Help Robert Byrd Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining

Today is all about health care, as well it should be - but I want to take a minute to look not at how we can cure sick people, but at one way we can help prevent them from getting sick in the first place. According to the NRDC, "Coal-burning power plants are the largest U.S. source of carbon dioxide pollution -- they produce 2.5 billion tons every year. Automobiles, the second largest source, create nearly 1.5 billion tons of CO2 annually."

From the Clean Water Act violations caused by mountaintop removal mining to the hurricanes and droughts that global warming will cause to the thousands of lives shortened every year by coal-fired power plants and mines, there's no two ways around it: coal kills. And yet because of the thousands of jobs coal provides in West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming, coal is also king. Legalized prostitution and drug markets would also create thousands of jobs, and yet they stay banned, as well they should. Job creation is not a valid excuse for destroying the lives of children and the future of the planet - something coal state politicians seem to have forgotten.

Until now. Politico had this jaw-dropping story yesterday:

In an early December op-ed piece released by his office -- also recorded on audio by the frail 92-year-old senator -- [Senator Robert] Byrd argued that resistance to constraints on mountaintop-removal coal mining and a failure to acknowledge that "the truth is that some form of climate legislation will likely become public policy" represent the real threat to the future of coal.

"Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry," Byrd said in the 1,161-word statement. "West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear: The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose."

In almost any other state, Byrd's remarks might not have caused such a stir. But in West Virginia, where the coal industry -- even in its currently diminished form -- accounts for 30,000 jobs and more than $3.5 billion in gross annual product and provides roughly half of all American coal exports, according to the state coal association, his statement reverberated across the political landscape.

Earlier this month, I suggested donating to the Senate campaign of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway as a way to help stop mountaintop removal mining, given that his primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, is an unabashed supporter of the method that creates floods and destroys drinking water. I've made my (small) contribution; have you?

Here's another, easier way you can help stop mountaintop removal mining. A new Sierra Club action alert says that the Interior Department is poised to reverse some Bush-era coal regulations but is facing pressure from the coal industry and asks readers to send the Department a public comment urging them to proceed with strengthening the rules. Please take the ten seconds to forward the Sierra Club's comments to the Department, or to write your own.

The Department of Interior and its Office of Surface Mining have publicly stated that they intend to revise the "Stream Buffer Zone Rule," a decades-old prohibition on surface mining activities within 100 feet of flowing streams, which was gutted by the Bush Administration.

But Big Coal is already pressuring the Obama Administration to keep the destructive Bush policies in place. We need your help to flood the Department of Interior with messages supporting the restoration of these necessary safeguards.

Interior Secretary Salazar needs to hear from you before the December 30th deadline for public comments.

Communities throughout the Appalachian region suffer daily from contaminated drinking water, increased flooding, and a decimated landscape resulting from the damage and destruction wreaked on thousands of miles of streams by mountaintop-removal coal mining.  Reinstating and enforcing the 100 foot prohibition in the Stream Buffer Zone rule will rein in the reckless mining that has ravaged Appalachia.

Tags: Climate change, coal, Environment, Jack Conway, Ken Salazar, KY-Sen, mountaintop removal mining, Robert Byrd, Sierra Club, West Virginia (all tags)

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