The rules announced last week for minimizing coal mining's damage to Kentucky's water and land are nothing more than what Congress intended 33 years ago with passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
It's interesting to imagine how things might be different today if the industry had followed the rules all along, rather than using its political muscle to eviscerate enforcement and spawn loopholes.
Coal's longest defender, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, recently admitted that most Americans and most members of Congress oppose mountaintop removal.
If the 1977 law had been followed, the coal industry might not be facing such a powerful backlash.
Coal would be more expensive. That's because re-sculpting a stripped mountain takes more workers, machinery, engineering and time than just piling up the displaced dirt and rock into "fills" that smother clean water's biological building blocks along with headwater streams.(The new rules should drastically reduce the number of hollow fills and hasten reclamation.)
If the law had been followed, making coal more expensive, our energy habits would be less wasteful. Kentucky could more readily adapt to climate change and other environmental imperatives.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.