, with special permission from the government."

But the Bush Administration's scorched earth environmental policy doesn't stop there... According to the Times:

The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to finish work on a rule that would make it easier for utilities to put coal-fired generating stations near national parks. It is working on another rule that would allow utility companies to modify coal-fired power plants and increase their emissions without installing new pollution-control equipment.
“This is unmistakably a fire sale of epic size for coal and the entire fossil fuel industry, with flagrant disregard for human health, the environment or the rule of law,” said Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund.

In fact, the outgoing administration is rushing to complete work on regulations to which President-elect Obama and his advisers object, including new rules dealing with air pollution, auto safety, abortion and workers’ exposure to toxic chemicals, among other issues.

As the Times also points out, President-elect Obama has voiced criticisms of mountain top removal mining:
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama expressed “serious concerns about the environmental implications” of mountaintop mining.

“We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains,” Mr. Obama told one environmental group. At the same time, he proposed a major federal investment in clean coal technology.
Whatever your views on the promise or merit so-called "clean" coal technology - the capture and storage of greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants - coal will never approximate clean as long as we continue to decimate mountains, the forest ecosystems that live on them, the streams nearby, and the Appalachian communities that reside downstream.

This comment line at ILoveMountains.org is still open and you can head over to Change.gov to tell President-elect Obama that one of his first executive actions upon taking office should be to reverse the Bush Administration's "loot and run" environmental provisions and urge Congress to quickly pass the Clean Water Protection Act, which would instate real protections for Appalachian streams, mountains and communities.

January 20th can't come soon enough...

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