Kentucky Objects to Proposed Change for Mining Waste

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear formally objected to a proposed move by the Bush Administration to weaken restrictions that prohibit dumping mountaintop mining waste near rivers and streams.

The objection, contained in a letter from Beshear to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, contends that the proposed rule change would threaten the commonwealth's ability to protect its natural resources, including water and streams. .

The governor was joined in his objection by Attorney General Jack Conway and Congressmen Ben Chandler of Lexington, and John Yarmuth of Louisville, all of whom wrote individual letters to EPA.

"Kentucky's vast water resources are critical to our health and economic development," Beshear wrote, "and I do not believe the newly proposed waivers can be effectively and uniformly applied to protect these water resources." .

The governor noted that coal is -- and will remain -- "a vital resource" as part of Kentucky's economy and the country's future energy needs. "However, I am strongly committed to environmentally responsible coal mining and cannot support rules that may be subject to arbitrary administration or enforcement." .

These government officials contend that the proposed waivers would weaken a 1983 federal regulation that restricts where mining waste can be dumped, a so-called "Excess Spoil minimization -- Stream Buffer Zone" rule. The proposed rule change would erase that restriction, making it easier to dump waste near homes and potentially into waterways and streams.