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Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Lump of Coal for Obama

More disappointment with the new leader:

Obama walks a fine line over mining, by Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, LA Times: With the election of President Obama, environmentalists had expected to see the end of the "Appalachian apocalypse," their name for exposing coal deposits by blowing the tops off whole mountains.

But in recent weeks, the administration has quietly made a decision to open the way for at least two dozen more mountaintop removals. ... The list included some controversial mountaintop mines. ...

The administration's decision ... sheds on relations between the mining industry and the Obama White House,... environmentalists ... say they feel betrayed...

The issue is politically sensitive because environmentalists were an active force behind Obama's election, and the president's standing is tenuous among Democratic voters in coal states. ... Moreover,... halting mountaintop mining could eliminate jobs and put upward pressure on energy prices in a time of economic hardship.

Coal advocates have solicited help from officials as high up as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And the issue has sparked contentious debates within the administration, including one shouting match...

Although environmentalists had expected the new administration to put the brakes on mountaintop removal, Rahall and other mining advocates have pointed out that Obama did not promise to end the practice and was more open to it than his Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

A review of Obama's campaign statements show that he had expressed concern about the practice without promising to end it. ... And his EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, has said that the agency ... would "use the best science and follow the letter of the law in ensuring we are protecting our environment." Soon afterward, the agency in effect blocked six major pending mountaintop removal projects...

But this month, after a series of White House meetings with coal companies and advocates..., the EPA released the little-noticed letter giving the green light to at least two dozen projects. ...

Ed Hopkins, a top Sierra Club official, said some of the projects that have now obtained the EPA's blessing "are ... large and potentially destructive..." "It makes us wonder what standards -- if any -- the administration is using," Hopkins said. ...

Environmentalists were stunned to learn from Rahall's office May 15 that the EPA had given its blessing to 42 out of the 48 mine projects it had reviewed so far -- including two dozen mountaintop removals.

The news came in a letter ... from ... the EPA's acting assistant administrator, who wrote, "I understand the importance of coal mining in Appalachia for jobs, the economy, and meeting the nation's energy needs."

    Posted by on Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 09:12 AM in Economics, Environment, Policy, Politics, Regulation | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (14)


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