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Did Obama Throw Appalachia’s Mountaintops Under The Bulldozers?

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natrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 08:49 PM
Original message
Did Obama Throw Appalachia’s Mountaintops Under The Bulldozers?
change you can believe in


Did Obama Throw Appalachia’s Mountaintops Under The Bulldozers?
By: Kirk James Murphy, M.D. Saturday April 25, 2009 6:00 pm


President Obama has asked a Bush appointee who spent years battling for destructive mountaintop coal mining practices to become the head of the federal agency that regulates mountain top mining.

Yesterday PEER reported that Obama has asked Glenda Owens to to take over the helm of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). Owens has a long history as one of Steven Griles' helpers, assisting his attempts to burying ancient streams and hollows under toxic coal mining waste in a mad rush to roast the planet:

During her federal service, Glenda Owens has been one of the top officials fighting legal efforts by conservationists to limit valley fills, delaying reclamation standards and defending Bush cutbacks in clean-ups for abandoned mines. Owens also worked closely with former Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles (a mining lobbyist now serving a prison sentence on corruption charges) to "streamline" strip mining permits by allowing operators to shortcut environmental reviews.

Mining lobbyists from the National Mining Association flipped out when the New York Times reported on March 23 that the EPA would begin an "aggressive review" of the strip mining permits that the Bush administration handed out like penny candy, citing potential harm to water quality. In classic "have it both ways" fashion, the EPA immediately released a statement walking it back, saying they were "not halting, holding or placing a moratorium on any of the mining permit applications."

Is Owens' appointment a bone for mining interests? They're no doubt thrilled about it-- Kentucky residents, somewhat less so.

The Louisville, KY Courier-Journal and their coal country colleagues share PEER's dim view of Ms Owens:

There are good outside candidates who would bring a real change in leadership to the federal Office of Surface Mining. Why, then, does the change advocate who now occupies the White House contemplate promoting Acting OSM Director Glenda Owens?

As Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward Jr. pointed out over the weekend, Ms. Owens, while with OSM, "has defended proposed cuts in spending on abandoned mine cleanups, been involved in working to streamline mountaintop removal permits, helped delay improvements in West Virginia's abandoned mine reclamation program and harshly attacked federal court rulings that would have limited valley fills."

[]

What should be avoided is an "insider" appointment that would satisfy the coal industry and disappoint the people who have to live with scalped mountains and polluted streams throughout the Central Appalachian strip-mine region.

What's needed is change that strip mining's victims can believe in.

As Ken Ward, Jr. reports, they favored people who would clean up the mess left by Owens and Bush:

Lexington, Ky., lawyer Joe Childers...has also been backed by Tom FitzGerald, a leading environmental advocate in Kentucky, and by a number of coalfield citizen groups.

But Pat McGinley, a West Virginia University law professor, has been supported by environmental groups in this state, where dealing with the controversy over mountaintop removal coal mining poses one of OSM's biggest challenges.

McGinley has also been supported by some national groups, such as the Sierra Club, by the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and by the United Mine Workers of America union.

The debate went public last month, when the Louisville Courier-Journal editorialized in support of Childers. The Charleston Gazette then backed McGinley. And then, the Lexington Herald-Leader cautioned that Obama should at all costs avoid hiring someone from the mining industry or someone from within OSM.

And Obama should also avoid hiring someone who worked with Steven Griles. Like Glenda Owens. Ken Ward, Jr again:

Through 2002, 2003 and 2004, Owens was apparently heavily involved in Bush administration efforts - led by former mining lobbyist and Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles (who later went to prison on corruption charges) - to subvert the mountaintop removal Environmental Impact Statement to help coal operators obtain strip mine permits more quickly.

Owens is currently a co-defendent with the National Mining Association in a suit brought by the National Parks Conservation Association, challenging a last-minute Bush rule which says regulators no longer have to prove that coal mining activities will not harm water quality in nearby streams before issuing strip mining permits. The good folks at Mountain Justice Summer covered Owens' attempts back in 2007 to help make that dream a reality so King Coal could entomb more streams.

The rest of us can get on the Green bus with the two-thirds of West Virginians who oppose mountain top destruction mining and tell our Senators we all deserve better than King Coal's servant Glenda Owens. We can also get on the road and lend a hand to the locals and their supporters in Mountain Justice Summer: their Summer Training Camp starts May 17. Good work, and good fun: joining good people working together to save their community and their kids' futures will change your life in the best possible ways.

Bon appetit!

http://firedoglake.com/2009/04/25/did-obama-throw-appalachias-mountaintops-under-the-busand-bulldozers/


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Muttocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 08:53 PM
Response to Original message
1. that's disturbing. nt
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femmocrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 08:53 PM
Response to Original message
2. K&R
Very interesting.....
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Muttocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 08:54 PM
Response to Original message
3. lots more at the PEER link from that page
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Buzz Clik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 08:55 PM
Response to Original message
4. This really pisses me off. I don't get it.
But one has to wonder -- why aren't the states stopping this? They are the ones who have to wallow in this crap.
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elleng Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:03 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. How would they do it?
Same 'benefits' to them as to Feds. LOTS of $ in mining.
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HillbillyBob Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:04 PM
Response to Reply #4
9. I grew up in WV , the states officials and federal reps
are all bought and paid for agents for the coal companies.
It pisses me off to no end. I have tried to activate my relatives that still live there .."that's the way things are done" is the reply. They cannot conceive fighting against 'the man'. Some just don't give a shit.
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Imperialism Inc. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 08:56 PM
Response to Original message
5. What the F?
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Thrill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:02 PM
Response to Original message
6. Another poster with this 'change you can believe in' shit
That was old after it was used the first million times
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chascarrillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:05 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. Nice job avoiding the issue.
Baa.
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Chulanowa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 11:51 PM
Response to Reply #6
22. It's appropriate
What's changed here?
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chascarrillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:04 PM
Response to Original message
8. Pathetic.
Same as it ever was.
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Avalux Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:07 PM
Response to Original message
11. EPA Halts Mountaintop Mining Permits (Under Obama, March)
The Environmental Protection Agency is putting on hold hundreds of mountaintop coal-mining permits until it can evaluate the projects' impacts on streams and wetlands.

The decision was announced Tuesday by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. It targets a controversial practice by coal mining companies that dump waste from mountaintop mining into streams and wetlands.

It could delay 150-250 permits being sought by companies wanting to begin blasting mountaintops to access coal.

Those permits are issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, an agency that has been criticized by environmental groups. The Corps has been sued for failing to thoroughly evaluate the environmental impact of mountaintop removal, during which forests are clear-cut and mountaintops are blasted apart to expose coal seams; the rock and dirt left behind is dumped into adjacent valleys, affecting the course and health of waterways.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/03/24/national/main4889433.shtml

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Buzz Clik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:16 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. The EPA was quick to clarify that they were merely reviewing the permits, not denying them.
I'll look for the link.
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Avalux Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:25 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. EPA denies permits in this article:
EPA asked the lead federal permitting agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, last week to temporarily hold up two permits for mountaintop-removal operations in West Virginia and another in Virginia.

The permits are for A&G Coal Corp.'s Ison Rock Ridge Surface Mine in Wise County, Va., a Massey Energy mine in Kanawha County, W.Va., and a Frasure Creek Mining operation in Mingo County, W.Va.

EPA expressed concern that the permits would threaten water quality, saying they failed to adequately account for the effects of dumping rock from blasted mountaintops into valley streams and rivers.

Collectively, the three permits would allow the burial of about 8 miles of streams under blasted rock, blocking downstream water supplies and damaging ecosystems.

http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/04/09/09greenwire-epa-puts-brakes-on-3-more-mountaintop-permits-10493.html
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Buzz Clik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:28 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. We posted the same finding at about the same time...
Hopefully, they are putting an end to this dreadful practice.
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Buzz Clik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:27 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. Hm. In searching for that link, I found something a bit encouraging:
http://www.eenews.net/public/Greenwire/2009/04/09/2

MINING: EPA puts brakes on 3 more mountaintop permits (Greenwire, 04/09/2009)

Eric Bontrager, E&E reporter

U.S. EPA is objecting to three more federal permits for mountaintop-removal coal mining.

EPA asked the lead federal permitting agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, last week to temporarily hold up two permits for mountaintop-removal operations in West Virginia and another in Virginia.

The permits are for A&G Coal Corp.'s Ison Rock Ridge Surface Mine in Wise County, Va., a Massey Energy mine in Kanawha County, W.Va., and a Frasure Creek Mining operation in Mingo County, W.Va.

EPA expressed concern that the permits would threaten water quality, saying they failed to adequately account for the effects of dumping rock from blasted mountaintops into valley streams and rivers.

Collectively, the three permits would allow the burial of about 8 miles of streams under blasted rock, blocking downstream water supplies and damaging ecosystems.

"Even though ephemeral and intermittent streams may go dry during a portion of the year, they continue to provide habitat for macroinvertebrates and amphibians that utilize the interstitial water flows in the substance below the stream," EPA said in its letter about the Frasure Creek mine, which would fill almost 3 miles of stream. "Such aquatic resources have been significantly impacted by mining in Southern West Virginia."

The letters come in the wake of EPA's announcement last month that it would review permitting for two coal mining operations in West Virginia and Kentucky (E&ENews PM, March 24).


I truly hope this isn't simply window dressing.

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Avalux Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:30 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. I hope so too.
They can't move too fast because of the jobs that would be lost; it's a compound problem. I am very encouraged by this article though. :hi:
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chascarrillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:39 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. Then, by all means, fuck the mountains.
Fuck the rivers. Fuck the ecology. Fuck the rural folk who have to live with the pollution. We need jobs, dammit!
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Avalux Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:41 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. You don't need to be so sarcastic or extreme.
Understand that the people who live there do need their jobs; mountaintop mining will cease but it won't be immediate.
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Jakes Progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 10:59 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. Granted the reply was extreme.
But the problem is that jobs is always the reason used for these things. "We must clear cut these old growth forests because the loggers need jobs".

"We must continue the contaminating method of gold mining. After all there are jobs as stake."

"But if we don't keep building billion dollar bombs, a lot of people will be out of work."

What about the white slavery trade or stolen car chop shops? Don't those people need work?

Sorry if it seems too sarcastic, but if your job is destroying the planet, you shouldn't be working.
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Avalux Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 11:08 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. Understood. However -
changes are being made. The OP completely overlooks any progress at all and attacks Obama.
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Jakes Progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-26-09 10:41 AM
Response to Reply #21
25. Also understood.
My concern is in using the defense of jobs to continue a bad program.

That said, we need to know how this turns our. If indeed Owens is picked for the job, it is not a good sign.
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X_Digger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 06:53 PM
Response to Reply #25
33. Having grown up in coal country..
Everyone there is ambivalent, for multiple reasons:

-anything that decreases jobs jacks up the unemployment rate (local papers reporting 11% in Buchannan County, Va - median income $22,213)
-flat land of any kind is a boon to economic development. Most of what little flat land exists is on flood plains next to rivers. 90% of the people live on flat land carved out of the side of a mountain.

Check out the satellite image of Grundy

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Grundy,+VA&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=36.589577,77.431641&ie=UTF8&ll=37.280336,-82.099457&spn=0.071845,0.151234&t=k&z=13&iwloc=A
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mopinko Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-26-09 12:02 AM
Response to Reply #18
23. people would like their electricity, also
you can't just pull the plug on this shit. there is a reason why it is what it is.
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thunder rising Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-25-09 09:43 PM
Response to Original message
19. Kirk James Murphy, M.D., concern troll?
Turns out she is on a list for consideration.
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natrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 07:18 AM
Response to Reply #19
27. i don't understand concern troll-how could this type of mining be good?
how could the permits handed out like candy by bush be good ? how could obama upholding them be good? yes i understand about the jobs, but something like this demands some concern and attention? or is this just getting overly excited about obama installing a corporate shithead ? not sure, but to vilify someone writing about this issue seems sleazy
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glitch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-26-09 10:36 AM
Response to Original message
24. God I hope not. I am so sick of being disgusted. nt
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maryf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-26-09 06:08 PM
Response to Original message
26. Action here
Edited on Sun Apr-26-09 06:10 PM by maryf
From my email

Urgent: Obama About to Act on Mountaintop Removal Mining

Tell President Obama not to support Bush administration policies that continue the irreversible and destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.
Take Action Today!

Take Action Today!

Dear Mary,

In only hours, we expect President Obama's agencies to decide whether to keep his campaign promise and end mountaintop removal mining—a devastating practice that has destroyed hundreds of mountains and thousands of miles of streams in Appalachia.

This is one of the most critical moments in our years-long fight to stop this environmental tragedy.

But, even as you read this, the powerful lobbying forces of King Coal are banging on the White House door, urging Obama to break his promise. Coal's forces run deep and are gathering. They know that Obama is about to make a decision. Their voices are loud.

We need to be louder.

But we must act fast. Decisions are expected as early as tomorrow, and Tuesday is a big day in court.

Please act now. Tell President Obama not to support Bush administration policies that continue the irreversible and destructive practice of mountaintop removal. Urge President Obama to keep his promise to enforce the Clean Water Act and let science lead policies on coal mining.

We have reasons to be concerned about Obama's decision. Some in his administration have publicly stated that most pending permits for mountaintop removal mining "will not raise environmental concerns." There are nearly 100 permits poised to bury and permanently destroy 432 valleys and 213 miles of streams in Kentucky and West Virginia alone. Permits that were halted are now being reviewed.

Tell President Obama to finally take action and prevent the permanent devastation of some of the world's oldest mountains—and the communities that surround them. Don't let dirty coal win! Talk is cheap, it's time that President Obama make his words the law.

Please act today. It soon could be too late.

— Earthjustice
Because the earth needs a good lawyer

P.S. Every voice counts! Please tell your family and friends to ask President Obama to ensure his agencies stop mountaintop removal immediately.

Link on edit...http://action.earthjustice.org/campaign/mtr_0409?rk=lpSpZGMqhdUJE
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Jakes Progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 08:05 AM
Response to Reply #26
28. Kick thread for this post
We are being called to action.
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nyc 4 Biden Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 08:10 AM
Response to Original message
29. Kick.
Emails Sent.
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MasonJar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 01:26 PM
Response to Original message
30. Why would Obama do this? He is more egnimatic by the day. He
chooses one incredible assistant (as Dawn Johnson) and then picks two terrible ones (to counter balance what???????)as in this Owens selection and Geithner/Summers. Oops, that is three! This is serious business which may not effect him, but it certainly does the people of Kentucky and it is certainly an anti-environmental choice. Isn't the environment supposed to be one of Obama's key issues? If so, then why Owens?
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MasonJar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 01:28 PM
Response to Original message
31. Well, the EPA will no longer be delaying once Owens gets there, will it?
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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 06:28 PM
Response to Original message
32. Salazar Moves to Withdraw 11th Hour Mountaintop Coal Mining Rule
h/t kpete


Source: U.S. Department of the Interior

Salazar Moves to Withdraw 11th Hour Mountaintop Coal Mining Rule
Restores Protections Against Dumping in Streams

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced his determination that the mountaintop coal mining “stream buffer zone rule” issued by the Bush Administration is legally defective. Salazar directed the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a pleading with the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. requesting that the rule be vacated due to this deficiency and remanded to the Department of the Interior for further action.

“In its last weeks in office, the Bush Administration pushed through a rule that allows coal mine operators to dump mountaintop fill into streambeds if it’s found to be the cheapest and most convenient disposal option,” said Secretary Salazar. “We must responsibly develop our coal supplies to help us achieve energy independence, but we cannot do so without appropriately assessing the impact such development might have on local communities and natural habitat and the species it supports.”

Under the Bush rule, coal mine operators are able to dispose of excess mountaintop spoil in perennial and intermittent streams and within 100 feet of those streams whenever alternative options are deemed "not reasonably possible." Disposal into streambeds is permissible when alternatives are considered "unreasonable," which occurs under the Bush rule whenever the cost of pursuing an alternative "is substantially greater” than normal costs.

The Bush rule replaced a rule that had been on the books since the Reagan era rule of 1983. The Reagan era rule provides greater protection for communities and habitat by allowing the dumping of overburden within 100 feet of a perennial or intermittent stream only upon finding that such activities “will not adversely affect the water quantity or quality or other environmental resources of the stream. Two lawsuits were filed immediately after the Bush rule was published.

Read more: http://www.doi.gov/news/09_News_Releases/042709.html
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