Friday, November 27, 2020
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Will GOP Shut Down Government Over Mountaintop Removal Mining?

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We already knew House Republican leadership might be willing to shut down the government to de-fund family planning & block enforcement of the Clean Air Act. But in a surprise turn, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) now says it looks like the GOP might be willing to furlough nearly a million federal workers to keep blowing up mountains:
"Curiously enough, mountaintop mining was put on the table late in the game. Who knew that was going to lead to the shutdown of the federal government?" Conrad said on CNN.
The move comes on the same week that over 150 citizens with the Alliance for Appalachia converged on Capitol Hill for the Week in Washington to end mountaintop removal:
Mountaintop removal mining relies on heavy explosives to blast off several hundred feet of mountain to expose coal seams, and has impacted over 500 mountains in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee to date. According to the EPA, the practice has also buried or destroyed more than 2,000 miles of streams in those states.

Residents who live in proximity to mountaintop removal mine sites complain of orange and black tap water flowing from their faucets, breathing in coal dust floating in the air outside their homes and higher-than-normal cancer rates.

"If we are serious about moving America toward a clean energy future, banning mountaintop removal must be the first step," says Jane Branham of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. "For our economy, for our health, and for our heritage-we need this administration and this Congress to act."

Watch my interview with Matt Wasson of Appalachian Voices:

A “Dear Joe” Letter to Sen. Manchin on Coal

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Appalachia Rising: More than 100 Arrested at White House Demanding End to Mountaintop RemovalJW Randolph of Appalachian Voices has a message for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) - "Arch Coal has a plan, and it is not you":
Well, I'm not sure how it happened. But it seems like southern West Virginia has survived its first post-apocalyptic, economy-annihilating, way-of-life-ending weekend after EPA heroically vetoed Arch Coal's Spruce Mine permit last Thursday. As bad as Joe Manchin and Nick Rahall said life was going to be after the veto, myself and most folks in West Virginia ended up having a pretty decent weekend, all things considered. Heck, we even learned that despite the snow many if not most nearby residents are celebrating EPA's veto of Spruce #1 mine.

Which leads me to wonder...has anyone ever been so loud and proud about shoving their head in the sand and ignoring the cries of their constituents and colleagues, the consensus of scientists, and the pleading of health professionals as loudly as Joe Manchin and Nick Rahall? Senator Manchin certainly hasn't had a very positive first few weeks in the United States Senate. In fact, despite not taking too many big votes, he has found that his actions have already left him with a lot to apologize for. He set another high bar last week when EPA announced its decision on Spruce. Not only was his rhetoric irresponsible, but his information is just plain incorrect - particularly in asserting that EPA was "retroactively" vetoing this permit.

The whole post is long but definitely worth reading.

Corporate Values, Ethics, and Consequences

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The overly optimistic oil spill recovery projections made by BP are part of a routine charade corporations use to shift real production costs from the books and immediate consumers to a vague future debtor. It ignores risk, assigning low cost to potential consequences on a wager with others' futures.

The failure to capture the costs of this particular unassigned risk are dramatic and, in this case, quantifiable. Further, the casual dismissal of potential responsibility and the attempt to fix it on others is transparent. Both Marine Spill Response Corporation and National Response Corporation were set up to be the fall guys in the event of a less tragic event where BP would be positioned to claim it had been misled about the capabilities, dust itself off, and carry on.

It is much more difficult to fix costs when, for instance, mountaintop removal is used to mine coal that will produce poisonous pollutants as an end product. With this oil spill, the damage is impossible to disguise and easier to assess. Other industries that create waste that will either one day have to be cleaned up or will create permanent wastelands while reaping exorbitant margins by shifting real cost are harder to indict. Consumers who enjoy the benefit of such arrangements through lower prices at the counter are just as irresponsible as the corporations. But theirs are often acts of omission while the corporations' are acts of commission.

The BP obfuscation continues in the stories of skimming efforts. While it reports that more than 671,428 barrels of oil-water mixture have been captured, they are remiss in failing to mention that 90% of the mixture is water. In the end, $20 billion may not cover making the Gulf region whole. And equally as dangerous is the prospect that BP may be the victim of a corporate raid by our close ally, Libya. Imagine if the long term cost of this spill had been included in the price of a gallon of gasoline in anticipation of risk.

Bottom line: if the true cost of oil production or coal production, or battery production, or whatever, were captured by the producers and passed to the consumers, the free market could function more closely to the ideal manner described by the Chicago acolytes. The actual cost of energy would make the green alternative dynamic and profitable in a world where truth has value.  

Dave Matthews Rips Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

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With mountaintop removal, it's gone to this whole different level of this sort of aggressive, ambitious destruction of the landscape that they know it's wrong. Massey knows it's wrong, they know they're polluting the water, they know they're polluting the air, they know they're polluting the people that are working there, destroying the landscape so they're doing it as fast as possible. And it just needs to be stopped, because it's sort of unforgivable behavior...[West Virginia]'s like no other place on the planet. We allow greed to have the loudest voice far too often...it's all about profit...

So true, thanks to Dave Matthews for saying this!  I'd just add that mountaintop removal coal mining is a highly capital-intensive process that is greatly destructive of one more thing: jobs.  Which is why anyone who lives in Coal Country should strongly oppose mountaintop removal coal mining -- because it ruins their communities AND steals their jobs, all to deliver huge profits to a big corporation, often headquartered in another state.

Also, check out MusicSavesMountains.org.

Cuccinelli Predicts All Americans to Die

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The government will tax every building at $125,000 per year until no one has any money to buy food, at which point everyone will die out and there will be no people left.

I'm pretty sure that's what Ken Cuccinelli is saying here, although it's really hard to sort it all out -- and I say that as someone who works on environment & energy issues every day. I think Cuccinelli starts with new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on mountaintop removal coal mining, confuses that with lies about a clean energy & climate bill that would actually create 1.7 million jobs & smushes it all together with lying about EPA global warming regulations under the Clean Air Act to say they'll apply not to industrial polluters emitting at least 25,000 tons of CO2 a year but instead to any building Ken Cuccinelli points to. I have no idea where he got $125,000 -- I think he made up a big scary number on the spot.

In other words, Ken Cuccinelli lies so much, even Ken Cuccinelli can't keep straight what Ken Cuccinelli is lying about at any given moment.

“Coal Has Not Been Good for West Virginia.”

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West Virginia blogger Debra Dean Murphy has an op-ed in today's Charleston Gazette taking on the myth that her state owes whatever prosperity it has to coal:
Lest I be misunderstood, let me say, as clearly as I can, that I don't in any way denigrate the risky work that coal miners do, nor the sense of accomplishment they rightly feel in their vocation.

But here's the thing: I worry, at least a little, when generations of West Virginians - whether they're connected to coal mining or not - absorb this notion that they are beleaguered and put-upon, the most-derided in our culture, and then turn that woundedness into a kind of guarded bravado that refuses to reckon with some hard, uncomfortable truths.

To say we're proud of coal miners without acknowledging that for decades miners have been given the shaft - literally - by greedy coal companies does not serve the long-term well-being of those who do this dirty, dangerous work. And, sure, we should pray for the victims of this most recent tragedy, but we should also do the holy, pressing work of challenging an industry that enriches absentee corporate shareholders while sucking the life out of the people and places it needs for its pursuit of profit at any cost.

This latest disaster should not be one more occasion for West Virginians to turn their latent defensiveness into full-blown denial of what's really going on. Here's the truth: Coal has not been good for West Virginia. Coal has been good for corporations. After more than a century of extracting this valuable resource from the earth, the considerable profits it has generated have gone elsewhere.

Takes a lot of guts for someone to stand up to their state's status quo and call it like it is. Read more from Debra at her blog.