Obama Caves in to Coal Pressure
The celebration was short for the Obama administration's expected crackdown on devastating coal-mining practices in Kentucky and West Virginia.
Back in March, the applause and good press rolled in.
A retooled Environmental Protection Agency, under administrator Lisa Jackson, announced that it was formally questioning a couple of mountaintop-removal permit applications and would scrutinize others for compliance with the Clean Water Act and other federal laws.
With considerably less fanfare, the EPA last month quietly informed a congressman from West Virginia that it had given the green light to 42 permit applications while raising concerns about six others in the Corps of Engineers' Huntington district.
There hasn't been time for a thorough review of 42 mining permits, so we can only assume that the administration caved to pressure from coal interests.
That assumption is confirmed by the Los Angeles Times which reports that there was a "series of White House meetings with coal companies and advocates," including U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, and West Virginia's Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin.
In the letter to Rahall, Michael H. Shapiro, the EPA's acting assistant administrator, wrote, "I understand the importance of coal mining in Appalachia for jobs, the economy and meeting the nation's energy needs."
Yes, we need jobs and electricity.
But coal can be gotten out of the ground without burying hundreds of miles of headwater streams under valley fills or flattening miles of mountainous landscape.
Such destructive practices are not necessary, as Appalachian historian Ron Eller recently told a group in Eastern Kentucky, they're just cheaper.
It's the height of false economy to destroy one of the world's oldest forests, poison the water and ruin a region's environment to save pennies on a ton of coal and line the pockets of coal-company investors.
© 2009 Lexington-Herald Leader