Environmentalists love the moras of federal regulation and rulemaking as they can almost always find one rule or law that contradicts another, thereby opening a means to sue. And if, by chance, the government does actually clarify contradictory rules the environmentalist merely attempt to move the goal posts.
That’s the tactic employed by Earthworks, an environmental Non-Government Organization (NGO). The group has been running a national campaign this week aimed at pressuring the EPA to provide additional federal regulations to close what they’ve deemed “loopholes” in the Clean Water Act. Their website claims that the bill as it stands now is confusing and allows American mining companies to “dump their toxic mining waste directly into our waters!”
They’ve selected the language “closing loopholes,” but the truth is that Earthworks and its supporters are looking to add layers of federal regulations to the Clean Water Act so that it is nearly impossible for the mining industry to function in the U.S. The fact that such a move would cripple American jobs and stall economic growth isn’t an issue for Earthworks.
Environmentalists hate the 2002 “fill rule” (first proposed by the Clinton administration and implemented during the Bush administration) because it ended the definitional ambiguity on “fill material,” and, thereby ended an avenue to litigate coal. If mining overburden – the material that goes into a valley fill – can be interpreted as “waste,” then environmentalist lawyers could argue that this “waste” is excluded from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ “purpose based” definition of “fill material.” As a result, these litigants would allege that the Corps doesn’t have the authority to issue section 404 permits to valley fills.
Another similar rule deals with how mining companies treat water waste. It is common for the mining industry to construct lakes in which waste is deposited until it can be treated and cleaned. The environmentalists want to prevent waste from ever entering these lakes at all, making it impossible to clean up mining residuals, and ultimately, continue mining.
Furthermore, these changes Earthworks are demanding will not just affect the coal mining industry, but numerous other types of mining, potentially devastating an entire portion of our economy. This is why the EPA backed off of this issue, after initially supporting a re-visiting of the rule in 2010. The fact that even Obama’s anti-mining EPA has backed off changing this rule, showing you how out of touch with reality some of these environmental campaigns really are.
More information on how to contact the EPA to register your objection to the environmentalists assualt on the coal mining industry (and potentially other mining industries) is available here.