On Friday the 13th, a federal appeals court struck down rules that would have limited mountaintop removal coal-mining operations.

In mountaintop removal mining, coal operators use explosives to blow up mountaintops and uncover valuable, low-sulfur coal reserves. Leftover rock and dirt – the stuff that used to be the mountains – is dumped into nearby hollows, burying streams.

The proposed rules would have required the Army Corps of Engineers to thoroughly assess the impacts of mountaintop removal on streams and valleys before issuing permits to coal companies. The Friday the 13th ruling allows mountaintop removal mining to continue with virtually no environmental or public health regulation.Environmental groups plan to appeal to the Supreme Court, hoping to bring mountaintop removal into the national spotlight and ultimately encourage the new administration to end the destructive mining practice. Obama has publicly stated his opposition to mountaintop removal mining: “We have to find emore environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops offf mountains,” Obama said in Lexington, Ky. in August, 2007.

More on the recent court decision can be found here.