Impoundment Safety Called Into Question | Stream Buffer Zone Delay

Questions and criticism followed a Nov. 30 accident at a CONSOL Energy-operated coal slurry impoundment in West Virginia that left one worker dead. A few days after the incident, The Charleston Gazette reported that records “outlined company concerns that construction to enlarge the dump had not been moving fast enough to keep up with slurry waste generated by the preparation plant at CONSOL’s nearby Robinson Run Mine.”

On Jan. 10, the Office of Surface Mining reported that regulators had not done enough to prevent impoundment breakthroughs into abandoned underground mines. In response, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announced new regulations for impoundment construction.

OSM plans to conduct similar studies in six other states including Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

Interior Department Under Fire for Stream Buffer Zone Delay

A coalition of environmental groups reopened litigation against the U.S. Department of Interior for its inaction on a rule to protect streams from mountaintop removal mining that was removed in the final weeks of the Bush administration.

While the Interior Department and the Obama administration agreed the removal of the “stream buffer zone rule” was unlawful, a new rule has not been issued. Under the stream buffer zone rule, surface mining was prohibited within 100 feet of streams.

Environmental groups say the Bush repeal allowed coal companies to place valley fills and waste impoundments, byproducts of surface mining, directly into streams.


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