Beshear, Chandler blast new EPA mining rule

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear has objected to a Bush administration proposal that would allow coal companies to dump dirt and rock blasted from Appalachian mountaintops into streams.

In a letter sent this week to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Beshear said the proposal would threaten Kentucky's ability to protect its environment.

Other Kentucky political leaders, including U.S. Reps. Ben Chandler and John Yarmuth and Attorney General Jack Conway, wrote similar letters. All called for rejection of the proposal.

The Bush administration has advanced a proposal that would ease restrictions on dumping mountaintop mining waste near rivers and streams, eliminating protections that have been in place for a quarter-century.

The Office of Surface Mining issued a final environmental impact analysis last month on the proposed change.

Beshear publicly released his letter objecting to the change Tuesday. In it, he said the proposed change "leaves open increased opportunities for abuse" by mining companies.

Conway, Kentucky's top prosecutor, said he believes the proposal has "the potential to open up increased environmental abuse" in the state.

Chandler also said coal is an important part of the state's economy. However, mountaintop removal mining and the attendant filling of valleys with coal waste is the most destructive force on Appalachia's waterways, he said.

The proposal to change the stream-buffer zone rule "does nothing but harm the Appalachian communities it purports to help," Chandler's letter said.

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