Stealthy No More

 Photo by Robert Gates (omni@ntelos.net), thanks to OVEC.org

Photo by Robert Gates (omni@ntelos.net), thanks to OVEC.org

The coal industry got their “going away” gift today as the Bush Administration gave final approval to the last minute regulation change that will allow mountaintop debris to be deposited in streams and valleys. Obama and Congress are the last hope for saving our environment by reversing these regulations. PLEASE write or call your Congressmen!

Again I refer you to the following websites for more information on what mountaintop removal mining really is and the impact it has on the environment:

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

West Virginia Highlands Voice

EarthJustice

Stop Mountaintop Removal

I love Mountains

One more photo of valley fill, from OVEC.org:

Joe Barnett of Artie, W.Va. lives below this White Oak Creek valley fill. During the July 2001 floods, the sediment pond below the valley fill filled with mud, and raging runoff waters dug a channel into the pond’s dam. During heavy rains in 1997, a boy and a woman on their way to church drowned in a similar flash flood from this valley fill. Photo by Robert Gates (omni@ntelos.net)

Joe Barnett of Artie, W.Va. lives below this White Oak Creek valley fill. During the July 2001 floods, the sediment pond below the valley fill filled with mud, and raging runoff waters dug a channel into the pond’s dam. During heavy rains in 1997, a boy and a woman on their way to church drowned in a similar flash flood from this valley fill. Photo by Robert Gates (omni@ntelos.net)

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Bush’s Stealth Attack – Mountaintop Removal Mining

The Bush Administration, as it limps along in lame duck mode, has quietly begun proceedings to soften all kinds of environmental, wildlife and conservation regulations. Issues such as mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, the public’s ability to provide input on national forest decisions and the de-listing of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List are on the administration’s attack list. Completely irrelevant in the foreign affairs arena, sinking to lower job approval percentages every day with the American public and ineffective with Congress, Bush and his administration are now isolated and can do the only thing left — modify departmental regulations.

Photo by Vivian Stockman, Oct. 19, 2003

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman/www.ohvec.org, Oct. 19, 2003; flyover courtesy SouthWings.org

This is the first of a multi-post series addressing these issues. I hope to raise your awareness of the issues as well as invite you to learn more and then SPEAK OUT, write a letter to the editor, join or contribute to an advocacy group, call your congressmen regarding the administration’s actions and methods, just do something!

Mountaintop removal mining has become a critical battleground for both environmental and fish and wildlife advocates as they desperately fight the coal industry which has the blessing and regulatory backing of the Bush Administration. The stated opposition to this mining procedure by both presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, has motivated the current administration to rush through and lock in pro-industry regulation modifications.

Here is the case brief on mountaintop removal from EarthJustice:

Mountaintop removal is one of the most environmentally destructive activities in the country. The Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits for four mines that will dump millions of tons of rock and debris into nearby streams and valleys, burying them forever. The permits were issued without the required environmental studies and impact statements. On March 23, 2007, a federal judge agreed and rescinded the permits.

That was in 2007. In 2008 the Bush Administration, along with energy and coal industry groups, is appealing earlier court rulings with hopes of reversal which will allow mining companies to proceed. The Administration’s motto seems to be that they never found an environmental or conservation rule yet that they can’t or at least won’t try to at least soften if not do away with completely. The New York Times editorial on Oct. 20, 2008 gives more information and part of the disturbing history of the Administration regarding mountaintop mining, and the latest proposal that has come from the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining.

Do you think this is only an Appalachian problem? Do you think that because you live far away from West Virginia and the other Appalachian states threatened by this devastating form of mining that it doesn’t involve you and therefore you don’t need to be involved? Go to ilovemountains.org and type in your zip code. You’ll be surprised. I live in Utah, a coal producing state in its own right, but when I saw my own connections to mountaintop removal coal I determined to do something, anything.

The effects of this mining process are multiple, negative and permanent. To physically remove the tops of the mountains destroys habitat, forest, natural drainage. Filling the valleys pollutes water, kills streams, destroys communities. Processing creates air and water pollution. All of these combine and destroy in a matter of months a mountain system that took natural systems hundreds of millions of years to create. I refuse to accept that “we need the coal, we need the energy from the coal.” There MUST be a better way. This process, from a human perspective, destroys permanently. The mountains will never be the same; the streams and valleys will never be the same; this is their end. It is more than rape, it is murder.

From Stopmountaintopremoval.org

From Stopmountaintopremoval.org

Please learn more about this issue and speak out to your congressmen, to advocacy groups, to your power company, to anyone because this last photo is what these mountains, valleys and streams are supposed to look like.

Originally printed in the Appalachian Voice, June 2005, photo by Kent Kessinger

Originally printed in the Appalachian Voice, June 2005, photo by Kent Kessinger

Here are some useful links for more information:

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

West Virginia Highlands Voice

EarthJustice

Stop Mountaintop Removal

I love Mountains

Photos: iLoveMountains.org

Bush’s Lack of Faith in Americans

I started this post over a year ago, got distracted, and it sat in my “drafts” file until now. I seem to be in a “cleaning out” mode which is giving everyone the impression that I’m getting ready to leave. That’s not my intent, although if I had a really terrific offer elsewhere I’d surely consider it, especially if I could relocate to the U.K.!

My topic back then, and I feel it is still relevant which is why I didn’t delete the draft, is that although Bush claims to not want to sign any agreements or regulate industry emissions because it might hurt American industry and thereby our economy, that premise is simply not true. If he truly believed in American ingenuity, technological and industrial abilities he would say that of course it will require change, and innovative thinking, but we can do it! He apparently has no trust or faith in the ability of Americans to come up with economically feasible ways to curb greenhouse gases, protect environmental health and build the economy. What about all the jobs that would be created to design new technology to meet regulated requirements in industry? What about the new products that would be designed and produced? Remember way back in the 1800’s the Patent Office was closed for awhile because “we had invented everything already?” Wow! That’s what Bush sounds like! He thinks we’re through thinking — oh, well, looking at it from his perspective…. better not go there.

The world is going to move on without us because they believe in their people. Europeans believe that it is possible to have economic and material prosperity while setting strict environmental standards. Their innovation and community spirit have surpassed ours and that will be the subject of a post another time. Asia, China for example, will move forward industrially, whether we like it or not. They want what we have. If we had a leader with vision and understanding he/she would be willing to sit down and work with all leaders (Kyoto — opportunity lost) and have serious cooperative discussions/negotiations. Any suggestions where we can find that type of leader?

USA Today had an article (below) back in 2006 about this very thing — industry was ready and willing to make the move, just waiting for someone to tell them do it now. That didn’t happen so we’re still stumbling along two years later, with very little progress. If we had started then just think about where we might be now. Oh well, better late than never — unless we just keep waiting, as is the Bush Plan.

A very good thing

The Bush administration stirred global controversy by refusing in 2001 to sign the 1997 Kyoto treaty, which would have required the U.S. to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2010.

President Bush has repeatedly insisted that mandatory emissions curbs like those contained in the treaty would cost the U.S. economy too much. “I walked away from Kyoto because it would have damaged the American economy, it would have destroyed the American economy, it was a lousy deal for the American economy,” he said in a July interview with British TV network ITV.

Government and private estimates of the annual cost to the $13 trillion U.S. economy of implementing the Kyoto restrictions range from $125 billion to $400 billion.

Yet, the leaders of major U.S. corporations such as General Electric and DuPont say addressing climate change offers the technology-rich USA a chance to make — not lose — big money.

One year ago, Jeff Immelt, GE’s chief executive, unveiled a plan to cut his company’s greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 40% by 2012. At the same time, Immelt said GE would double its annual revenue from a broad portfolio of environmentally sound products to $20 billion by 2010.

GE identified an opportunity to boost profit by concentrating on environmental technologies after customers in many industries and many countries began demanding help meeting tougher regulations, says Lorraine Bolsinger, the executive in charge of GE’s Ecomagination initiative. “I don’t see the downside. I know folks say there will be some kind of economic tax. … I’m not sure anyone who worries about that has done the full analysis,” adds Bolsinger.

At DuPont, a previous brush with environmental controversy shaped an early embrace of the climate-change issue. In the late 1980s, the company came under pressure to stop producing chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, which were blamed for depleting the ozone layer. In 1988, DuPont agreed to do so. That experience helped shape DuPont’s response to calls for action to combat climate change, says Linda Fisher, the company’s vice president of environment, health and safety. DuPont set its first goal for reducing greenhouse gases in 1991. By 2003, it had trimmed its emissions by 72%.

Along the way, it racked up savings of $3 billion through energy conservation. Example: In plants in Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri, DuPont is replacing natural gas with methane from landfills in its industrial boilers. Elsewhere, the company redesigned scores of industrial processes to squeeze efficiencies from every step of chemicals manufacturing.

“What started as an effort to address our carbon footprint has turned out to be financially a very good thing,” says Fisher.

This fall, DuPont expects to start using corn to produce a chemical called PDO, which is used to make clothing. The Loudon, Tenn., plant will use 40% less energy than traditional oil-based processes, the company says. The resulting reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions is equivalent to removing 22,000 cars from the roads.