The U.S. Office of Surface Mining told WildEarth Guardians in a Dec. 12 letter that it is granting a petition filed by the environmental group to curtail “orange clouds” produced from blasting at coal mines.
“The coal industry has been given a free pass to pollute for too long, this is a big step forward for clean air and for wrangling dangerous dirty energy byproducts,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director, in a Dec. 15 statement. “The Office of Surface Mining is moving in the right direction to ensure that public health and safety comes before coal.”
On April 14 2014, WildEarth Guardians filed a petition with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, asking the agency to adopt a national rule prohibiting blasting at coal mines that produces visible emissions of nitrogen oxide gases. These clouds, often associated with massive strip mining operations in the Powder River Basin—the largest coal producing region in the U.S.— and with mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, can be lethal, WildEarth claimed.
After reviewing the petition, as well as public comments submitted to the agency over the summer, the Office of Surface Mining informed WildEarth Guardians that it is granting the petition. In the Dec. 12 letter, the agency cited the “inherent danger” from improperly conducted blasting and announced it intends to propose a rule soon in the Federal Register that “will address the health and safety aspects of all blast generated fumes and toxic gases.”