Hey Duke Energy – Buy a Bigger Dump Truck!

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 7 Comments

dumptruck Duke Energy and its army of lobbyists apparently have convinced N.C. lawmakers that it's just too expensive to clean up all of its leaking coal ash dumps. The company's argument is based on an assumption that it would take 30 years to remove the ash from JUST ONE SITE. "What??" I hear you ask incredulously. So let's take a deeper look at that ... [ More ]

One fish, two fish … Dead fish

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 1 Comment

onefish_twofishA study from researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) published this month provides strong new evidence that mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia is devastating downstream fish populations. Fortunately, the Obama administration has an opportunity to take meaningful action to protect Appalachian streams. [ More ]

Who Owns West Virginia’s Water? A Cautionary Tale

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 16 Comments

WVAWC The paper trail of West Virginia Public Service Commission filings document the dramatic expansion of American Water Company's network over the past two decades, and why so many people in this water-rich state depend on a single, privately-owned treatment system and distribution network that sprawls across nine counties for their supply of drinking water. [ More ]

WATCH: Appalachian Kids Give Science Lesson to President Obama

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

Children in Appalachian coal mining communities are 42% more likely to be born with birth defects and have a life expectancy that is almost 5 years lower than the national average. As this short video shows, they understand why:

Dozens of scientific studies have linked mountaintop removal coal mining to high rates of cancer and other diseases in nearby communities. But as these children explain, you don’t need to be a scientist to understand the devastating impact that mountaintop removal has on the health and quality of life of people living nearby.

Thanks to thousands of people who have spoken up for Appalachian mountains and communities time and again, President Obama’s agencies have taken major steps to reduce the destruction caused by mountaintop removal coal mining over the past four years.

As the president is sworn in to a second term later this month, we have an opportunity to finish the job and stop mountaintop removal once and for all. But we need to ensure that President Obama makes this a priority in his second term.

That’s where you come in. Please join these kids in sending a clear message to the White House: No more excuses, Mr. President. End mountaintop removal. Now.

Help these children spread the word about what’s happening in their communities by sharing this video with your friends, family and colleagues.

Electoral Math for “All You Climate People”

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 2 Comments

During a campaign season in which climate change featured most prominently as a laugh line at the Republican National Convention, the low point was when CNN’s Candy Crowley addressed “all you climate people” in her explanation of why climate didn’t come up during the presidential debates. Who knew that human disruption of the global climate had become such a narrow, provincial concern?

But there’s important information in the fact that a senior reporter for a major network could dismiss climate change as essentially a special interest issue. It’s evidence, if more were needed, that “all us climate people” got our butts kicked in the battle for the narrative in the 2012 election.

And like the Republican Party, which is now undergoing the usual soul searching that follows a big electoral defeat, those of us who believe that inaction on climate is the greatest threat facing our civilization (never mind the economy) have some serious soul searching to do about our own defeat, which occurred long before any votes were counted.

Crowley’s explanation was consistent with the conventional wisdom on why the president didn’t make climate an issue. Because it was an “Economy election” and everyone in the DC press must accept that government action on climate change could do serious harm to the economy (because “it’s become part of the culture,” even if it’s not true), any discussion of climate policy by the president would have been off-message and worked against his chances for re-election.

The unconventional wisdom, popular among “climate people,” is that the Obama campaign failed to recognize the high level of popular support for action on climate change and missed a golden opportunity to seize a winning wedge issue when they chose the more politically expedient route of ignoring it.

There’s probably some truth to both of these explanations, but here’s a third one that is particularly useful in the context of a presidential election: the campaigns avoided talking about climate policy because they believed that raising the issue would be harmful in a few swingy areas of key swing states that would likely decide the election.

Look, it’s tempting to point to all the national polls showing popular support for climate policy and say, “climate is a winning campaign issue.” But a political strategist would find nothing useful in those polls because campaigns are not won by appealing to the sentiments of the average American. Similarly, when a presidential candidate is speaking to a national audience, it’s easy to believe they are speaking to us — all of us. But they’re not. By and large, the candidates’ speeches are written to appeal to a handful of undecided voters in a few swing states, with just enough partisan red meat thrown in to motivate the party base to volunteer for the campaign and turn out to vote.

Americans understand that those swingy areas are the “tail that wags the dog” of our national elections but don’t necessarily think about the logical conclusion of that fact; the concerns and attitudes of swing voters in swing states are the “tail that wags the dog” of campaign messages, media coverage, and thus public understanding of what issues are important in the campaign.

The problem is fossil fuel interests have figured out how to wag that dog. They know they can’t win public opinion nationally, but by focusing resources in key areas of swing states such as Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, they can frame the local discussion of climate policy and environmental regulations to their advantage (i.e., as a “Job-killing war on coal“) and essentially neutralize those issues at the national level — at least during the election season.

If the Obama campaign’s pre-election polling looked anything like the maps of election results in coal-mining regions of southwestern Virginia and southern Ohio, it’s easy to imagine strategists telling the president, “Don’t exacerbate this ‘war on coal’ thing or it could hurt us in swing states” (see map):

US_Election_Vote_Margins2

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Big Coal Wins Latest Battle to Blast Historic Blair Mountain

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 18 Comments

Is nothing sacred to coal companies in Appalachia?

March on Blair Mountain

In a jaw-dropping display of contempt and disregard for the communities and landscapes where they mine coal, three coal companies back in 2009 challenged the listing of West Virginia’s Blair Mountain on the National Register of Historic Places. The companies, including mining behemoths Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, opposed the listing of Blair Mountain as a historic site because it could interfere with their plans to conduct mountaintop removal mining operations on the Spruce Fork Ridge battlefield, site of the “largest organized armed uprising in American labor history,” and the most important historic landmark in Central Appalachia.

The 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain was the culmination of a three-year struggle to unionize the coal mines of southern West Virginia and ended only when federal troops intervened on behalf of anti-union coal companies. There are few sites as significant as Blair Mountain that commemorate the brave men and women who laid down their lives for a movement that has brought Americans everything from the weekend to child labor laws to the largest and most prosperous middle class the world has ever seen.

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Despite Court Ruling, Obama Administration Can Still Protect Streams from Mountaintop Removal Mining – And Should

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 4 Comments

Mountaintop Removal Mine above Homes in Eastern Kentucky
Environmental and community advocates got some jarring news Tuesday when a federal judge rejected EPA’s “guidance” on surface mine permitting in Appalachia — the centerpiece of its 3-year effort to curtail the environmental damage caused by mountaintop removal coal mining.

While it was unwelcome news, it was not as devastating as portrayed in the initial round of news stories, which appeared to be heavily influenced by the coal industry’s false narrative about an “out-of-control” EPA issuing regulations willy-nilly while going out of its way to trample on the Constitution and kill jobs.

In fact, the court objected to the procedural approach EPA took to reduce what top scientists have called the “pervasive and irreversible” impacts of mountaintop removal, but specifically not to the authority — or obligation — of EPA and other federal agencies to protect streams from being polluted or obliterated by mountaintop removal coal mining. Nor did the court challenge the overwhelming evidence by scientists, health professionals, and the findings of EPA’s independent Science Advisory Panel that mountaintop removal mining has disastrous impacts on streams and people.

Even the arcane procedural issues on which the decision was based are far from a settled matter of law — the decision is likely to be appealed by the EPA.

Nevertheless, the headlines left many Appalachian residents terrified by the prospect that regulators would revert to the lame permit rules of the Bush Administration. While there is always a chance that could happen, Appalachians can take some comfort that agencies rubber-stamping piles of permits is not a logical or inevitable outcome of the court’s decision.

The risk, of course, is that the Obama Administration will see this as an opportunity to abandon its efforts to rein in the impacts of mountaintop removal, efforts which have caused a fierce backlash from the coal industry and its allies. In the heat of campaign season, there’s probably some temptation to try to offset the political damage that the rhetoric about “Obama’s war on coal” is doing in remote corners of swing states like Ohio and Virginia, even if it means the president turns his back on his oft-repeated commitment to science-based decision-making by his agencies.

On the bright side, the way the administration perceives that political calculus is something that everyday Americans can do something about. But we’d better speak up now. Seriously, anyone who thinks that America’s oldest and most biologically diverse mountains ought not be obliterated to pad the pockets of coal company executives and shareholders needs to say so. Loudly.

The administration has all the evidence and authority it needs to deny mountaintop removal permits. While EPA appeals the D.C. court decision, and/or figures out a different way to ensure that permits comply with the Clean Water Act, it’s crucial that other agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and the Office of Surface Mining make darn sure that science is applied in the permitting process. Based on what we know, that should be tantamount to denying any permit that involves disposing of mine waste into streams.

But there is also a lesson here for the EPA — and an opportunity to address the root of the problem. Despite tens of thousands of comments urging EPA to act, the agency has yet to overturn the Bush Administration’s nefarious change to the so-called “fill rule.” This rule defines what sort of material can be used to modify a stream, wetland or other water body for the purpose of building a road, dredging a river, etc. In 2002, the Bush Administration changed the definition of “fill” such that any waste from a surface mining operation is, by definition, fill – meaning it’s not only OK to dump in streams, it’s essentially considered a public benefit. Yes, you heard right – a benefit.

Every mountaintop removal-related permit issued by the Obama Administration has been based on that perverse logic. The lesson for EPA is that it would be futile to try to build a sensible, protective permitting regime on top of this absurd foundation laid by the Bush Administration. The EPA should overturn and replace the Bush-era fill rule.

A final lesson from this court decision is that we cannot rely solely on administrative guidances and rules to protect Appalachian citizens, the oldest mountains on the continent, or the headwaters of the drinking water supply of millions of Americans. Mountaintop removal coal mining is an outrage that should be banned by Congress, or there will always be the risk of a court striking down or a new administration overturning it, no matter how well the science supports it.

In 2002, Representatives Chris Shays (R-CT) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced the Clean Water Protection Act, which would overturn the Bush fill rule. Since then, people and organizations across Appalachia have supported the bipartisan bill by carrying a simple message to universities, church groups and Rotary Clubs across America: They’re blowing up our mountains and there oughtta be a law! Today, the bill has 130 bipartisan cosponsors in the House of Representatives. Additional legislation has been introduced recently that would put a moratorium on mountaintop mining permits.

The bottom line is that Appalachian citizens need better protection than a non-binding agency guidance. EPA should begin a formal rule-making to undo the violence done to Clean Water Act enforcement by the Bush fill rule. And ultimately, citizens won’t be satisfied until Congress passes the Clean Water Protection Act, the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act, or some other law that will not be so easily overturned or manipulated by ever-changing administrations and courts.

It’s not only what the science dictates, it’s what Appalachian citizens deserve.

Snake Handlers, Strippers and the KKK: CNN’s Portrait of “Everyday Life in Appalachia”

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 16 Comments

So CNN ran a sensationalized and superficial story built on stereotypes that lacked any news value. Big news, right? Grow up, kid, this is the entertainment business…

That’s an excerpt from the conversation in my head before deciding to write a post about the photo-essay that was posted on the front page of CNN.com on Monday with the teaser image of a burning cross. The link was titled “Everyday Life in Appalachia.

Teaser Image for CNN's "Everyday Life in Appalachia"Photo Essay

I’ll spare you the righteous indignation and the pages of moralizing that virtually burst from my fingertips and get right to the point of why it’s worth calling attention to this particularly offensive piece of pseudo-journalistic garbage: misleading stereotypes have real world consequences.

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Fact-Checking CNN’s New Documentary about Mountaintop Removal: the “Jobs vs Environment” Frame is Dead Wrong Once Again

Sunday, August 14th, 2011 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 4 Comments

Roaring Fork Headwaters, Wise County, Va.- Photo by Matt Wasson, Appalachian VoicesOn Sunday, CNN premiered an hour-long documentary by Soledad O’Brien on the battle to save historic Blair Mountain in West Virginia from destruction by mountaintop removal coal mining. Blair Mountain, site of the second largest armed insurrection in American history, is also one of the most important historical sites for organized labor in the country.

While O’Brien and her crew were able to tell both sides of the debate in compelling and emotionally powerful ways, the documentary suffered from the same flaw that just about every environmental story CNN has ever done suffers from: it is presented in a “jobs vs environment” frame that is devoid of any actual analysis of whether that frame is appropriate. Following is a brief fact-check of statements made by by mountaintop removal supporters and opponents in O’Brien’s documentary.

Is “Jobs vs Environment” the Appropriate Frame for the Issue of Mountaintop Removal?

There are two conflicting statements made by local residents in the documentary regarding the impact that mountaintop removal has had on jobs and the community around Blair Mountain. On the one hand, in response to a question by O’Brien about when the community around Blair Mountain started to disappear, resident Diane Kish responded:

“[The community began to disappear] when federal judges and the EPA came in and started messing with our livelihood.”

On the other hand, another nearby resident, Billy Smutko, said that the community began to disappear when mountaintop removal started. Fortunately, data are readily available to resolve these two conflicting versions of events and it turns out those data support Smutko’s version beyond a shadow of a doubt.

According to data from a study recently published in the Journal Population Health Metrics , Logan County, WV (the county that is home to both Blair Mountain and the controversial Spruce #1 mountaintop removal mine), saw a 10.7% decline in population between 1997 and 2007. This would at first seem to support the pro-mountaintop removal version of events, as the timeframe roughly correlates with the timeframe in which federal judges and the EPA first began to impose restrictions on mountaintop removal mining. Specifically, the first temporary restraining order on mountaintop removal permits was imposed by Judge Haden in 1999.

However, data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) show that the number of mining jobs in Logan County stayed roughly the same over that period, even as production of coal from mountaintop removal mines declined by a third. But what really blows a hole through the pro-mountaintop removal arguments is the fact that the population of Logan County decreased by a jaw-dropping 14.4% between 1987 and 1997, during which time the EPA and federal judges did nothing to restrict mountaintop removal and production from such mines more than tripled — from less than 5 million to more than 16 million tons.

As shown in the graph below, and in stark contrast to some claims in the CNN documentary, the number of mining jobs in Logan County has more than doubled since 1999 when Judge Haden imposed the first moratorium on mountaintop removal permits, and mining jobs across West Virginia as a whole have increased by a third.

WV Mine Employment,1983-2011

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Kentucky Coal Companies Remind Us Why We Really, Really Need the EPA

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 2 Comments

The latest episode in the saga known as Big Coal’s Watergate began today when environmental and citizen groups filed a second notice of intent to sue the two largest mountaintop removal mining companies in Kentucky. Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper, and Waterkeeper Alliance notified ICG and Frasure Creek Mining of their intent to sue the companies for more than 4,000 violations of the Clean Water Act — these on top of more than 20,000 violations the groups already sued over back in October.

Toxic Runoff from a Valley Fill in Eastern KentuckyAs an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote about the previous lawsuit against these same companies:

The environmental groups uncovered a massive failure by the industry to file accurate water discharge monitoring reports. They filed an intent to sue which triggered the investigation by the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet. Also revealed was the cabinet’s failure to oversee a credible water monitoring program by the coal industry.

In some cases, state regulators allowed the companies to go for as long as three years without filing required quarterly water-monitoring reports. In other instances, the companies repeatedly filed the same highly detailed data, without even changing the dates. So complete was the lack of state oversight it’s impossible to say whether the mines were violating their water pollution permits or not.

This time around, none of the evidence that mines were violating pollution limits is in question. Moreover, the notice of intent to sue came at a particularly bad time for the coal industry and for Kentucky’s regulatory agencies, right when their momentum to hamstring the EPA’s authority was really starting to gather steam. Examples of recent anti-EPA efforts include:

  1. Passage of a bill by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee designed to eviscerate EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Water Act;
  2. Recent calls from at least three Republican presidential candidates to abolish the EPA altogether;
  3. A bill that was introduced in the Senate last February that really would abolish the EPA.

In the midst of Big Coal’s anti-regulatory crusade, however, Kentucky coal companies have given Americans another unmistakable reminder of exactly why it is that we really, really need an EPA — and why polls show that the agency enjoys the overwhelming support of Americans [pdf] from across the political spectrum.

The new evidence that was provided by environmental and community groups of fraudulent reporting of pollution discharges by companies — allegations that were written off by Kentucky regulators as “transcription errors” — is beyond embarrassing for a state that is complaining to Congress, judges, and anyone else who will listen about how the EPA is overstepping its authority to protect waterways. The premise of the most recent anti-EPA bill is that a bunch of jack-booted thugs from the EPA are coming in and mucking things up for the state agencies, who already have their regulatory houses well in order.

In testimony before the House committee that passed the bill last week, Len Peters, the secretary of the Kentucky Environment and Energy Cabinet (the agency that enforces environmental laws in Kentucky), told members of Congress:

“Coal can be and is being mined in an environmentally responsible manner—we continue to make improvements, and the industry has been willing to do things better… We strongly believe the EPA’s objections to recent proposed draft permits for Clean Water Act 402 permits for surface mining operations in Kentucky were arbitrary.”

Furthermore, it was Peters’ agency that refused to sanction one of these same companies for dumping waste into streams without even bothering to obtain a permit [pdf] and called allegations by environmental groups that the state did a poor job of investigating their complaints “bordering on specious“.

But the new analysis of reports submitted by coal companies over the last few years leaves the coal companies and state regulators with a lot of explaining to do.

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Labor and Environment — A Match Made in “Almost Heaven”

Friday, June 10th, 2011 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 1 Comment

Something extraordinary is happening this week in southern West Virginia. For the first time in years, the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA), the largest union representing coal miners, has found common cause with environmental and community advocates who are seeking to end mountaintop removal coal mining.

March on Blair MountainSome UMWA miners have joined hundreds of environmental and Appalachian community advocates who are marching to Blair Mountain on the 90th anniversary of one of the greatest labor battles in American history.
Both groups want to protect this historic mountain from the efforts of coal companies to obliterate parts of the battlefield in order to conduct mountaintop removal coal mining operations.

In fact, the march to Blair Mountain is only one of several recent examples where the interests of labor and environmental advocates are closely aligned. For instance, last week’s buyout of Massey Energy was another recent event celebrated by environmentalists, community groups and organized labor alike. Massey was not only reckless, negligent and probably criminal in last year’s disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, but the company was by far the largest operator of mountaintop removal coal mines in Appalachia and a notorious scofflaw in regard to environmental laws like the Clean Water Act. Massey had also long been known for its union-busting practices.

A third – and by far the most important – factor linking the struggles of these groups is an almost existential crisis they are facing as a result of America’s recent, acute attack of what I like to call “Deficit Attention and Hypocrisy Disorder” (hat tip). The takeover of many state legislatures and governors’ offices by anti-government and anti-union ideologues last November has resulted in bills to strip collective bargaining rights of public employees in states from Ohio and Wisconsin to Florida and Tennessee — all of which, of course, is taking place under the false pretense of reducing the deficit.

Environmentalists got a similar wake-up call when the new Republican majority in the House sought to eviscerate EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts through amendments to the House Budget bill last February. Again, this was all done under the false banner of reducing the deficit.

If we are going to avoid disaster in this next election cycle, then we need to break out of our circular firing squad and do our part to change the narrative – and thus the mandate of whoever controls the reins of government after the next election – away from “Deficit Attention and Hypocrisy Disorder” and back toward creating jobs and protecting the health and safety of workers and the environment in which they live.

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AP Reporter Wins Peeew-litzer for Execrable Reporting on Stream Protection Rule

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

[UPDATE: With the benefit of a little more time to reflect and with the help of a few angels on my shoulder, I've come to realize that my criticism of Tim Huber was over the top. While I believe that my critique of the content of the AP story was valid, there are more respectful and less polemical ways to make the point. My apologies to Tim Huber]

PeeewlitzerOK, so I made the bit up about there being a Peeew-litzer prize for execrable reporting, but if there were such a prize, AP business reporter Tim Huber would be a top candidate.

Yesterday, Huber broke a story based on a leaked draft of an environmental impact statement that is part of the Office of Surface Mining’s rule-making process for the “Stream Protection Rule.” This rule would replace the “Stream Buffer Zone” rule that was gutted in late 2008 in an 11th hour giveaway to the coal industry by the departing Bush Administration. The impact and clear intent of Bush’s change to this rule was to make it easier for coal companies to conduct mountaintop removal mining operations in Appalachia.

The lead of the AP story went as follows:

The Obama administration’s own experts estimate their proposal for protecting streams from coal mining would eliminate thousands of jobs and slash production across much of the country, according to a government document obtained by The Associated Press.

Wow, that sounds pretty bad — particularly the day after the President delivered a State of the Union address that laid out a broad plan for creating jobs and supporting American businesses. Of course, given that the leaked document is not available for public scrutiny, you might think that Huber would say a little something about what assumptions went into this calculation of job losses — perhaps even provide a little context about how they were calculated. What baseline assumptions were these “eliminated” jobs compared to? Did the agency use figures for say, 2008 when coal production was at an all time high, or did they compare their impacts to government estimates of future production? This is important because not only has coal production dropped by 10% since 2008, but recent EIA projections are that coal production will drop further in coming years and won’t return to 2008 levels until 2025.

Aside from “eliminating” jobs in the coal industry, would OSM’s rule perhaps also create jobs in other industries that would presumably replace demand for the “slashed” coal production? Was the economic analysis done by OSM mining experts, or did they work with the Energy Information Administration, which has models to address these sorts of questions in the context of overall US energy markets?

Without additional context, there’s no way to understand what these numbers actually mean. By putting them out there in sensationalist terms without any way for anyone else to see the context and assumptions that went into them, Huber has done an enormous disservice to entire debate about protecting streams from the impacts of coal mining. And while reporting on leaked documents has a long and proud tradition, isn’t there some obligation to provide essential information needed to understand what’s reported about them?

Of course, it seems that there were people outside federal and state agencies that already had their hands on the secret draft document because Huber provided a quote from the National Mining Association that could only have been made if they had already analyzed the numbers (wonder who leaked it to Huber?). Worse, Huber reported the NMA’s response without even contacting any supporters of a strong Stream Protection Rule to see if there might be different views on those numbers.

So how would mountaintop removal opponents have responded if they’d had the chance?

I imagine if Huber had asked people impacted by mountaintop removal mines above their homes they would have said that there is no economic justification whatsoever for the continued destruction of Appalachian mountains, streams and communities by coal companies. As my friend Bo Webb at Coal River Mountain Watch told the Charlotte Observer when asked about Duke Energy’s machinations over whether eliminating mountaintop removal coal purchases would be economical:

“Real people that live in communities beneath mountaintop removal sites in southern West Virginia are paying the heavy, hidden costs of coal with their health and lives. An energy company that purchases mountaintop-removal coal is taking advantage of a corrupt regulatory system that allows coal companies like Massey Energy to eliminate entire Appalachian mountains, poison its water and kill its people.”

If Huber had asked my buddy JW at Appalachian Voices he might have pointed out that the coal industry is already in decline, particularly in Appalachia. If jobs are going to be eliminated anyway, why would we want to preserve jobs at mines that destroy streams over jobs that don’t? When I asked him about it, JW, who’s about to have his first child, told me:

“When my daughter enters the workforce, she can either have A) no coal jobs and no streams or B) no coal jobs and streams. We’ll take B please.”

And if I’d been asked? Well, since Huber isn’t prepared to share the leaked document he’s reporting on, it’s tough to get too specific. But even in the unlikely case that OSM did a comprehensive economic study and found that 7,000 jobs really would just vanish off the employment map, let’s put that number in perspective. If those surface mining jobs were eliminated over a 5 year period as existing permits expire, the challenge for legislators like Senator Manchin would be to find a way to create an additional 1,400 non-mining jobs or so per year (perhaps more, as mining jobs pay well) in order to rein in the wholesale destruction of streams in Appalachia by mountaintop removal mining and the pollution of streams across the country with mine waste.

And it’s not like it takes a lot of creative thinking to figure out how those jobs could be replaced: the Appalachian Regional Commission released a study and blueprint for how 15,000 jobs per year could be created in Appalachia every year for the next five years in energy efficiency — if policy-makers would make fairly modest investments in policies to stimulate the creation of those jobs. As a West Virginian who commented on the story at the Charleston Gazette website pointed out,

“It’s called ‘progress.’ We don’t use whale oil for light anymore do we?”

No we don’t. And I bet lot of jobs were lost in the whaling industry after Edison invented the light bulb along with coal-based electricity generation technologies… was that bad for society over the past century?

I recently heard a pretty smart guy say:

“Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age… So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

We should listen to him.


 

 

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