Environment: Controlling the Strippers

Every week, some 1,000 acres of America's land are strip-mined. Giant power shovels tear off the topsoil and expose the underlying seams of coal. After the glistening black mineral is loosened by explosives, earth movers gouge it up and dump it into huge waiting trucks. The process is so much cheaper and easier than deep-mining that more than 50% of the U.S.'s coal comes from surface mines. Trouble is, in only about half the strip-mining operations is the ravaged land filled in—and even then it seldom can be returned to productive use for years.

Last week, by an overwhelming 82-8 margin, the...

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