WASHINGTON (CN) – Taking another last-minute whack at the environment, President Bush’s Interior Department and the EPA have overturned a 25-year-old surface mining rule in order to allow coal companies to fill in streams and valleys with waste, a move challenged by eight environmental groups in Federal Court. Meanwhile, three federal lawsuits in California challenge other anti-environmental regulations from the activist, reactionary regime on its way out.
The Interior Department Office of Surface Mining issued a final rule on Dec. 12 that gutted the Stream Buffer Zone (SBZ) rule on “Excess Spoil, Coal Mine Waste, and Buffers for Perennial and Intermittent Streams,” the complaint states. Plaintiffs say the rule violates the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedures Act.
The Office of Surface Mining issued the SBZ rule in 1979 and amended it in 1983. It provides that “no land within 100 feet of a perennial stream or an intermittent stream shall be disturbed by surface mining activities, unless that regulatory authority specifically authorizes surface mining activities closer to or through such a stream. The rule further provided that the regulatory authority may authorize such activities only upon finding that surface mining activities will not cause of contribute to violation of applicable state or federal water quality standards, and will not adversely affect water quantity and quality or other environmental resources of the stream.” (Citations omitted.)
The Dec. 12 Final Rule changed that. It “exempts valley fills and other stream-filling activities associated with surface coal mining activities from the scope of the rule, and eliminated the requirement that OSM determine that such activities do not cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards under the CWA. This rule is scheduled to become effective on Jan. 12, 2009.”
Plaintiffs are Coal River Mountain Watch, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Sierra Club, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Waterkeeper Alliance, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. Their lead counsel is Jennifer with Earthjustice.
The three environmental cases from California are all reported on today’s Courthouse News home page.