The practice of mountaintop removal coal mining is coming under closer scrutiny from President Obama’s administration officials. The Environmental Protection Agency recently asked to review some controversial mining permits under the auspices of the Clean Water Act. And this week the Department of the Interior asked the courts to reverse a Bush-era change to a law under the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act. Vermont Law School professor Patrick Parenteau says more than environmental issues are at stake.
“So you have two statutes, two agencies, both of which are looking at the same kind of very destructive mining practice, and trying to decide as a matter of law, what can we do to curtail some of the damage, and obviously, as a matter of politics, how far do we dare go, given the current economic situation, to restrict coal mining in Appalachia,” says Parenteau.
Parenteau says the practice has damaged hundreds of miles of streams in the region. Coal industry representatives say they restore damaged streams after a mining operation has finished.