Columns » Hightower

Giving away Appalachia


Boy, things are hectic inside the Bush regime these days! The clock is ticking, and Corporate America is rushing to get all the favors it can before Bush & Company closes down in 2009. Sure enough, the Bushites are delivering.

It received little media attention, but the giant coal operators (which have been reliable funders for George and the GOP) recently got a huge goodie handed to them: Bush gave them Appalachia! His Office of Surface Mining quietly issued a new regulation that would allow King Coal to ravage the ancient mountains, glorious forests and pure streams of Central Appalachia at will.

The action was necessary, say the Bushites, to "clarify" existing laws governing a greedy, ruthless and abhorrent mining process called mountaintop removal. This process decapitates the mountains, exploding the tops of them, then savagely shoving the trees, topsoil, wildlife and other rubble down the mountainsides, burying the valleys and streams below. This is a corporate rape and environmental mutilation but, hey, it produces quick profits for the industry, which had been pushing since George took office to have it legalized.

Their stumbling block has been a 1983 environmental rule that prohibits mining activity within 100 feet of a stream. That's only 30 yards hardly a harsh restriction but mining barons want to bury streams, not fuss with buffer zones. So, the gift-wrapped Bush rule explicitly states that the old prohibition does not apply to hundreds of miles of streams coveted by coal corporations. Instead, the companies would only have to respect the required buffer zone "to the extent practicable" which is to say, not at all.

Grassroots groups are fighting this outrage in the regulatory process, in the courts and in Congress. To help, contact the Appalachian Center for the Economy and Environment: Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale now from Viking Press. For more information, visit

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