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White House to continue allowing mountaintop mining

June 11, 2009

The White House continues to disappoint environmentalists hoping for a maximalist line on climate change and energy issues. 
 
The Washington Post reports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to allow mountaintop coal mining to continue.  The issue is an emotive one for environmental groups since it involves removing surface soil and blasting tops from mountains to recover coal, often dumping the overburden into neighbouring valleys, causing substantial changes to the landscape (or damage, depending on your view point). 
 
Mountaintop mining projects need multiple permits, including from the federal government.  EPA’s announcement earlier this year that it would review all 200 pending permit applications over six Appalachian states encouraged some environmental groups that the administration would declare a moratorium, to demonstrate its commitment to conservation and its opposition to increased use of coal as a source of energy high in CO2 emissions. 
 
But coal is plentiful and does not have to be imported.  It is too important an energy source for the administration to agree to a “no more coal” strategy as some green groups would prefer.  It is vital to the economies of states in Appalachia that the administration needs to retain for President Barack Obama’s re-election bid in 2012, and from which he needs support in the Senate to reach 60 votes to pass climate change legislation to establish a cap and trade programme. 
 
So the administration is backing away from an outright prohibition towards continued mountaintop mining, albeit under even more strict conditions designed to placate environmental groups.

  • About John

    "John joined Reuters in 2008 as one of its first financial columnists, specialising in commodities and energy. While his main focus is on oil markets, he has written broadly on the emergence of commodities as an asset class, regulatory issues and macroeconomic themes. Before joining Reuters, John spent seven years as a senior analyst for Sempra Commodities (now part of JP Morgan) covering base metals and crude oil. Previously, he worked as an analyst on world trade, banking and financial regulation for consultancy Oxford Analytica."
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