Bush Admin to Let Mining Companies Destroy Streams

Today is a yet another day that will live in environmental infamy for the Bush administration.

On its way out the door, the Bush EPA has just given the mining industry a big going-away gift by deciding to weaken a decades-old rule to allow mountain streams and valleys to be buried under piles of coal mining waste, tons of rock and rubble, and vast ponds of toxin-laden sludge. Sadly, this means that Appalachia -- a region that has already suffered the destruction of hundreds of its mountain peaks and the loss of more than a thousand miles of its waterways -- is about to get hammered by even more mountaintop removal coal mining.

Weakening the stream buffer rule essentially endorses and encourages destructive coal mining practices that have plagued mining communities for decades. As a result, it now will be legal for coal companies to destroy critical yet fragile headwater streams that support drinking, habitat, fishing and other recreational opportunities.

Only a few companies -- typically the worst of the worst -- will benefit from this rule change, which undermines the Clean Water Act. As my colleague, senior scientist Allen Hershkowitz, explains: "This action solidifies the disastrous environmental legacy of Bush administration."

Unless this new rule gets reversed next year by the Obama administration or Congress, America's oldest mountain range could be reduced to a vast moonscape like the one pictured below.