MAC: Mines and Communities

New Bill Would Halt Waste Dumping in Lakes, Rivers, Streams

Published by MAC on 2007-05-04

New Bill Would Halt Waste Dumping in Lakes, Rivers, Streams


4th May 2007

A bi-partisan bill was introduced in the House Thursday to restore a 25 year old prohibition under the Clean Water Act that prevented mining companies and other industries from dumping masses of solid industrial wastes into the nation's waters.

Representatives Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, and Chris Shays, a Connecticut Republican, introduced the Clean Water Protection Act. Already, more than 60 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives have co-sponsored the bill.

The legislation overturns a 2002 rule change by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that allows coal mining companies to create enormous valley fills, burying thousands of miles of streams, to make the practice of mountaintop removal mining cheaper.

That rule change also allows other industries to dump waste in waters under the guise of renaming the waste material as "fill."

"I'm proud to have reintroduced this bill, which protects streams and watersheds and addresses a serious environmental justice concern," Congressman Pallone said. "The federal government should protect the environment and the people living around mountaintop mining operations, not give massive mining companies a free pass to dump fill into waterways."

"It is my hope this legislation signals to the EPA that Congress will not sit silently by as our environment is destroyed," says Congressman Shays. "We cannot afford to waste another day, another hour, another minute if we want our children and our children's children to enjoy clean water. We simply won't have a world to live in if we continue our neglectful ways."

More than 1,200 miles of streams already have been destroyed in Appalachia by the coal companies that have been flouting the Clean Water Act for years while the EPA and the Corps looked the other way.

When citizens took state and federal agencies to court to ensure our environmental laws are enforced, coal companies sought and were granted a legal loophole by the Bush administration.

In May 2002, the Army Corps of Engineers repealed the 25 year old ban under their regulations against allowing waste to be treated as "fill" material that is allowed to be placed in waters.

The Clean Water Protection Act is supported by a large coalition of organizations that includes national groups such as Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, and Sierra Club, and regional leaders to stop mountaintop removal coal mining, such as the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

"Burying Appalachia's streams in mining waste is one of the most egregious forms of environmental destruction taking place in America," said Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club's Director of Environment Quality Program. "It is threatening communities, damaging drinking water supplies, causing flooding and ruining habitat for fish and wildlife. Congress should put a stop to it now."

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