Statement by NPCA Senior Southeast Regional Director Don Barger
Background: In a vote today, the House passed HR 2824,the “Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act,” a bill that makes it easier for mountaintop mining companies to fill mountain valleys and streams with their mine waste, destroying riparian habitat, threatening drinking water, and endangering water quality for several national park rivers.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan put rules in place prohibiting the dumping of mine waste within 100 feet of a stream except in limited situations. In 2008, the Bush Administration altered that rule to expressly exempt the most harmful mining practices from the buffer requirement, making it much easier for mining companies to fill mountain valleys. The National Parks Conservation Association challenged the 2008 rule, and, in February 2014, a U.S. District court in Washington, D.C. vacated the rule after finding it “arbitrary and capricious.” HR 2824 seeks to reinstate and codify the language of the 2008 rule.
“Today’s vote in the House of Representatives is extremely disappointing. Put simply, some members of Congress are making it easier to destroy some of America’s most beautiful scenery and drinking water quality. It’s especially disheartening because the 2008 rule was declared illegal by a Federal court just last month.
“Mountaintop coal miners can be left with tons of rubble and debris when they have finished gathering coal. Instead of restoring this waste to the mountain or removing it, HR 2824 would allow them to simply push it into the nearest valley, resulting in complete environmental destruction of mountain streams. The allegation that this rejected rule is more protective than the 1983 Reagan rule is a fantasy. Enacting this legislation would make the buffer zone virtually meaningless in relation to the valley fills that completely bury mountain streams.
“This bill is a significant threat to maintaining healthy waters in Appalachia and elsewhere. Mountaintop fill threatens downstream water quality, including in West Virginia’s Bluestone National Scenic River and New River Gorge National River, as well as in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky. The Senate should reject this deceptive and destructive legislation.”
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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