How the Government Is Helping Mining Companies Destroy Our Water

And then there were none...The Stream Buffer Zone Rule, the last remaining legal impediment to devastating mountaintop removal coal mining is now just one step away from being abolished, thanks to an Office of Surface Mining decision announced late last week.

On Friday, the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) released its assessment of stream buffer zones - basically giving mining companies the environmental green light to dump mining waste in or near streams.

For years the OSM has failed to enforce the Stream Buffer Zone Rule, which prevents mining within 100 feet of streams, in communities across Appalachia. So instead of enforcing the current law, the OSM decided to just get rid of it - saying this is best possible protection for the environment. In fact, OSM failed even to consider the concept of enforcing the current rule to protect streams and limit the size of mining waste disposal areas in its decision making.  All the alternatives considered involved mining in and around streams.

This decision seems to only aim for expediting mining without regard to environmental damage. And considering how frequently the Sierra Club and others keep finding coal mining companies conducting illegal mining (see Ison Rock, VA; Jellico, TN; and Fish Trap Lake, KY) and releasing unsafe amounts of toxic selenium (see Zeb Mountain, TN; and Hobet and Fola, WV) - you can see how this is just another excuse for these companies to avoid environmental regulations.

There is no doubt that mountaintop removal coal mining is devastating to water quality - one Environmental Protection Agency study found that 93 percent of streams downstream from mountaintop mining waste sites were unfit to support aquatic life.

The Environmental Protection Agency is now the only one standing between the mining companies and our waters. The Stream Buffer Zone cannot be repealed without EPA approval. A poll released today shows that two out of three people opposed repealing the rule, so contact the EPA today and demand that they to side with the American public.

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