Ripping Down Mountains for a Dime

Mountaintop removal explosive blast in Eunice, W.V. 7 July 2004.
Mountaintop removal explosive blast in Eunice, W.V. 7 July 2004. | Source

Ripping down mountains to get a bit of coal is like cutting down tress to get a few eggs from a nest. In short, it is insane. Republicans know this; they just, for whatever reason, don’t care. Maybe they or someone they know or both will get rich from it.

At any rate, in the absence of truth, their efforts can only rely upon irrational emotional appeals, propaganda, pure fiction, and censorship of opposition voices. No better example of this can be found than the recent hearing on the Stream Buffer Zone Rule in the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, held on September 26. The biased title of the hearing, “Jobs at Risk: Community Impacts of the Obama Administration’s Effort to Rewrite the Stream Buffer Zone Rule,” is a pretty good indication of the tone and purpose of the hearing.

And if the title wasn’t enough, the composition of the committee and group of witnesses was a further indicator. Only two representatives were on the committee—both pro-coal Republicans—and eight of the ten witnesses were pro-coal politicians or members of the industry. The remaining two witnesses were community members speaking on behalf of the people who are affected by the regulations. No one from any environmental organization was present and no Democrat was sitting on the committee.

NWI

The National Wilderness Institute's supposed website nwi.org doesn't exist. The only information I found about it was here. Members of the organization include Larry 'lewd conduct' Craig and Richard Pombo, one of the most anti-environmental congressman of the past two decades.


Propaganda

To whip up some environmental street cred, Representative Doug Lamborn, to start the hearing, invoked a phony environmental manifesto, the “American Conservation Ethic" (I can not find the document anywhere anymore), written by a phony environmental organization, the National Wilderness Institute (NWI). While it sounds legitimate, the NWI is simply a group of environmentally hostile conservative politicians; and their ridiculous conservation ethic is just a “wise-use” manifesto (AKA exploit nature as much as you can get away with).

In his opening statement, Mr. Lamborn mentioned that the first principle of the "American Conservation Ethic" is that “People are the most important resource” and it is something that “we should all take to heart.” Okay, Mr. Lamborn, you first. And you can start by listening to the people at the hearing who will actually be affected by the regulations, rather than giving preferential treatment to the coal executives who only stand to lose money. You could also have invited some actual workers, who are supposedly going to lose their jobs. Perhaps you could address some of the 16 peer-reviewed scientific stuidies Bo Webb offered that demonstrate the health consequences to the people who live beneath the mountain killers.

Republican Fairy Tales

The testimony and comments offered by the pro-coal witnesses and committee members were all essentially the same: accusations that the Obama administration is rewriting rules, criticisms of overstepping executive authority, and of course that the regulations will cost bazillions of jobs. Pretty much the first set of talking points that initiates anything Republicans say about anything these days. Of course it is all pure fiction.

The Stream Buffer Zone Rule (SBZR) has been around since Reagan. It was in fact recently rewritten, just not by Obama. Bush rewrote it just before leaving office, in a way that afforded fewer protections to the environment. Obama, simply wants to take it back to be more in line with the original rule.

Representative Bill Johnson offered a wonderful story in his opening statement. One in which the Obama administration stymied by the courts went ‘shopping’ for an environmental organization to file a lawsuit against the rule. “Collusion” was the way Mr. Johnson characterized it. In bizarro Republican world this story makes perfect sense, since time has no meaning for them. For the rest of us, though, the story falls apart since the environmental organization lawsuits came well before the administration received that court opinion.

To support their claims about job losses, references were made to an unpublished report, prepared by a fired contractor, written about a rule that isn’t even finalized. Will jobs be lost? Maybe, but there isn’t any evidence either way, and even if there were, a cost-only analyses is completely useless (though Republicans still seem to love them).

Bo Webb

Mr. Webb, a West Virginian, has been fighting for his community for a decade. In his testimony (written submission here) he offered 16 peer-reviewed articles about the health consequences of mountaintop removal mining.

Censorship

Then finally at the end of the hearing, two community members spoke out about the consequences that blowing up mountains have on their communities. Testimony from actual community members would seem to hold special value and indeed it was the only testimony which received applauase form the assembly. Yet despite virtually every other witness having been asked a question, not a single question was asked of the two community advocates. And when Bo Webb asked to respond to something another panel member had said, Chairman Lamborn suddenly ended the hearing, saying, “I'm afraid our times up”

To add even further insult to the two community members, the committee then published a press release for the hearing which summarized the testimony of most of the witnesses, but completely ignored the comments of the two community advocates.

The whole spectacle was shameful. The fact that no Democrat bothered to show up to be an oppositional voice is equally shameful.

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Comments 9 comments

American Romance profile image

American Romance 5 years ago from America

How often do you or any other America drive by unsightly coal mines? I bet NEVER! This is a huge country! We have millions of square miles of wonderful forest and mountians! Why throw a fit over something so miniscule? How many work there and feed families, while the rest are unemployed? Ever check to see what happens to strip mines after they have been robbed of their resource? I have seen great pics of cool golf courses, lakes etc.! STop being a silly liberal and get on the American bandwagon!


junkseller profile image

junkseller 5 years ago from Michigan Author

The million or so acres of land that will be stripped by mountaintop removal mining is not "miniscule" by anyone's standards. This type of mining is having a very real affect on people who do live and drive by these operations every day.

My "fit" if you want to call it such was at how grossly lopsided and imbalanced the hearing was about what is a very important issue. I haven't in any way said job losses and industry concerns shouldn't be considered, but there are community concerns, health concerns, AND environmental concerns that deserve at least equal time.

Natural landscapes have value. Whatever they are replaced with, they no longer have the environmental value they once had. Only a fool trades mountains for golf courses without considering the overall impact of such a trade.

Bo Webb, the only person at the hearing who actually brought some evidence, and actually lives within house-shaking range of mountain bombing is a Vietnam vet, who has spent a decade fighting for his community on this issue. I don't really care if you call me a silly liberal, but Mr. Webb I think deserves much better than that (as do all of the other people living in this region that are impacted by mountaintop removal mining).


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

"People are the most important resource" - that statement is so wrong ... can people live without the trees, the rivers and lakes that are around? What a bunch of nonsense ... people are just one little part of this Universe and we would do well if we respected otherness. We could not survive without many of the things people take for granted.

Now, it is my pleasure to respond to Mr. AmericanRomance's comment. I wouldn't leave Hub-pages just because of his writing alone!

You are correct in saying that: "We have millions of square miles of wonderful forest and mountains!" Let's keep it that way by staying away from the use of coal. Thus, stop all coal mining operations - and not only in the United States but world-wide.

I don't think the person who wrote this article threw a fit at all. I'll give you an example of what "throwing a fit" would be like. If I were to say something like:

"How ignorant can some people be, by creating such damage to this planet? Perhaps some people work like viruses and go around destroying things ... or perhaps they are so bloody ignorant in their thinking that they cannot see that they are creating their own extinction and the extinction of many other things in this world.

Such people can be considered as matter of human security. Their actions can be seen as an attack on this planet and on human existence. They may very well be a danger to the continuation of our specie and this planet due to their ignorance, greed and selfishness. As such they should be neutralized."

Now, that is a little more like a fit, although I was pretty mild there too ...

"I have seen great pics of cool golf courses" - Of course you would mention golf-courses ... because you golf. For you hitting an egg-sized ball, with a metal stick of sorts is important in life. And it would be fine by me too if it wasn't done at the cost of other people's energy.

I will explain how golf courses are morally wrong.

When you have over thirty-thousand children dying each day due to hunger-related diseases world wide, to spend money on golf-courses is just wrong. It is also wrong because all the land which is used to make these "cool golf courses" as you say, could be used to produce food for the countless starving people. But no, you need to go hit a ball in a little whole and take-up thousands and thousands of squared miles to do so ... I do wish you enjoy it knowing that other people are starving because land which can be used for agriculture is scarce.

Go ahead and call me a "silly liberal" now and not respond with any sort of logical arguments or facts. Just keep going on with your passionate, irrational comments. I am gladly waiting for them so I can tell you once again that I am not a liberal and I could care less if the Democratic Party vanished out of existence tomorrow.

Cheers!

And thank you for this blog Junkseller, I appreciate it.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

"hole" not "whole" ... lol

Your comments always blow my mind away Mr. American Romance ... can you please start traveling - pick-it up as a new hobby and avoid resorts and planned guided tours when you do so. It would be the best thing you could do ...


i scribble profile image

i scribble 5 years ago

Jeukseller,

This is a great, well-written/researched hub, and I hope it gets the attention (positive) and appreciation it deserves. Keep on writing; keep on fighting!


American Romance profile image

American Romance 5 years ago from America

Lets turn it around a bit, I live in the great plains desert part of New Mexico and Texas, I notice you never write hubs about how you have destroyed our wonderful skylines with those stupid windmills? Those bastards are sitting on the top of every ridge in this part of the country! I grew up seeing a pumpjack every block and I love them to this day, I'm sure they too are an eye sore to some but they are wonderful to me! Coal is a wonderful resource, we need it, when they are done trees and grass will grow over what they took, water will fill the bottom and years from now a young boy will fish there and his granddaddy will tell him it used to be a coal mine, the boy will cherish the memory and fish there for years! The vietnam vet will be long gone and Obama will be in a nursing home getting hot soapy enemas daily by conservative nurses!


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I must say ... I do love it when Mr. American Romance does exactly what I predict ... roffl

Hey AR, you're a great example of why the United States Empire is crumbling to pieces - you should go back to school, it's never too late, really.


junkseller profile image

junkseller 5 years ago from Michigan Author

@ Mr. Happy @ i scribble

Thank you both for stopping by and for the positive comments.


junkseller profile image

junkseller 5 years ago from Michigan Author

@American Romance

I like you story, but you left off the part where the boy and granddaddy have to fish with gas-masks on and would die if they actually ate the fish they caught. Ha!

You like pumpjacks, I like windmills. I'm perfectly fine with that and I am perfectly willing as well to put my vote up free and equal against yours. That to me is the American romance. My problem with the hearing, as I have said, is that it was neither free nor equal. It was far too heavily biased in favor of the industry. I don't mind the voice of the industry. I do mind other voices not having equal time and consideration.

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