Sunday, April 23, 2017
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The Beginning Of The End For Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining?

Could the ruinous (environmentally, economically, you name it) practice of "mountaintop removal" coal mining be coming to an end sooner rather than later?  Based on this, it sure looks like a possibility.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced new pollution limits that could sharply curtail "mountaintop" mining, the lucrative and controversial practice that is unique to Appalachia.

The decision, announced Thursday afternoon by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, is expected to end or significantly cut the use of "valley fills." At these sites, mining companies fill valleys to the brim with rock and rubble left over when peaks are sheared off to reach coal seams inside.

"Minimizing the number of valley fills is a very, very key factor," Jackson said. "You're talking about no, or very few, valley fills that are going to meet this standard."

Of course, without "valley fills," it's going to be pretty difficult to blow the top off a mountain and figure out what to do with the resulting debris. Over at Gristmill, they quote "95-year-old Ken Hechler, the former West Virginia congressman who introduced the first bill in Congress to stop mountaintop removal and strip-mining in 1971," calling this "a great victory for the Clean Water Act and justice."  

Maybe, but as J.W. Randolph of Appalachian Voices points out, we still need "Congress to follow the Obama administration's lead by passing legislation that will permanently protect our homes and communities from mining waste...Change in Appalachia is now inevitable, and the time for Congress to pass this legislation is now!"

By the way, for anyone who argues about the supposed economic importance of mountaintop removal mining, I strongly recommend that they read this letter, by Justin Maxson,  president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.  As Maxson points out, "coal mining jobs amount to only about 2 percent of employment in the central Appalachian region; the percentage is only slightly higher if you consider related employment."  The problem with "mountaintop removal" mining, of course, is that it's a highly capital-intensive (explosives, heavy machinery), not labor-intensive (miners) process. The other problem is the nature of the coal industry, which Jim Webb explains extremely well in Born Fighting.

The people from the outside showed up [in Appalachian coal country] with complicated contracts...asking for "rights" to mineral deposits they could not see, and soon they were treated to a sundering of their own earth as the mining companies ripped apart their way of life, so that after a time the only option was to go down into the hole and bring the Man his coal, or starve. The Man got his coal, and the profits it brought when he shipped it out. They got their wages, black lung, and the desecration of their land...Coal made this part of Appalachia a poverty-stricken basket case while the rest of the mountain region remained mired in isolation.
That pretty much sums it up.

Kaine Has “Serious Questions” About McDonnell Administration

I have some serious questions about the fiscal responsibility of some of the steps being taken. I don't think cuts to education and the health care safety net are a good idea ever, particularly in this economy. I don't want to roll back protections for employees in terms of discrimination or send a signal that we don't care about it. And I think the notion of well, we're gonna...push back on a health care bill that will do a lot of good for hundreds of thousands of Virginians, it's like, you just gotta go out and see how people are living and you'll realize that this bill's a very good thing.

For more, see here (interview by Adam Rhew).

McEachin Blasts Cooch for “Ludicrous” Lawsuit on Clean Cars

The following statement is from Environment Virginia. See in particular Sen. Donald McEachin's statement (after the "flip") that he is "frustrated and dismayed" by Ken Cuccinelli's "ludicrous lawsuits that waste time and money." That includes, apparently, yet another lawsuit, this time against higher fuel economy standards for automobiles. As Sen. McEachin points out, Cuccinelli is focusing on these time-and-money-wasting lawsuits, "[r]ather than protect Virginians from internet predators, consumer fraud and identity theft."

White House Shows Leadership on Clean Cars

Congress Urged to Protect New Standards by Rejecting Efforts to Weaken Clean Air Act

Richmond - In a huge win for Virginia's environment, public health and national security, the Obama administration today announced new standards for automobile fuel economy and global warming emissions. An Environment Virginia analysis found that these new federal standards - based on the "clean cars program" developed by California and adopted by 13 other states - will save Virginians 324 million gallons of gasoline by 2016 as compared to the previous federal standards, while reducing emissions of global warming pollutants and providing a net economic savings to consumers.

"Thanks to President Obama's leadership, the cars of tomorrow will be cleaner and cost less to fuel than the cars of today," said Environment Virginia Advocate J.R. Tolbert. "Today's announcement is the direction that America should be taking when addressing our energy needs. Rather than drilling off our coastlines we should prioritize conservation and renewable energy when meeting the nation's energy needs."

The rest of the statement is after the "flip"

Jeff Schapiro: “Bob McDonnell’s favorite president is a big government guy”

Jeff Schapiro points out that "Gov. Bob McDonnell likes to quote George Washington, except for the part about federal supremacy over rebellious states." Schapiro also quotes Washington's "choice words" regarding Virginia's "unique hostility towards the national government." According to George Washington, "it is the most malignant...the most unwarrantable disposition." The same words could very well be applied to Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli today.  One final quote from George Washington pertains to the infamous Whiskey Rebellion: "Should the anti-taxers prevail, republican government might perish in one stroke." As Jeff Schapiro notes, Bob McDonnell doesn't talk about "that George Washington." Gee, I wonder why not.

“Drill, baby, drill” Day For Mark Warner

...Sen. Mark Warner "had a root canal today," said spokesman Kevin Hall. "The irony is that it's 'drill, baby, drill' day." (No TV sound bites, alas, to support Obama's offshore-oil decision.) Warner will recover at home, then head to events in southern Virginia next week.
Good one by Kevin Hall, and get well soon to Mark Warner!

P.S. For Mark Warner's real reaction to the offshore oil drilling announcement yesterday, see here.  In short, Warner believes "This is good news and a positive step forward as we work to expand our nation's domestic energy production."  Hmmm...root canal or offshore oil drilling, tough choice.

Why Does Cooch Hate Sunshine?

Why does Ken Cuccinelli hate opening the shades and letting the sun shine into his office?
Records that would document the time, resources and meetings involved in the lawsuit that the Virginia attorney general's office filed against federal health-care legislation either don't exist or are classified as confidential "working papers" of the agency, a ranking deputy said yesterday.

Stephen R. McCullough, senior appellate counsel for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, was responding to a request under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act filed by Democratic Party officials and several media outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Yesterday, Cuccinelli issued a release saying that the work of the suit was being done in-house and said costs would be minimal beyond the $350 fee to file the suit in U.S. District Court.

That's right, Cooch is seriously claiming that a lawsuit, taking hundreds if not thousands of hours of lawyers' time to prepare and argue, costs just $350. Of course, as we all know, lawsuits cost a lot of money. For instance, OJ Simpson spent $3-$6 million on his criminal case alone. Another case, this one by the state of Ohio to pursue a civil case against investment adviser Mark D. Lay, cost taxpayers $1.8 million. Yet Cooch claims his lawsuit against the federal government will cost Virginia taxpayers just $350. That's not just absurdly false, it's wildly insulting to the intelligence of Virginia residents. No wonder why Cooch hates sunshine.

Cooch: Ricky Martin Not Gay

Wow, Cooch has really gone too far this time!
Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit earlier this morning in the United States District Court in Richmond asserting that Ricky Martin is not gay on the basis that his hit song "She Bangs" clearly states otherwise.  He further posited that to state you are gay after swaying your hips suggestively at the MTV Movie awards is unconstitutional...
Should we start a petition drive to condemn Ken Cuccinelli? How about a recall vote?  Protests and marches outside his office?  Obviously, this latest lawsuit is outrageous and must be stopped!  The only problem is, nobody would take us seriously because it's April Fools Day and you know how that goes. ;)

h/t: Adam Ebbin

“Watch Wolf Go Moderate”

An intriguing blog post at "In Through The Out Door".
With the announcement yesterday by James Trautz that he is withdrawing as a Republican challenger in the 10th District against Rep. Frank R. Wolf, I'm going to make a prediction.

Wolf took a sharp right turn in his legislating over the past few months in an attempt to woo the tea party element to his campaign. But with the far-right challenger out of the picture, expect Wolf to move away from the fringe of the party and move towards the center, courting the moderate independents that make up a majority of the 10th District in Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

Also expect to see more "franked" mail arriving in your mailboxes; Wolf recently sent out 3 pieces of "constituent literature", paid for at taxpayer expense, that looked very much like campaign mailers. Of course, it's illegal to send campaign flyers at taxpayer expense, which is why those mailers are marked as "newsletters".

For more on Frank Wolf's lurch to the right in recent months, see "Frank Wolf: For it, before he was against it" by Rich Anthony.  As Rich points out, "Wolf has taken to repeated attacks on President Obama and his administration over the last year, causing many to speculate that [Wolf] may be concerned about his primary against self-described 'tea party candidate' Jim Trautz." Now that Trautz is out of the picture, will we see Wolf breaking with Eric Cantor, John Boehner, and the "Party of No" in general? I'm not holding my breath, especially given that Wolf really is a right-wing Republican at his core, but it's something to keep an eye on.

Of course, Wolf never was the "moderate" he sometimes masqueraded as before Barack Obama became president. But since then, Wolf has voted in hard-right-wing Republican lockstep against clean energy, health care reform, "Jobs for Main Street", economic recovery, and many other top priorities for America and for his district.  

Of course, you'd never know any of that from the corporate media, which wouldn't write something critical about their pal Frank Wolf if it was the last story on earth. Actually, come to think of it, when was the last time you saw anything at all in the Washington Post about the 10th CD race? Well, don't be surprised if you never do. That is, until the obligatory Post endorsement of "moderate" (yes, the Post is largely responsible for pushing this false meme) Wolf this fall, that is. With the media completely failing to do its job, no wonder why Wolf is able to sculpt his image to his liking through his "franked" mailings. At your expense, of course.

P.S. Unlike Wolf's votes for powerful, moneyed interests over middle class Americans, Rich Anthony supports "Main Street" over "Wall Street".  What a concept, huh?

If Bob McDonnell Applauds Something, You Know It’s Bad

Ironically, as McDonnell makes his statement about offshore oil drilling, the wind is howling. The reason I say "ironically" is that it would be far, far better to focus our energies - pun intended - on developing offshore wind than on wasting time and money with the wild goose chase of "drilling our way to energy independence."  Perhaps not ironic, but appropriate, about the blowing wind is how much hot air is being spewed around today about offshore oil drilling by people who don't know the first thing about U.S. oil reserves, world oil markets, offshore potential, or the relative cost of other alternatives like energy efficiency and clean renewables.  If they did, perhaps they'd feel differently about today's news, but god forbid they should make the effort to actually research this and think it through carefully. But no...

Anyway, let me just leave you with a few statements from environmental groups that express many of my thoughts as well.

*JR Tolbert of Environment Virginia says, "There is no need to threaten our beaches, wildlife and tourism with oil spills and pollution when we have much better solutions -- putting cleaner cars on the road today that will dramatically cut oil consumption; shifting to plug-in cars powered by the wind and the sun that use little to no oil and investing more in public transportation."  Tolbert adds, "At a time when we need to tackle both our dependence on oil and the threat of global warming pollution, this proposal takes us backward. More offshore drilling means more oil consumption and more global warming pollution."

*Glen Besa of the Virginia Sierra Club says, "There are not only the risks of spills both chronic and catastrophic but also the industrialization of our coastal communities that would either debilitate or destroy Virginia's coastal economy." Besa adds, "For just the Mid-Atlantic area alone, the annual value of these sustainable activities is almost 4 times that of oil and gas extraction.  That's $13.55 billion from industries completely dependent on clean beaches and healthy ocean waters compared to $3.7 billion from dwindling nonrenewable risky source that in Virginia's case represents a mere 6.5 days of supply before it's exhausted."

*Eileen Levandoski of the Virginia Sierra Club says, "Encroachment in the Virginia CAPES operating area, where the Navy has maintained its opposition to Virginia drilling, would provide compelling reason for Navy to move its forces to states like Florida that protect offshore training ranges from drilling. The loss of Oceana jets means a net loss of 11,000 jobs, $773 million in annual payroll, and $452 million in annual local contracting.  This loss of jobs dwarfs even the most speculative of job creation estimates from Virginia drilling."

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