The Los Angeles Times notes today (Sunday) that although enviros hoped the election of Barack Obama would end mountaintop removal mountain (the “Appalachian apocalypse”), “in recent weeks, the administration has quietly made a decision to open the way for at least two dozen more mountaintop removals.” (See above mountain blasting, photo by Antrim Caskey.) Reporters Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten write that in a letter to W.Va. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, the Environmental Protection Agency “said it would not block dozens of ‘surface mining’ projects. The list included some controversial mountaintop mines.”
This comes as no surprise to readers of Ken Ward’s Coal Tattoo blog from West Virginia. He’s been documenting the step-by-step retreat by Obama on this issue. Ward reported late last week that the the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decided not to reconsider its latest decision upholding key parts of an earlier that allowed continued mountaintop mining. (See photo above, and read about the Circuit Court opinion here and here.)
Obama’s timidity on this issue hasn’t happened without a fight. Hamburger and Wallsten report that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has gotten involved. “And the issue has sparked contentious debates within the administration, including one shouting match in which top officials from two government agencies were heard pounding their fists on the table,” the reporters write.