In what critics are calling a parting gift to the mining industry, the Bush Administration is about to issue a new rule that will, in the words of New York Times
reporter, John Broder, "enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal
." The rule in question concerns buffer zones which are meant to keep mine wastes out of stream beds. Thing is, say the mine bosses, you can't do mountaintop removal without dumping the resulting rubble in the river drainages, so it's a little silly to talk about buffer zones. An official from the Office of Surface Mining explained as much to Broder: “There’s really no place to put the material except in the upper reaches of hollows. If you can’t put anything in a stream, there’s really no way to even underground mine.”
Already, more than 1,000 river miles in Appalachia have been buried, to say nothing of the many thousands of acres of forest that have been lost to mountaintop removal. The new rule will ease restrictions on miners so that the practice, and the corresponding destruction, may continue apace.
The architect of the new rule, by the by, was recently sentenced to jail. Stephen Griles, the former mining lobbyist whom Bush made his Assistant Secretary of the Interior will serve 10 months, plus 3 years parole, for lying to Congress about his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff (who is also incarcerated). So, if the rule seems criminal, well, maybe it's because we had criminals writing the rules.