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Pallone Says Bush Administration's Mountaintop Removal Mining Proposal Threatens Rivers and Streams

March 30, 2004
Press Release

"I strongly oppose the Bush administration's recent rulemaking that seeks to rewrite a long-standing rule under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) that will give coal companies more flexibility by basically removing the protection of a stream buffer zone.

"The Bush administration claims that this new rule will 'streamline' the permitting process, and 'clarify' the existing regulations. It will not. The administration also claims that their new rule will 'minimize' the effect of coal mining on streams. It will not.

"The only rule that will minimize the impacts of mountaintop removal mining on the rivers and streams is the existing rule -- a rule that keeps valley fills and other coal mining disturbances at least 100 feet away from streams.

"I will continue to work to protect the Appalachian region as I did last year, when my colleague, Rep. Chris Sha ys and I introduced a bill to add a definition to the Clean Water Act that would place a specific prohibition on the use of wastes in 'fill material' that is placed in waters of the United States.

"I am always pleased to have the opportunity to fight in the struggle against mountaintop removal mining and the devastating effects it has on the natural beauty and the people of the Appalachian region.

"Once again, President Bush completely disregards the public interest in his proposed repeal of the existing Stream Buffer Zone rule. More than 80,000 individuals and groups took the time to send public comments in opposing the president's proposa1l, a proposal that will destroy and threaten thousands of miles of freshwater streams and rivers.

"In fact, the Administration showed not only its blatant disregard for public comment, but also its arrogance when it announced a proposed change one day after the public comment period closed on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on mountaintop removal mining and valley fills. And this impact statement found that over 1,200 miles of streams would be destroyed over the next 10 years unless there are additional environmental restrictions on mountaintop mining activities.

"Our Appalachian Mountains are beautiful. We cannot allow the coal companies and their friends at the White House the opportunity to destroy over 1,000 additional miles of streams with mountaintop removal coal mining and valley fills. Nor can we allow them to turn a huge area of this country - over 2,200 square miles of unique, diverse and forested region - into a barren wasteland in the foreseeable future."