Friday, September 11, 2015

New Federal Rule Could Protect Streams from Mining Damage

Andrea Sears, Public News Service

Underground mining can drain water from streams and wells. Credit: Center for Coalfield Justice
Underground mining can drain water from streams and wells. Credit: Center for Coalfield Justice
PITTSBURGH - Protect our water, protect our future - that's the message federal mining regulators heard at a public hearing in Pittsburgh on a proposed Stream Protection Rule.

The proposal from the Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining would update regulations put in place 30 years ago. Patrick Grenter, executive director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, said the rule will apply to coal-mining techniques that can have serious consequences for rivers and streams.

"This rule, if interpreted properly, could have a massive impact in terms of protecting human health and the environment in coal-mining communities across the country," he said.

The hearing Thursday was one of six being held around the country. The mining industry is opposed to the new rule and says it will challenge it in court if it is approved as currently written.

But Grenter pointed to a Pennsylvania report on longwall mining, an aggressive form of underground coal mining, in Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2013.

"Seventy-seven percent of the river miles undermined by longwall coal-mine operations either suffered cooling or de-watering or both," he said.

According to the Center for Coalfield Justice, longwall mining also has caused wells to go dry, depriving homes and business of water.

While environmentalists are praising the Stream Protection Rule as a giant step forward, Grenter said it must include provisions allowing private citizens to sue mining companies to force compliance.

"What we have seen in coal-mining states across this country," he said, "is either an unwillingness or an inability of regulators to enforce the rules that they have before them."

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, there were 256 surface mines in the state last year, and 48 underground mines - including eight longwall mines.

No comments:

Post a Comment