The Bush Administration is set to legalize a coal mining practice that has destroyed at least 1,600 miles of streams in the Appalachian mountains. The Washington Post reports Saturday that the U.S. Interior Department will make it easier for mining companies to dump their waste in and near rivers and streams.

For nearly a quarter century, coal mining companies have been prohibited from dumping waste from coal strip mining into and near stream beds. “Mining companies have frequently disregarded the law,” reports Juliet Eilprin. In mountaintop removal mining, companies peel off the tops of mountains and then dump the soil and rocks in the valleys — and streams — below. This practice would be okayed by the Bush administration’s rule. “The implications of this ruling are devastating, they’re widespread and they’re irreversible,” said one environmentalist.

The Clinton Administration prepared rules that would have prohibited this form of coal mining, but never enacted them. The Bush White House has been pushing to formally legalize these “valley fills” for most of its time in Washington, D.C.

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