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Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower
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Stopping the Desecration of Mountaintop Removal


Obama spaketh, and it was good: "We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains," he proclaimed.

And, yea, in the mountains and down through all the valleys of the ancient land of Appalachia, hearts were filled with joy, for here was a prophet of hope who was signaling that a change was coming — at last, the endtime was at hand for the brutish coal-mining method called "mountaintop removal," which is an abomination.

Even as the people rejoiced at this good news, coal barons trembled in their temples of black gold. For a decade, these mighty extractors of wealth had been allowed to accumulate unto themselves enormous profits by exploding the tops off the peaks in Appalachia, the oldest mountain range in all the land. With the top third of these awesome, forested mountains reduced to rubble, the barons used giant machines to strip out seams of coal, and then they simply shoved the rubble and toxic coal waste down the mountainsides, burying the valleys and streams below. It was a desecration — but the love of mammon made it the law of the land.

Then, behold, now the prophet became president, so he was in a position to put his words into action.

And act, he did. On May 15, it was announced that Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency had quietly approved 42 of 48 new Appalachian mining permits sought by the coal barons.

Say what? The prophet of change and hope just OK-ed more desecration by coal mining profiteers? What in the name of a mysterious God is going on here?

Politics. Politics at its weaseliest. Industry supporters point out that while Obama had expressed his concern about this detestable practice in last year's presidential race, he had not actually promised to halt it. Cute, huh?

Once he was in office, coal executives, lobbyists and other enthusiasts for bang-and-shove mining went to work on him. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and a full-throated cheerleader for whatever his state's coal industry wants, met with the head of the EPA, the chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff.

"In each of these meetings," says Rahall, "I received assurances.

The Obama administration knows that it cannot turn its back on coal."

Of course, that's not the question. There are many ways to mine coal besides blowing up the environment. The question is whether Obama will turn his back on the mountains, the people and his own integrity.

The industry rationalizes its greed in the name of creating jobs for this hard-hit region — but mountaintop removal relies on dynamite and huge machines, not workers. In fact, thousands of mining jobs have been lost as corporations switched to this method. In all of Appalachia, there are only 19,000 jobs connected to every form of surface mining — and the tiniest fraction of those are in mountaintop removal. A much brighter job future is to develop Appalachia's boundless green-energy potential — a blue-green initiative that's supposed to be one of Obama's top priorities.

The good news is that the approval of these 42 permits does not mean the debate is over, even in the White House. Some 200 other applications are pending, involving much larger projects, and it's known that top Obamans are very divided on allowing any more of this crass destruction.

This is a case where public outrage can make a difference. Obama and team snuck out the 42 permits without even notifying the public, but they won't be able to ambush us on the other applications. Rather than throwing up our hands in disgust at their first action, now is the time for us to flex some grass-roots political muscle.

To let him know we expect no more weaseling on his pledge to stop "blowing the tops off mountains," call the White House operator and ask for Nancy Sutley. She heads Obama's Council on Environmental Quality and needs to hear that We the People give a damn: (202) 456-1414.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




9 Comments | Post Comment
Appalachia can't stand anymore of the progress and prosperity thanks to the new and improved, clean, green, hybrid coal industry and mountaintop removal. Wise County, Virginia is being bombed, blasted and bulldozed right into 3rd world America.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Tim Mullins
Wed Jun 3, 2009 2:28 AM
Well it seems he spaketh, but he spaketh first from the heart since anyone with a heart knows that blowing the tops off of mountains and bulldozing into valleys is an affront to anyone with a brain. Then, he acteth without spakethen by slyly pushing this through, and that was an act of wily political machinations coming from weakneth.

To destroy a mountain range for King Coal for a handful of jobs is pure lunacy, and if he keeps doing stuff like this he should be banished to the Land of Nod for a long respite in the desert after his term is over,

But the truth is, we need to speaketh, speaketh loud in the tongue of truth to power, and call the number our good buddy Hightower posted and call all our congressional representatives too and awaketh them to the fact that they were elected to server the people not the corporations who fuel their fires on greed.

Call now and so be it, we can save what bit of Eden is left here on earth in the great Appalachians.

Comment: #2
Posted by: Mike Carano
Wed Jun 3, 2009 5:09 AM
Seriously, you have to wonder how many jobs could be created if we were using those mountains for green energy wind propellers. You might think that would create a heck of a lot more jobs while preserving the beauty of those states being devastated by senseless greed. I have travelled a number of times through West Virginia, and it is one beautiful state. I know it is economically depressed, but maybe thinking big and bailing out the working people there by creating Green Jobs would end support of the coal cutthroats.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Mike Carano
Wed Jun 3, 2009 5:16 AM
There's renewable energy in them-thar hills. It's called CAPE, and doesn't require that any more mountain tops be removed in order to be harvested and converted into electricity. All than needs to be done is to build an Atmospheric Vortex Engine on top of one of the already affected mountains. Ref:

By building this, Appalachia can benefit from the availability of low-cost electricity for manufacturing, etc., or enjoy income from electricity exporting and low-carbon credits.

If you want to know more about CAPE--see and click on capeclass tab.
Comment: #4
Posted by: thermo_man
Wed Jun 3, 2009 8:16 AM
They sounded good didn't they....well, now it is reality time. There IS NO DRILLING GOING ON, that is what the taxpayers asked for, there is no NUCLEAR ENERGY....that would be what the voters were asking for. NO, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE ALTERNATIVE WINDMILLS AND BLOW THE TOPS OFF OF MOUNTAINS....GREAT!!!
So much for CHANGE, that is what people that voted for this President voted for CHANGE!!
Have you gotten it? I DON'T THINK SO!!
Comment: #5
Posted by: Elizabeth Hayes
Thu Jun 4, 2009 4:42 AM
Let Obama send HIS children to live with the aftermath of Mountaintop Removal. Let THEM breathe, drink, and eat the lead, arsenic, mercury, selenium and other heavy metals released by blowing up the mountains. Does he think HIS kids are more precious than our kids? Does he think the Appalachian Mountain children are not worth protecting?
Until now, the genocide by our government against Appalachia was a Big Business/Repub/ assault exacerbated by Bush on these helpless people (yeah, yeah, I know Byrd and The Prince have a "D" behind their name, blah, blah, blah) but with those 42 permits, Obama bought this Crime Against Humanity for his own.
He is a liar, a sneak, and a cheat, but now we know who we're fighting, which is crucial to effecting a successful battle. My bad, I voted for him, but McCain would have done the same thing; politics as usual. When money talks, politicians listen.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Christine
Thu Jun 4, 2009 9:39 AM
I called the number (202) 456-1414, asked for and got Ms Sutley. When I told her what it was about, she curtly and abruptly transferred me to the Comment Line. The comment taker said that direct number for comment is 202-456-1111.
The comment taker kept asking me questions and said she had never heard of this. When I addressed the argument about jobs and the economy, and that if the president wants to create jobs he needs to ban MTR which uses giant machines instead of men and there would be plenty of jobs for miners, the woman asked me, "Do they want those jobs?" Good Lord!!!
Comment: #7
Posted by: Christine
Thu Jun 4, 2009 1:37 PM
This is just the latest dissapointing example of how Obama has hoodwinked the USA. Good lord, this is the ONE campaign promise I actually wanted him to keep.
Comment: #8
Posted by: TonyMountain
Tue Jun 9, 2009 7:09 AM
I called the White House at the number which appears in this piece and asked for Nancy Sutley. The operator refused to put me through when I told her it was concerning the president's decision to grant 42 permits for mountaintop removal. I could only get the recorded comment line. I'm underwhelmed!
Comment: #9
Posted by: Bill Leavy
Tue Jun 9, 2009 10:21 AM
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