Mountop removal - Bush makes way for its big return
A method of Coal Mining that is absolutely destructive to the environment has destroyed over 700 miles of streams and valleys but was regulated so as to lessen its impact finds a new fan in Bush . . . . of course the 900Million dollars from the Coal Mining industry sure helps:
Tidbits from the article: the first dealing with the Mercury issue and the thinly vieled tactics of the Bush administration's anti-environmental stance
The "fill rule," as the May 2002 rule change is now known, is a case study of how the Bush administration has attempted to reshape environmental policy in the face of fierce opposition from environmentalists, citizens groups and political opponents. Rather than proposing broad changes or drafting new legislation, administration officials often have taken existing regulations and made subtle tweaks that carry large consequences.
Sometimes the change hinges on a single critical phrase or definition. For example, when the Environmental Protection Agency announced proposals last year to control mercury emissions, it also moved to downgrade the "hazardous" classification of mercury pollution from power plants -- a seemingly minor change that effectively gave utilities 15 more years to implement the most costly controls. Earlier this year, the Energy Department helped insert wording into a Senate bill to reclassify millions of gallons of "high-level" radioactive waste as "incidental," a change that would spare the government the expense of removing and treating the waste.
Another proposal would scale back the federal government's legal obligation to police state mining agencies, by reclassifying certain duties from "nondiscretionary" to "discretionary."
In October 2001, the Bush administration intervened to change the focus of a federal mining study that was poised to recommend limits on the size of new mountaintop mines. And, in an internal policy change this spring, the administration promulgated guidelines that allow ditches dug by coal companies to serve as substitutes for streams that were being buried by debris.
"They call them 'clarifications,' but it's really all about removing obstacles," said Jack Spadaro, who regulated coal mines for 32 years as a federal mine inspector and senior mining safety officer. "They've made it easier for companies to dump mining waste into streams, and harder for citizens to challenge them."
Dude, where's my mountains?
A Huge percentage of the watershed is being filled in and mined out, and we have no idea what the downstream impacts will be," said one senior government scientist who has studied mountaintop mining extensively but insisted on anonymity for fear of repercussions at work. "All we know is that nothing on this scale has ever happened before."
What . . . what does that working-guy have to worry about from this nice administration?!
Other impacts are felt downstream. Federal water-quality studies have found substantially higher levels of selenium, a mineral that is toxic to fish in high doses -- in rivers near the mines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that as many as 244 species, including several that are endangered, were being affected by the loss of forest and aquatic habitats. "The individual and cumulative impacts to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are unprecedented," the agency's West Virginia field office concluded in a September 2001 report.
And again to highlight the administration's tactic favorite du jour
[size=2]After the election, administration officials publicly promised to remove the legal bureaucratic roadblocks to the mining permits. Newly appointed Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, a former coal industry lobbyist, made a specific pledge to the West Virginia Coal Association in a speech in August 2001:
"We will fix the federal rules very soon on water and spoil placement," Griles said.
Yet, the final version of the Bush administration's fill rule published in May 2002 contained nearly all the changes the mining industry requested. The definition of "fill" was expanded to include "rock, sand, clay, plastics, construction debris, wood chips and overburden from mining." Only garbage was expressly excluded.
The administration was taking steps to contain another potential threat to mountaintop mining: the environmental impact study begun under President Bill Clinton to assess the need for limits on the size of future mines.
As part of the study, federal scientists and engineers had spent more than two years documenting damage to Appalachian streams and wildlife. Some panel members had prepared draft recommendations that called for restricting valley fills larger than 250 acres. But Griles, the Interior Department undersecretary, informed panel members in an Oct. 5, 2001, memo that their study lacked the proper focus and needed restructuring. He ordered recommendations for "centralizing and streamlining coal-mine permitting," according to the memo, which the environmental law firm Earthjustice obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
"We do not believe the [study] as currently drafted focuses sufficiently on those goals," Griles wrote.
Scientists who were at work on the report found the change in direction inexplicable, internal memos and e-mails show. "Our proposed approach was subsequently voted down within the executive committee," one Fish and Wildlife Service employee explained to colleagues in a memo, "in part because a decision appears to have been made that even minor modifications to current regulatory practices are now considered to be outside the scope" of the study.
So, don't like the science, then simply order the panel of scientists to write about something else entirely . . . order them to NOT look at the environment!
By the time the Bush administration released the study, all proposals for limiting valley fills had indeed been omitted. And, as Griles had urged, the document's main recommendations called for cutting bureaucratic red tape and speeding up the permitting process.
and the humnan impact is irreparable as well:
"It makes me furious," said Janice Nease, 68, a retired teacher who became an anti-mining activist after her village, a settlement of about 30 homes, was bought and destroyed to make room for a mine. "We keep on plugging away, but it's harder."
For years, Maria Gunnoe, 36, a waitress and single mother, watched nervously as coal companies hacked their way north along a ridge of mountains near the town of Bob White, W.Va. Then, three years ago, the first mining crews arrived on what she calls "my mountain," a rocky ridge called Island Creek Mountain directly above her house, her family's home for three generations.
"I sit here in the evening and listen to the equipment ripping and tearing at the mountain," Gunnoe, a coal miner's daughter, said as she sat on her porch on a late spring afternoon. "It's the same as if they were ripping and tearing at the siding of my house."
She has seen flooding wash away a third of her front yard and destroy the only bridge that connects her property to a public highway. Her car has been vandalized and her children have been bullied because of her outspoken opposition to the mine, she said. Her nerves are raw from the near-constant blasting, which continues even on holidays. "It sends the kids screaming, running through the house. The dogs hit the dirt," she said.
Far worse, she said, is the emotional toll. A peak that served as the natural backdrop for her entire life, the lives of her parents, her grandparents and her two young children is vanishing before her eyes. The family has received offers from coal companies to sell the small wood-frame cottage her father built. Gunnoe says she will never sell, but she wonders how long her family can hold on.
"The true cost of coal is here," she said quietly, staring off into the crisp mountain air, at her mountain. "We pay for it with our lives and our future. And also our past."
I'll never forget a documentary that I saw on the subject several years ago(Bush Senior era): in it there was an old man who had obviously grown up in the mountains reduced to tears and saying "Shame on you shame on you for what you are doing"