"Mountaintop removal mining involves removing the top of a mountain in order to recover the coal seams contained there. This practice occurs in six Appalachian states (Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Ohio). It creates an immense quantity of excess spoil (dirt and rock that previously composed the mountaintop), which is typically placed in valley fills on the sides of the former mountains, burying streams that flow through the valleys. Mountaintop mining is regulated under several laws, including the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). [...] This report provides background on regulatory requirements, controversies and legal challenges to mountaintop mining, and recent Administration actions. Congressional interest in these issues also is discussed, including legislation seeking to restrict the practice of mountaintop mining and other legislation intended to block the Obama Administration's regulatory actions. Attention to [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA's veto of the West Virginia mining permit and other federal agency actions has increased in Congress. Legislation to put a partial moratorium on mountaintop mining, pending health effects studies, also has been introduced (H.R. 526). The House has passed a bill to halt development of a stream buffer protection rule by the Department of the Interior (H.R. 2824)."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21421
National Agricultural Law Center: http://nationalaglawcenter.org/