I get into Bush's early pledge to invest in "clean" coal technology in my story for the Current, and I mention the mountain-top removal cataclysm that has since hit Appalachia, but I didn't have to space (or inclination?) to bring the story up to the minute after I stumbled a couple hours ago over this sick little gem from posted by Grist.
The Bush administration is about to ease restrictions on mountaintop-removal mining, making it easier -- and legal -- for companies to dump mine waste in streams. Since 1983, dumping mine waste within 100 feet of streams has been illegal, but many mining companies have done so anyway due to a combination of lax enforcement and varying interpretations of the law. The Bush admin's proposed rule change, which will become final after 30 days of public comment, would still require miners to observe the 100-foot stream-buffer rule unless, of course, they don't want to and can "show why avoidance is not possible." Some 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have already been buried by massive amounts of mine waste from mountaintop removal in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The Interior Department suggests the rule change will be "slightly positive" for the environment since it requires mining companies to minimize debris that's disposed of outside the mined area, but environmentalists derided the change. "Its only purpose is to expedite mining without regard to environmental damage," said Ed Hopkins of the Sierra Club.Already 500 names mountains have fallen, smothering creeks and streams below, and toxifying communities across Appalachia. Whichever candidate takes hold of the White House will have their job cut out for them cleaning this mess up.