Legislation Update: Coal in the Political Arena

Cross-posted from Appalachian Voices

By Maureen Halsema
Coal has been a keyword in many recent political discussions across the nation as bills addressing mountaintop removal and coal wastes have been submitted to state and national legislatures for review.

Clean Water Protection Act / Appalachia Restoration Act

The Clean Water Protection Act (H.R. 1310) in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Appalachia Restoration Act (S. 696) in the U.S. Senate would amend the Clean Water Act to protect waterways from valley fills associated with mountaintop removal. These two bills have been presented to Congress and continue to gain cosponsors.

As of February 26, 164 congressional cosponsors support the Clean Water Protection Act and 10 senators are cosponsoring the Appalachia Restoration Act.

From March 6 to 10, concerned citizens from the coalfields and across the nation will gather in Washington D.C., to speak to Congress about this legislation.

Kentucky Stream Saver Bill

The Stream Saver Bill (H.R. 104), is a proposal to amend previous legislation which relates to Kentucky’s “Restoration of approximate original contour” regulation. The proposed bill would prohibit permits from allowing the disposal of toxic coal mining wastes into Kentucky waterways. In addition to managing the waste disposal, the bill would also require that surface mined areas be reclaimed to their approximate original contour taking into account both the configuration and the area’s elevation prior to the introduction of mining practices.

According to the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), this bill was the first of its kind when it was originally introduced in 2005.

This year, Sen. Kathy Stein submitted the Stream Saver Bill (S. 139) to the state Senate and Rep. Tom Riner submitted the bill (H.R. 396) to the Kentucky House of Representatives.

“We are also working on drafting legislation that would go beyond this, that would be a ban on mountaintop removal,” said KFTC.

Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act

The Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act (S. 1406/H.R. 899), also known as the Water Quality Control Act, would limit the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) from approving certain types of surface mining permits based on outlined conditions. The bill was introduced to the Tennessee House of Representatives by Reps. Bill Dunn and Michael Ray, while Sens. Bill Ketron and Doug Jackson introduced it to the Tennessee Senate.

According to the text of the bill, permits would not be issued or renewed if the surface mining operation or its waste, fill or in-stream treatment takes place within 100 feet of any Tennessee water system. A permit that would improve the quality of a body of water previously impacted by mining practices would, however, be eligible for issuance or renewal.

Another provision of the bill would prohibit permits that would certify surface mining at and above 2,000 feet elevation from sea level if it would disturb a ridgeline. The exception to this rule would be if the permit required some surface mining in order to conduct underground mining, if approved by TDEC.


January 21, 2012 9:10 am

Harry Bryant  Post a Reply

The Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act is not all that I would like but it is a baby step in the right direction. I would like all surface mining stopped, not that just that above 2000 feet.

“The exception to this rule would be if the permit required some surface mining in order to conduct underground mining, if approved by TDEC.” This is totally unacceptable. I see a wide open window for abuse here.

Another bill should be introduced the Scenic Vistas Restoration Act. This would require all the ugly scars that resulted from coal mining 40 years ago be fixed. The companies, or their parent companies, that caused the disaster should be held accountable.

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