Obama Rolls Over for Coal

Our roly-poly President has rolled over yet again for one of the most violently destructive forms of environmental degradation, mountain-top-removal coal mining. Robert Kennedy Jr. has summed up the damage in a current editorial for the Washington Post….

Highly mechanized processes allow giant machines to flatten in months mountains older than the Himalayas — while employing fewer workers for far less time than other types of mining. The coal industry’s promise to restore the desolate wastelands is a cruel joke, and the industry’s fallback position, that the flattened landscapes will provide space for economic development, is the weak punchline.

They have demolished 500 mountains — encompassing about a million acres — buried hundreds of valley streams under tons of rubble, poisoned and uprooted countless communities, and caused widespread contamination to the region’s air and water.

Obama promised science-based policies that would save what remains of Appalachia, but last month senior administration officials finally weighed in with a mixture of strong words and weak action that broke hearts across the region. The modest measures federal bureaucrats promised amount to little more than a tepid pledge of better enforcement of existing laws.

Meanwhile, White House officials issued yet another version of the same old excuses…

Mountaintop mining "is allowed under current federal law," said Nancy Sutley, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "And until that changes, we have to use the tools that we have."

Sutley declined to say whether she will seek to have mountaintop mining banned. "We’re still early in that discussion," she said, adding: "We don’t make the laws."

As outlined yesterday, the administration’s agreement is more like a promise than a policy, pledging better scrutiny of the mines but providing few specifics about how that would work in practice.

Sutley, for instance, said she could not estimate how much the new policies would reduce the scale of mountaintop mining.

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