The Agency Formerly Known As the EPA
Perhaps belying its name, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing revisions to some of its own rules in order to allow mining companies to dump dirt and rock waste from mountaintop-removal coal operations into rivers and streams. In mountaintop-removal mining, companies raze mountains to access coal veins and then dump the leftover debris into nearby valleys. Environmentalists say the practice causes unacceptable damage, particularly to rivers and streams, and they have challenged these mining operations in court. The new rules are designed to make winning such lawsuits more difficult for enviros and to erase other impediments to mountaintop-removal mining. Because changing the rules entails redefining what constitutes “fill material” that can be legally dumped in waterways, certain kinds of trash — such as old cars and refrigerators — could also legally be dumped to serve as artificial reefs or berms.