Today, Congress has to learn about mountaintop removal

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Thom Kay | No Comments

CDC_Cancer_Set2Congressional representatives have shown little interest over the past few years in talking about mountaintop removal coal mining. They'd rather lambast the EPA and the Obama Administration for any actions to protect Appalachia's people and environment. But today, our program director, Matt Wasson, is testifying before Congress. That means members will hear about higher-than-average cancer rates and other impacts of this abominable coal mining practice. [ More ]

Today’s court decision and what it means for Appalachia

Friday, July 11th, 2014 | Posted by Thom Kay | 4 Comments

good_day_for_mtns2A major ruling in favor of the EPA says the agency has the authority to coordinate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when reviewing permits for mountaintop removal mines. The EPA has the legal authority, scientific evidence, and moral obligation to block every mountaintop removal permit that comes through its doors. We all share the responsibility of making sure it does just that. [ More ]

O, to have the bully pulpit of Congress

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 | Posted by Thom Kay | No Comments

rahall Rep. Nick Rahall -- like too many others in Congress -- apparently sees no problem using that forum to spout untruths and fabrications to further his own agenda. In this case, he mischaracterizes the EPA's veto of a permit for one of the largest mountaintop removal mines in the region in order to safeguard Appalachia's waters and communities. [ More ]

Heroes and Hyperbole: U.S. House Passes Pro-Mountaintop Removal Bill

Monday, March 31st, 2014 | Posted by Thom Kay | No Comments

bS4k69iLast week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to roll back stream protections in an effort to make it easier to dump waste from mountaintop removal mines into Appalachian streams. Given the makeup of the House right now, this comes as no surprise. But there is a silver lining. [ More ]

Pro-Mountaintop Removal Bill Headed to House Floor

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 | Posted by Thom Kay | No Comments

congress It’s hard to get a good bill all the way through the legislative process to receive a vote on the House floor. Apparently it’s much easier to get a bad bill that far. H.R. 2824 — pro-mountaintop removal legislation that would weaken protections for Appalachian streams — is expected to head to the House floor for a full vote sometime next week. [ More ]

Former Coal Regulator Shows How Little He Knows About Coal Regulation

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 | Posted by Thom Kay | 2 Comments

Cramer More than 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried or poisoned by the valley fills associated with mountaintop removal mining. Yet, despite touting his credentials as a former coal regulator, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) believes that current stream protections are sufficient and dumping mining waste into streams is illegal. [ More ]

Rep. Morgan Griffith Proudly Accomplishes Nothing

Friday, December 6th, 2013 | Posted by Thom Kay | 2 Comments

"I don't want to mislead anyone, I don't think it will pass in the Senate and maybe not the House," Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith said of his bill, the latest futile attack on the EPA, which would to force the agency to layoff 15 percent of its employees.

“I don’t want to mislead anyone, I don’t think it will pass in the Senate and maybe not the House,” Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith said of his bill, the latest futile attack on the EPA, which would to force the agency to layoff 15 percent of its employees.

Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) introduced a new bill this week titled the “EPA Maximum Achievable Contraction of Technocrats Act,” or “EPA MACT Act.”

The bill would require the EPA to layoff 15 percent of its employees. The title of the bill is a play on words, referring to EPA’s Utility MACT rule, which would drastically reduce air pollution in the United States. Because if there’s one thing that makes a good piece of federal legislation, it’s a title that pokes fun at pollution controls.

The bill would reduce employment at EPA over a three-year period, though no rate of contraction would be mandated over that time period. It also includes a long “Findings” section full of disjointed talking points that are seemingly meant to explain the need for staff cuts. Griffith uses the fact that 95 percent of the EPA’s employees were deemed ‘non-essential’” during the government shutdown to justify the reductions and makes the trivial point that “the EPA occupies space in fourteen different buildings in the District of Columbia.”

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The 5 Worst Political Lies in Support of Mountaintop Removal

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 | Posted by Thom Kay | No Comments

Part 5 in a 5 part series

Lie 5: Energy Security. The United States does not need mountaintop removal for our energy security. In fact, mountaintop removal likely provides no more than 3.5 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Lie 5: Energy Security. The United States does not need mountaintop removal for our energy security. In fact, mountaintop removal likely provides no more than 3.5 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Lie 5: Mountaintop removal mining is necessary for our nation’s energy security.

While coal is in perpetual decline, more than one-third of America’s electricity still comes from the fossil fuel. It is on this premise that supporters of mountaintop removal stand when arguing that the practice is necessary for our nation’s energy security. But in order to go from that first point to their conclusion anyone arguing for mountaintop removal has to ignore quite a few facts along the way.

“Energy security,” in this case, is a somewhat vague term. An unrealistic argument indicates that, without mining coal in the U.S., we’ll be without electricity. A more realistic argument states that if we don’t mine coal in the U.S., we’ll have to buy coal from other countries like Russia or China. In either case, the argument is based on a potent concoction of misinformation and fear tactics.

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The 5 Worst Political Lies in Support of Mountaintop Removal

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 | Posted by Thom Kay | No Comments

Part 4 in a 5 part series

Lie 4: Reclamation. More than a million acres of flattened mountains does not mean economic development after all.

Lie 4: Reclamation. More than a million acres of flattened mountains does not mean economic development after all.

Lie 4: More mountaintop removal coal mining will provide much needed flat, reclaimed land for economic development.

Central Appalachia has been mired in a mono-economy for the greater part of a century. In many counties, coal mining has been the only source of good paying jobs. Mining jobs sustained a livelihood for thousands of families over the years. But when the mining companies leave town, they leave very little behind.

Appalachia needs economic diversification. That, we are meant to believe, is where mountaintop removal comes in.

The mining method has irreversibly turned more than one million acres of Appalachian mountains into flat land, and flat land is more useful for building things like factories or Walmarts. In yesterday’s L.A. Times, West Virginia State Senator Art Kirkendoll called for more mountaintop removal, saying “Once you leave it flat, you have a place where you can diversify the economy with office parks and wind turbines.”

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The 5 Worst Political Lies in Support of Mountaintop Removal

Monday, September 16th, 2013 | Posted by Thom Kay | 1 Comment

Part 3 in a 5 part series

Lie 3 of 5: No candidate opposed to mountaintop removal has ever been elected to the U.S. Senate, or ever will be.

Lie 3 of 5: No candidate opposed to mountaintop removal has ever been elected to the U.S. Senate, or ever will be.


3. A candidate opposed to mountaintop removal cannot win a U.S. Senate race in Kentucky or West Virginia.

Despite what political supporters of the coal industry would have us believe, a candidate opposed to mountaintop removal coal mining can, and likely will, represent Kentucky or West Virginia in the U.S. Senate someday.

While it it has not happened yet, the past does not dictate the future. A woman has never been elected to the Senate in either state, but looking ahead to the 2014 elections, it seems likely that three of the four candidates — Natalie Tennant (D-WV), Shelley Moore-Capito (R-WV), and Alison Lundgren-Grimes (D-KY) — will be women. The primaries won’t happen until next year, but these women are the apparent front runners for their party nominations. It’s a pretty good bet that a woman will represent at least one of the two states in the Senate.

You may be thinking: “It’s about time. After all, more women serve in the Senate now than at any other time in history. But things will really have to change to put someone opposed to mountaintop removal in office.” Not according to a 2011 poll by Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research, which found that in both Kentucky and West Virginia, voters had an unfavorable view of the mining practice.

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The 5 Worst Political Lies in Support of Mountaintop Removal

Thursday, September 12th, 2013 | Posted by Thom Kay | 3 Comments

Part 2 in a 5 part series

LIE 2: ECONOMY

Lie 2 of 5: Economy. Calling mountaintop removal an economic driver couldn't be further from the truth.

Lie 2 of 5: Economy. Calling mountaintop removal an economic driver couldn’t be further from the truth.

Proponents of mountaintop removal mining use a very simple and straightforward logic to justify the practice: jobs are good for the economy, and mountaintop removal mining provides jobs, therefore mountaintop removal mining is good for the economy.

The argument is logical, but only if you ignore the actual, well-established and thoroughly understood impacts that mountaintop removal has had throughout the region.

Mountaintop removal equals job removal. Coal companies are always looking for ways to cut costs and make their workers more efficient. In other words, they want to get more coal while using fewer miners. That’s where surface mining comes in. Underground mining in Appalachia requires approximately 50 percent more miners than surface mining to acquire the same amount of coal.

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The 5 Worst Political Lies in Support of Mountaintop Removal

Monday, September 9th, 2013 | Posted by Thom Kay | 6 Comments

Part 1 in a 5 part series

LIE 1: BALANCE

According to some in Congress, supporting mountaintop removal is the same as advocating for a balance between the environment and economy.

Lie 1 of 5: Balance. According to some in Congress, supporting mountaintop removal is the same as advocating for a balance between the environment and the economy.

After spending a month back in their home states, Congress is back in session. Between the budget, the debt ceiling, Syria, energy efficiency bills, and the farm bill, they have plenty of work to do in a short period of time but rest assured the dialogue on Capitol Hill will contain the same old mix of logic and utter nonsense.

There are ethical and committed people working in Congress, both members and staff, but their work is often stifled by clever politicians catering to special interests and major donors. On every environmental issue under the sun, polluters and their allies are prone to misleading the public. Over the next two weeks, we’ll refute the five biggest, baddest lies about mountaintop removal coal mining.

1. When it comes to mountaintop removal, we need to strike a “balance” between the economy and the environment

Since arriving in Washington, D.C., six years ago and watching more Congressional hearings than I can count, one of the cliches that gets under my skin the most are the constant cries that we need a balance between the economy and the environment.

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