I received the following letter from my Senator, Diane Feinstein, about the politics involved in Mountaintop Removal. (I added the links.)
Thank you for writing to express your support for the "Appalachia Restoration Act" (S. 696). I share your concerns about the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
As you know, the practice of mountaintop removal mining - which involves removing mountaintops to mine coal seams within the mountain - has been found to have damaging effects on nearby streams as large quantities of excess rock and dirt may cause the deterioration of the watershed and the filling of streams.
On March 25, 2009, Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) introduced the "Appalachia Restoration Act" (S. 696), which would amend the Clean Water Act to prevent the disposal of mountaintop mining waste into streams and rivers. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Although I am not a member of this Committee, I will keep your support in mind should S. 696, or similar legislation, come before the full Senate.
You may also be interested to know that on April 27, 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Department of the Interior (DOI) is taking action to rescind a Bush Administration rule that eased restrictions on mountaintop removal mining to allow discharges of coal mining waste within the 100-foot buffer zone surrounding streams. Secretary Salazar has asked the Department of Justice to file a motion in U.S. District Court requesting that the rule be set aside and sent back to DOI for further review. DOI will draft a new rule and seek public comment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also taken action to address concerns about mountaintop removal mining by suspending permitting for mountaintop mining projects until the EPA can assess the impact of this practice on water quality and aquatic life.