Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sprinting to the finish

More legacy polishing for BushCo.

The White House on Tuesday approved a final rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys.

The rule is one of the most contentious of all the regulations emerging from the White House in President Bush’s last weeks in office.

[...]

Edward C. Hopkins, a policy analyst at the Sierra Club, said: “The E.P.A.’s own scientists have concluded that dumping mining waste into streams devastates downstream water quality. By signing off on this rule, the agency has abdicated its responsibility.”

Mr. Bush has boasted of his efforts to cooperate with President-elect Barack Obama to ensure a smooth transition, but the administration is rushing to complete work on regulations to which Mr. Obama and his advisers object. The rules deal with air pollution, auto safety, abortion and workers’ exposure to toxic chemicals, among other issues.

The National Mining Association, a trade group, welcomed the rule, saying it could end years of uncertainty that had put jobs and coal production in jeopardy.

The coal industry could be the largest beneficiary of last-minute environmental rules.

“This is unmistakably a fire sale of epic size for coal and the entire fossil fuel industry, with flagrant disregard for human health, the environment or the rule of law,” said Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund.

The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to finish work on a rule that would make it easier for utilities to put coal-fired generating stations near national parks. It is working on another rule that would allow utility companies to modify coal-fired power plants and increase their emissions without installing new pollution-control equipment.

Joan M. Mulhern, a lawyer at Earthjustice, an environmental group, denounced the mining regulation.

“With less than two months left in power,” Ms. Mulhern said, “the Bush administration is determined to cement its legacy as having the worst environmental record in history.”
Get ready for the “through the looking glass” part. Drumroll please:

“This rule strengthens protections for streams,” said Peter L. Mali, a spokesman for the Interior Department office that wrote the regulation. “Federal law
allows coal mine waste to be placed in streams, and the rule tightens
restrictions as to when, where and how those discharges can occur.”
Yes, dumping coal mine waste into streams makes the streams cleaner. And shitting in your corn flakes makes them healthy and delicious.

In reality, here's what this rule does.

The rule gives coal companies a legal right to do what, in the past, they could do only in exceptional circumstances, with special permission from the government.
Jan. 20 can't get here fast enough.

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