The Office of Surface Mining is proposing changes to its stream buffer zone rule, first adopted in 1983, that would make it easier for mining companies to bury natural streams and valleys under piles and ponds of mining waste. The changes would relax environmental standards for the same mountaintop removal mining operations that, even under the stricter existing buffer rule, have flattened over a half-million acres and buried hundreds of miles of streams. The headwater streams threatened by the rule changes provide valuable habitat and feed larger waters that provide drinking water, fishing and other recreational opportunities.
In 2004, when the Office of Surface Mining first proposed relaxing the buffer rule, NRDC urged the agency to abandon its proposal and to focus instead on better enforcement of the existing rule. The agency responded by conducting an environmental review of its proposal, which was released in August. The review confirms that the proposed changes would result in the destruction of hundreds more miles of streams and valleys in Appalachia, a region already hard-hit by mining practices. But despite these conclusions, the agency is pressing ahead with its proposal.
The Office of Surface Mining is accepting public comments on its proposed rule change through Friday, November 23rd.
Click here to voice your concern and take action.