NYTimes Misses Boat on Mountaintop Mining Story

The Times has a front page story about a rule that the Bush administration is putting in place to expand mountaintop mining. What’s remarkable is how the Times repeats the mining industry’s arguments that it has been hamstrung by regulations. But a story this week in the Washington Post reports that there was little confusion about the rules that the mining companies had to respect, such as not dumping mining debris into stream beds and mining within 100 feet of streams. The mining industry ingnored these regulations and when they were challenged in court for ignoring these regulations, they had them changed to fit their needs.

Now, it makes a lot of sense that the Bush administration would move now to change these rules in the minng industry's favor. They can use the Crandall Canyon disaster to argue that mountaintop mining is safer than the underground mining that was happening at the mine. But as the NYTimes own editorial page argues, these are apples and oranges. The Times argues that collapse of the mine brings into question the practice of retreat mining, ripping out the coal columns to get the most coal out of the already depleted mines. It's a practice that Murray Energy Corporation asked the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to be able to do, even though the mine's earlier owners had decided against this practice for safety reasons.

The question of whether there are environmentally responsible ways to do strip mining has to be detatched from whether the way underground mining is being conducted is safe. It's just irresponsible to conflate the two.