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12 Jun 2009: U.S. Vows Tighter Controls
Over Mountaintop Mining in Appalachia

The Obama administration will impose tougher controls over the controversial practice of mountaintop coal mining, the environmentally damaging practice of shearing off the tops of mountains in Appalachia to exploit the coal below. Administration officials vowed to take several steps to limit environmental damage from mountaintop removal, including ending fast-track permitting of projects, closing loopholes that allow coal companies to dump waste rock into streams, and reasserting federal oversight over lax state reviews. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study estimated that by 2012, mountaintop removal projects will have destroyed or seriously damaged an area larger than Delaware and buried more than 1,000 miles of mountain streams in mining debris. The White House said that the EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will work together to more closely monitor mountaintop removal projects, but officials offered few specifics about how the new guidelines would work in practice. A recent EPA review allowed 42 of 48 mountaintop removal projects to proceed, prompting some environmental groups to accuse the administration of continuing the lax standards of the Bush administration.

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