From the NYT's
The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams.
It has been used in Appalachian coal country for 20 years under a cloud of legal and regulatory confusion.
The new rule would allow the practice to continue and expand, providing only that mine operators minimize the debris and cause the least environmental harm, although those terms are not clearly defined and to some extent merely restate existing law.......
The regulation is the culmination of six and a half years of work by the administration to make it easier for mining companies to dig more coal to meet growing energy demands and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Lots of pics of mountain top mining at Ohio Valley Environmental Health. And here is an EPA article on the effects of this kind of mining. Robert Rapier claims that increased dependence on coal is inevitable. If oil demand outstrips oil supply we will almost certainly start squeezing oil out of coal. If that happens it will be interesting to see what will happen to the Appalachian trail loved by so many hikers.
Rule to Expand Mountaintop Coal Mining, JOHN M. BRODER, August 23, 2007