(12/05/2008)
By Bob Weaver

The Environmental Protection Agency is touting that enforcement actions against companies that violate environmental laws are expected to generate more than $1.9 billion worth of pollution controls and cleanup in West Virginia.

Massey Coal, rather than pay about $20 million in penalties, has agreed to invest millions of dollars for pollution control improvements in its mines in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.

Massey also agreed to set aside 200 acres of riverfront land in West Virginia for conservation and protection against future mining.

BUSH'S LAST MINUTE CHANGE: STREAM DUMPING RULES

President Bush, days after approving more drilling on national park land without consulting the National Park Service, has changed the rules that governs how mining companies can encroach into a buffer zone designed to protect West Virginia streams.

The Bush administration finalized the rule change, which will be published in the Federal Register later this month.

Conservation and environmental groups are among those blasting the Environmental Protection Agency for the rule change.

Operators are being accused of a smoke and mirrors response, claiming they will have to conduct even more rigorous, time-consuming analysis of their disposal plans before mining begins.

The last-minute rule change by the Bush administration will allow coal companies to bury streams under the rocks leftover from mountaintop mining.

The 1983 rule had prohibited dumping the fill from mountaintop removal mining within 100 feet of streams.

The EPA has not enforced the rule, according to Coal River Mountain Watch.

Government figures show that 535 miles of streams were buried or diverted from 2001 to 2005, more than half of them in the mountains of Appalachia.

Other sources say over 1000 miles of streams have been filled in Appalachia.

Along with the loss of the streams has been an increase of erosion and flooding.

Mining companies had been pushing for the change for years.

Environmental groups now have little recourse to challenge the dumping.


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