A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate Wednesday, if passed, would
effectively ban mountaintop removal mining practices in the U.S.
U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
introduced the Appalachia Restoration Act that would would amend the
Clean Water Act to prevent the dumping of what is known
as "excess spoil" from mountaintop mining into streams and rivers.
Mountaintop mining is a method of coal mining in which the
summit of a mountain is removed to expose the coal beneath, and the
resulting millions of tons of waste rock, dirt and vegetation are
dumped into nearby stream and river valleys.
According to a release by the two Senators, more than 1 million acres
of Appalachia have already been affected. An estimated 1,200 miles of
headwater streams have been buried under tons of mining wastes. More
than 500 mountains have been impacted, and homes have been ruined and
drinking water supplies contaminated.
"My goal is to put a stop to one of the most destructive mining
practices that has already destroyed some of America's most beautiful
and ecologically significant regions," said Senator Cardin, Chairman of
the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and
Public Works. "This legislation will put a stop to the smothering of
our nation's streams and water systems and will restore the Clean Water
Act to its original intent."
"Coal is an essential part of our energy future, but it is not
necessary to destroy our mountaintops in order to have enough coal,"
said Senator Alexander, a member of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee
of the Committee on Environment and Public Works which has jurisdiction
over this issue. "Millions of tourists spend tens of millions of
dollars in Tennessee every year to enjoy the natural beauty of our
mountains--a beauty that, for me, and I believe for most Tennesseans,
makes us proud to live here."
Mountaintop mining produces less than 5% of the coal mined in
the United States, according to the release, and the bill would not ban
other methods of coal mining.
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This week the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will begin exercising its authority to review permits for new mountaintop mining operations.