"He's a snake in the grass, I tell ya guys; he may look dumb but that's just a disguise; he's a mastermind in the ways of espionage." Charlie Daniels, "Uneasy Rider" Bush's Advent message on Appalachian coal: "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low" - TT's Lost in Tokyo

Bush's Advent message on Appalachian coal: "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low"

Just in time for last Sunday's readings at Advent liturgies of Isaiah 40:4, on December 2 the White House and EPA approved the final issuance by the Department of the Interior of industry-backed changes in the 25-year-old stream "buffer zone" rule.  The revised rule, which the NYT describes as one of "the most contentious of all the regulations emerging from the White House in President Bush’s last weeks in office", will make it much easier for coal companies to fill in streams and valleys with the rock and dirt produced by mountaintop removal mining operations.  As I described in an earlier post, these mining practices create direct physical effects on nearby communities, and produce extensive and long-lasting alterations to streamflows and aquatic life, leaching of heavy metals into streams and wells and leave behind dangerous leach ponds.  

It is clear from a review of the proceedings that the decisions of the DOI and EPA were based on the premise that mountaintop removal mining would proceed, with stream buffers not being required if the alternative to stream and valley fill were not economically practicable.  Largely because of the damage such mountaintop removal and fill operations have been proven to do to the interests of local and state residents in stream and groundwater quality and flows, the changes were strongly opposed by the public and by the governors of Kentucky and Tennessee.

Nobody seems to have swallowed the rather Orwellian announcement by the DOI's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement that the new rule will "tighten" restrictions on excess spoil, coal mine waste, and mining activities in or near streams - least of all the coal firms, who praised the new rule!

One wonders if in all the litigation over federal rules, residents who bear the impacts of mountaintop mining have considered bringing direct claims against the mining firms for damage under the common law - as opposed to struggling over the substance of federal and state regulations and whether regulators and prosecutors will try to enforce them.

While I noted this issue last week, I was gently reminded of President Bush's Christmas gift to the coal companies by the perversely coincidental appropriateness of a church reading on Sunday (the second Sunday of Advent) of Isaiah 40:4:

Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.

Bush and the coal companies are doing God's work!

Published Mon, Dec 8 2008 9:43 AM by TokyoTom