Judge stands by ruling to keep mining waste out of streams

A federal judge has ruled - in opposition to the Bush administration - that the government cannot issue permits for a type of coal mining in which mountaintop ridges are sheared off and the dirt and rock pushed into nearby streams.

The Bush administration believes the practice is an efficient and environmentally sound way to mine for coal and has supported a rule change made earlier in the year by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow it, reports WaterTechOnline.

US District Judge Charles Haden’s ruling was in response to a request from the US Army Corps of Engineers to clarify his 8 May decision ordering the agency to stop issuing permits for mountaintop mining.

The Bush administration and the EPA had said that they were confident the ruling would be overturned.

But Haden said the goal of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters and said mountaintop mining runs counter to those goals.

A spokesman for the National Mining Association in Washington DC denounced the ruling, and predicted that it will result in 32,000 layoffs in Kentucky and West Virginia in the next five years.

Monday’s judgement and the May decision stem from a lawsuit filed by the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a citizens’ group that challenged the Corps’ policy of issuing permits.

Democrat Senator Joseph Lieberman, who opposes the administration’s stance, said earlier this month he would introduce legislation to clarify that dumping waste in waterways is not allowed.

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