Mountaintop removal bill passed by U.S. House imperils Appalachian waters

Contact: Thom Kay, legislative associate, 864-580-1843,

The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to make it easier for coal companies to dump mining waste from mountaintop removal sites into Appalachian streams and the headwaters of rivers that provide drinking water to millions of Americans.

The House voted 229-192 to pass the “Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act” (HR 2824), authored by Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-6). Ten Democrats voted in support of the coal industry-backed bill, while seven Republicans split from their party and opposed the bill.

HR 2824 would require states to adopt the 2008 Bush-era Stream Buffer Zone rule, which was was recently invalidated in federal court. The 2008 rule contains loopholes that enable stream pollution and disregard the Endangered Species Act. The legislation would also prevent the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from completing its rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone rule, which the Obama administration is calling the Stream Protection Rule.

Quotes from Thom Kay, Appalachian Voices’ legislative associate:

“Coal industry advocates have come up with a dozen flawed reasons to pass this bill. They claim it’s about jobs, over-regulation, transparency, energy security, and even home heating prices. Each excuse is more bogus than the last.

“It’s pretty simple. This bill is about making it easier and cheaper for coal companies to blow up the Appalachian Mountains and dump their waste into headwater streams.

“Appalachian communities deserve better than the discredited and dangerous claims that more pollution equals more jobs.”