Another expiration date has come for a Barack Obama promise, and this one will enrage environmentalists as much as it relieves coal producers — at least for the moment. The Washington Post editorial board commends Obama for allowing the process of “mountaintop removal” for coal exploration and mining to continue, calling a pragmatic decision. Note, though, how the Post tiptoes around Obama’s previously-announced opposition to the practice:
DURING THE campaign and after his election, President Obama left environmentalists in coal country with the distinct impression that he was going to do away with mountaintop removal mining in the Appalachians. That’s where coal companies expose coal seams by stripping the dirt and rock covering them or blasting the tops of mountains to bits with dynamite and then, under legally defined conditions, dump the debris into valleys. It’s a particularly destructive practice, but it’s legal. And it will remain so under a memorandum of understanding the Obama administration will announce today. …
While Mr. Obama may have wanted voters to believe otherwise, he never flat-out said he would end this brand of mining.
Interestingly, Obama himself provides some evidence to refute this defense, which sounds like it came directly from Robert Gibbs. A quick Google search on the topic brings us to the Obama campaign website and a speech he gave in August 2007, in Lexington, Kentucky:
He said the country also needs a forward-thinking energy policy, and he alluded to his disapproval of the coal mining process of mountaintop removal.
“We’re tearing up the Appalachian Mountains because of our dependence on fossil fuels,” he said, sparking loud applause.
Note that the campaign website never bothered to note any disagreement about the report of his disapproval of mountaintop removal; the article is featured without comment at all.
Some Obama supporters will disagree with that defense as well, especially the Appalachian Voices site that interviewed Obama specifically on this topic as he started his presidential campaign in January 2007. Clearly seeking to run to Hillary Clinton’s left, Obama convinced them he meant to end the practice of mountaintop removal:
When Appalachian Voices asked Senator Obama about MTR, and whether he supported or opposed strip mining, he said:
Strip-mining is an environmental disaster!
The telegenic Presidential hopeful did not stop there. He went on to adress mountatintop removal by saying:
We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal, than simply blowing the tops off mountains.
This is a Senator from a state that contains a LOT of (high-sulfur) coal. The fact that big fish like Obama are trending our way is fantastic.
It used to be fantastic, but then Obama got Hope … and changed.
The change is, as the Post notes, the right decision, but the coal industry should not be lulled into complacency by it. The decision will allow coal-state Democrats to paint Obama’s climate-change policies as centrist, but the imposition of cap-and-trade aims to make the mining obsolete by putting the coal operators out of business. Rather than fight a battle over mountaintop removal and cut the tail off of the dog, figuratively speaking, Obama plans to put the pup out of its misery altogether. I’m hoping that dog won’t hunt on Capitol Hill regardless of this decision.