Saturday, October 18, 2008

U.S. easing rule on mine waste near streams

updated 6:22 p.m. ET, Fri., Oct. 17, 2008

WASHINGTON - The Interior Department has advanced a proposal that would ease restrictions on dumping mountaintop mining waste near rivers and streams, modifying protections that have been in place — though often circumvented by mining companies — for a quarter-century.

The department's Office of Surface Mining issued a final environmental impact analysis Friday on the proposed rule change, which has been under consideration for four years. It has been a top priority of the surface mining industry.

It sets the stage for a final regulation, one of the last major environmental [I would call it anti-environmental] initiatives of the Bush administration, after 30 days of additional public comment and interagency review.

The proposed rule would rewrite a regulation enacted in 1983 by the Reagan administration that bars mining companies from dumping huge waste piles — known as "valley fills" — from surface mining within 100 feet of any intermittent or perennial stream if the disposal adversely impacts water quality or quantity.

The revisions would require mining companies to minimize the debris they dump as much as possible, but also would let them skirt the 100-foot protective buffer requirement if compliance is determined to be impossible.

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