August 23, 2007
More mountaintop removals loom ahead …
The controversial practice of “mountaintop removal” coal mining might become more common under a regulation expected to be issued tomorrow, in proposed form, by the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. (Here’s a Summary of the Environmental Impact Statement.) This form of mining involves the blasting away the top of a mountain to get at the valuable minerals. The spoil from the mining then typically is dumped in nearby valleys It is this fill –- which sometimes buries streams and affects water systems for miles downstream –- that causes the most environmental damage.
Like many regulatory matters, the story has a complicated history. The planned regulation would clarify an existing rule called the Stream Buffer Zone Rule that limits mining immediately adjacent to streams but allows some filling in with spoil. Public opposition to such land-disturbing practices might be ameliorated, in light of the recent deaths and publicity from shaft mining, which is riskier for miners but less intrusive to the environment. Mining operators say that they need to be able to fill in valleys with spoil to make mountaintop mining feasible; advocates asserts that the economies of states such as West Virginia need to continue the practice to stay competitive.
August 21, 2007
Sauntering … in the scrubbed up city …
Do legal, policy, and planning efforts to improve a city’s friendliness lead to a city’s greater popularity? This enjoyable essay on walking in New York City suggests that efforts to decrease street crime, clean up the streets, and make New York a more enjoyable place have increased the habit of walking in the city –- a practice that was all but lost in America in the 20th century.
August 20, 2007
Scenes from the transit wars …
While Minnesota debates whether to rebuild the highway bridge over the Mississippi with public transportation routes, advocates in Aspen, Col., are trying to avoid widening the current main road route into the resort city. Does it mater, for legal purposes, whether the leading motivation is to encourage public transit (the ostensibly good purpose) or simply to keep outsiders out (a less savory motivation)?