Later On

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Destroying the wilderness

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From Wired:

At 4 o’clock every afternoon except Sunday, the blasting starts in the mountains around Judy Bonds’ home in Whitesville, West Virginia.

There as elsewhere in the Appalachian coal country that stretches through Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, coal is produced by what’s self-descriptively known as mountaintop-removal mining.

Mining companies clear forests from mountaintops, dynamite the peaks, excavate buried coal, and dump the waste into nearby valleys. It’s cheaper and more efficient than old-fashioned mining, but the effects of mountaintop removal — or MTR — are devastating.

In just two decades, hundreds of mountaintops, more than a thousand miles of stream, and hundreds of square miles of forests have been obliterated by the practice. Opponents say the pollution is also dangerous to people who live in the region.

“There is no place on earth like this place, and it’s being destroyed,” says Bonds, the outreach coordinator for Coal River Mountain Watch, an anti-MTR activist group. “They call West Virginia ‘almost heaven,’ and it is, until the coal industry bombs your home.”

Activists have fought a losing legal battle against MTR. First they claimed the practice violated Clean Water Act rules against dumping waste in waterways. But in 2002, the Bush administration rewrote or “clarified” the rule, so that MTR debris wouldn’t be classified as waste.

MTR opponents then turned to the stream buffer-zone rule, a Reagan-era regulation for streamside mines. They say the rule forbids any mining within 100 feet of a stream, which would effectively end MTR. Mining companies, on the other hand, say the rule only requires that mining be done as cleanly as possible.

That’s the interpretation favored by a new rule issued August 24 by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining. The regulation is currently scheduled to take effect after a 60-day public-comment period ending October 23. As written, it will make life even harder for MTR opponents.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 September 2007 at 3:43 pm

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