Administration's Announcement on Mountaintop Removal Mining -- In Perspective

by Ben Somberg

November 19, 2009

"Interior increases oversight of mountaintop mining" trumpets the AP, and "U.S. boosts coal mining oversight to fight pollution" says Reuters. That's in response to an announcement from Interior on Wednesday.

But on Coal Tattoo, and from NRDC and Sierra Club, one learns of a pretty different story.

Says NRDC's Rob Perks:

Why in the world would I have a problem with this? As I previously posted on the apparent "slow-walk" on this issue by the Interior Department, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar knows full well that President Bush's 'midnight regulation' loosened protections to allow coal companies to dump mining waste directly into streams, and he favors revoking that rule change to restore original "stream buffer zone" protections that were enacted back in 1983. But rather than having his agency propose that change right away and proceed straight to public input, the Interior Department's chosen course of action is a brand new rulemaking process that won't result in any changes to the rule until at least 2011.

Regarding one of the "immediate actions" pledged by Interior, Coal Tattoo author Ken Ward writes:

Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement says it is going to publish an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” to gather views on how it should rewrite the federal stream buffer zone rule.

But wait … we already knew that — and we knew that this move by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar essentially delays any action to overturn the Bush administration’s weakening of the buffer zone rule until at least early 2011.

And, according to this release, the advance notice of proposed rulemaking still hasn’t been published … the news release says it “will be sent to the Federal Register shortly.”

 

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