In the final installment of its series on how the Bush administration is re-shaping government through regulatory changes, the Washington Post explains how the White House has made it easier for mining companies to engage in something called "mountaintop removal."
Mining companies don’t like to call it "mountaintop removal," of course. But the Post says that the term "aptly describes" the method: "Miners target a green peak, scrape it bare of trees and topsoil, and then blast away layer after layer of rock until the mountaintop is gone."
Beginning in the 1980s, the Post says, coal miners used "mountaintop removal" to flatten "hundreds of peaks across a region spanning West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. Thousands of tons of rocky debris were dumped into valleys, permanently burying more than 700 miles of mountain streams. By 1999, concerns over the damage to waterways triggered a backlash of lawsuits and court rulings that slowed the industry’s growth to a trickle."
Then came George W. Bush. The Post says that the "mountaintop removal" business is "booming" again, and the practice of dumping mining debris into streambeds is "explicitly protected" by the federal government. The trick: Bush administration officials "reclassified the debris from objectionable ‘waste’ to legally acceptable ‘fill.’"
The Post calls it a "case study" in how the administration has "attempted to reshape environmental policy" by "taking existing regulations" and making "subtle tweaks that carry large consequences."