I am disgusted… for dozens of reasons, but let’s talk about the Stream Protection Rule.
The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) of the Department of the Interior studied the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining for nearly the entire length of the Obama Administration, fielding more than 100,000 requests for comment. On December 20, 2016 they released the Stream Protection Rule, a regulation of the industry based on the results of their impact studies.
OSMRE introduced the Stream Protection Rule to improve the balance between environmental protection and providing for the Nation’s need for coal as a source of energy. The final rule better protects streams, fish, wildlife, and related environmental values from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations and provides mine operators with a regulatory framework to avoid water pollution and the long-term costs associated with water treatment.
On February 1, 2017 the U.S. House of Representatives voted 228-194 to repeal the rule a mere six weeks after it went into effect.
If you aren’t familiar with mountaintop removal coal mining, here is a brief explaination. Rather than constructing mine shafts to dig deep into the earth to extract coal, the mining companies now simply blow up the top of Appalachian Mountains to get to the coal.
They’ve been doing it for decades. It’s bad enough that this process leaves ugly scars on the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, but all of the trees and dirt and rock from the former mountaintop has to go somewhere. Prior to the Stream Protection Rule, the surface mining operators would fill up the surrounding valleys and hollows with the debris. You know what’s in those hollows? That’s right… streams and creeks, and fish and wildlife.
Water is the lifeblood of the mountains and forests. When you cover it up with tons and tons of dirt and rock it completely changes the ecology for thousands of years. And for what? To make it easier for a dying industry to extract fossil fuel that isn’t even in demand anymore. I call it double pollution, and it’s why I’m so disgusted.
Mountaintop removal mining will continue to unnecessarily provide coal as a source of energy further exacerbating the negative effects on the environment and climate. Plus the disposal of the tailings and other waste from the process destroys the streams and wildlife that are so important to future generations of humans for their existence.
The almighty dollar seems so important to the U.S. Representatives that man’s ability to sustain himself is imperiled by shortsighted decisions like this. The U.S. Senate will be taking up this repeal in the coming days. If you have any hope for your grandchildren’s ability to exist in an environment with clean air and water, please contact your senators. The Stream Protection Rule depends on it.
Update February 2, 2017 @ 3:00 PM: Sadly the Senate just also voted to overturn the Stream Protection Rule 54-45. Now it only awaits the President’s signature.