Burying West Virginia

The Bush administration is giving one last gift to the coal industry: permission to bury much of West Virfginia under a pile of coal tailings, aka "excess spoil."

“This is a parting gift to the coal industry from this administration,”
said Joe Lovett, executive director of the Appalachian Center for the
Economy and the Environment in Lewisburg, W.Va. “What is at stake is
the future of Appalachia. This is an attempt to make legal what has
long been illegal.”

From the New York Times, which adds:

Mountaintop mining is the most common strip mining in central
Appalachia, and the most destructive. Ridge tops are flattened with
bulldozers and dynamite, clearing all vegetation and, at times, forcing
residents to move.

The coal seams are scraped with gigantic
machines called draglines. The law requires mining companies to reclaim
and replant the land, but the process always produces excess debris.

half the coal in West Virginia is from mountaintop mining, which is
generally cheaper, safer and more efficient than extraction from
underground mines like the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, which may have
claimed the lives of nine miners and rescuers, and the Sago Mine in
West Virginia, where 12 miners were killed last year.

The rule,
which would apply to waste from both types of mines, is known as the
stream buffer zone rule. First adopted in 1983, it forbids virtually
all mining within 100 feet of a river or stream.

Also involved, although it’s unclear exactly how, is a convicted felon and former Bush administration official:

The early stages of the revision process were supported by J.
Stephen Griles, a former industry lobbyist who was the deputy interior
secretary from 2001 to 2004. Mr. Griles had been deputy director of the
Office of Surface Mining in the Reagan administration and is
knowledgeable about the issues and generally supports the industry.

June, Mr. Griles was sentenced to 10 months in prison and three years’
probation for lying to a Senate committee about his ties to Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist at the heart of a corruption scandal who is now in prison.

Topics for further research…meanwhile, here’s one consequence of mountain-top removal.

This is the town of Lyburn, W. CVa., which was buried in coal sediment from a company residue pond. Taken by Flickr photographer Bob Gates.

From the National Memorial for the Mountains photostream.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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