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Environmental groups were excited earlier this week when it appeared that the Obama Administration was making it tougher for coal companies to remove the tops of mountains in order to mine the coal below. The U.S. Department of Interior reversed a Bush administration rule on how this mining would be allowed to affect streams. (Under Bush, mountains could be skimmed off, with the soil and rock pushed into the valleys — and streams — below.) As reporters looked more closely at the Interior Department’s announcement, however, they concluded the Obama administration was making no meaningful change in how this type of mining was regulated.
Ken Ward Jr. in Charleston, West Virginia, asked, “Mountaintop removal: What’s Obama going to do? I keep coming back to this question. Anybody have any good answers.” The more Ward (a reporter at the Gazette) asked, the more he found evidence that the answer, now, is nothing. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a press conference where he “went to great lengths to assure anyone who was listening (especially coalfield politicians and mining operators?) that the action by his department wasn’t going to block any permits or stop one single (area) anywhere from being mined.” The next day, Ward reported, “Folks who are hoping that President Barack Obama’s election was going to completely reverse government policies backing mountaintop removal coal mining got more evidence to the contrary today.” (See all this at Ward’s site, Coal Tattoo.)
Meanwhile, Jeff Biggers gives his own assessment of Obama’s first 100 days in dealing with coal. He is hopeful, but, so far, uninspired.