Coal Tattoo

Senators one-up EPA on mountaintop removal

More news in the wake of the Obama administration’s initiative to more closely scrutinize mountaintop removal mining permits … EPA may not be banning mountaintop removal, but a couple of U.S. Senators would like to do just that.

Bipartisan legislation was introduced today in the U.S. Senate to ban mountaintop removal mining. The “Appalachian Restoration Act” was introduced by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

The legislation — a mere two pages long — would remove “excess spoil” (the stuff that used to be the mountains) from surface coal mines from the definition of “fill material” that can be approved for dumping into streams under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Cardin said:

My goal is to put a stop to one of the most destructive mining practices that has already destroyed some of America’s most beautiful and ecologically significant regions.

Alexander said:

Coal is an essential part of our energy future, but it is not necessary to destroy our mountaintops in order to have enough coal

For the record, neither Maryland nor Tennessee is really a major coal producing state today. The latest DOE figures show  Maryland with 1.7 million tons of strip-mined coal and Tennessee with 1.8 million tons of strip-mined coal.

Like the Clean Water Protection Act, pending in the U.S. House, the Appalachian Restoration Act would overturn the Bush administration’s changes to the CWA fill rule. But, this bill is much more narrow — it would not affect slurry impoundments, for example.