Obama administration to tighten coal-mining rules

The Obama administration is moving to tighten a coal-mining rule loosened by his predecessor, but it might not be enough to satisfy environmentalists.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday that the 11th-hour "stream buffer zone rule" issued by the Bush administration in December is defective. Salazar said he would ask a federal court in Washington to re-institute a 1983 Reagan-era rule.

The 1983 rule prohibited dumping of fill from mountaintop removal mining within 100 feet of a stream. Environmentalists argue, however, that it was not properly enforced, allowing hundreds of miles of Appalachian streams to be buried or diverted.

The Bush rule said mining waste could be placed near streams if the alternative was considerably more expensive.

"We must responsibly develop our coal supplies to help us achieve energy independence, but we cannot do so without appropriately assessing the impact such development might have on local communities and the natural habitat and the species it supports," Salazar said.

State Rep. Hubert Collins, one of several Kentucky legislators who urged the Bush administration to loosen the rule, said Monday's action would raise the price of coal and spell economic disaster in Eastern Kentucky.

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