From the New York Times:
"The White House on Tuesday approved a final rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys."
Mountaintop removal is one of those issues that sounds like science fiction. But it is very real, and communities throughout Appalachia have been dealing with its impacts for years. Basically, mining companies take the tops off mountains, and plop the debris in nearby river valleys. Conservation groups — including Conservation Alliance grantees Appalachian Voices and Coal River Mountain Watch — have argued that the practice violates the Clean Water Act. EPA — an arm of the Bush administration — disagrees. I haven't read their rationale, but it sounds like their argument is that if the disposal of waste completely buries a stream, there are no water quality issues because there is no longer any surface water. The US really needs to confront this issue. In our push for energy independence, the easiest — and most destructive — path is to increase our use of domestic coal. Of all fossil fuels, coal emissions have the highest level of CO2, and extracting coal has an enormous impact on local communities and the mountain landscape.