Did you hear? Ken Salazar likes coal

April 27, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.


Maybe they were make-up quotes, to show the mining industry that he was kidding about all that stuff on how off-shore wind power could take the place of coal-fired power plants. Or maybe it was an effort to avoid the kind of backlash that forced EPA officials to issue a second news release, after media reports indicated they had issued a moratorium on mountaintop removal permits.

Or maybe it was the fact that the reporters who got to ask questions didn’t  query him at all about how the Interior Department’s plans for the buffer zone rule would really help protect the environment.

But one thing was clear from today’s brief press conference by Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: He likes coal. And he went to great lengths to assure anyone who was listening (especially coalfield politicians and mining operators?) that the action by his department wasn’t going to block any permits or stop one single coal anywhere from being mined.

The public has no idea how Salazar plans to interpret the 1983 buffer zone rule he is hoping to put back in place  by throwing out a Bush administration regulatory change.

And we don’t really know exactly what Salazar and his staff think is wrong with the rule — What about it is legally deficient? What about it doesn’t adequately protect waterways and communities? Let alone, what about it doesn’t pass Mr. Secretary’s smell test?

But by golly, we know how much Salazar loves coal … take a look at his responses to several different questions:

1. “Coal was and will remain an important part of our national energy portfolio.”

2.  “We will continue to need coal as a significant part of our energy portfolio. We need to do everything we can to research and deploy advanced coal technologies. You are not going to shut off the 50 percent of electricity that today comes from coal.”

3. “It is important to look for how we can continue to use coal in a way that deals with the carbon dioxide emissions that come from coal. If we can figure out a way to deal with the carbon dioxide emissions, we will use a very significant amount of coal.”

Got it?

In Salazar’s defense, I thought maybe this was all just a response to the questions from reporters, who focused on wanting to know if any of this crazy environmental protection stuff was going to slow down coal production.

But then I looked at Salazar’s prepared statement for the press conference, and it included four paragraphs (our of 16 total, if you don’t count, “With that, I’d be happy to take questions) that focused on showing how much the Interior Department loves coal.

Maybe the decision on how the buffer zone will be enforced will wait until Obama and Salazar have someone in charge over at OSM. But that’s another story …

5 Responses to “Did you hear? Ken Salazar likes coal”

  1. Montanus says:

    Ken, I think you are being a little too harsh on Secretary Salazar. For any Administration, let alone one so wet behind the ears, to roll back the status quo (even modestly) on a major regulation affecting the coal industry is actually quite progressive and at least as bold, if not more so, than many actions we saw under the Clinton or Carter Administrations — both of which continually kowtowed to a cantankerous coal caucus in Congress, as you know better than most. For a cabinet Secretary to suggest that the coal industry should be subjected to a “smell test” is to have one of the highest appointed officials in the land suggesting that the industry has the ability to be stinky. Don’t let his several carefully measured affirmative statements about coal overshadow this far more significant suggestion about the capacity for stench here. If the Administration proposes to unmake the status quo whenever the coal industry appears stinky to a fair-minded water rights lawyer like Ken Salazar, then I’d say you’re overreacting to suggest that they are too far Pollyanna on coal.

    That said, it’s puzzling and disturbing that they didn’t grant you better access. In the future, they should definitely do better on that, since you are most certainly the nation’s premier reporter on mountaintop removal.

  2. Mary Lee Scalf says:

    The reinstatement of any regulation that presents a threat to mountaintop removal will be a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the buffer regulation will be put into effect and signal the beginning of the end of mountaintop removal. We have coal, we need coal and our miners should be able to mine coal in a safe deep mine enviroment. Hopefully in time coal mining can be put to rest in favor of green energy in southern Appalachia.

  3. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    The direct issue here is that they won’t say how they’re going to enforce it — and NOT enforcing it amounts to keeping the status quo, really. So, this announcement was nothing of substance. Just smoke and mirrors at this point.

    If they would come out and say — we really think this is a problem, but we’re still sorting out how to deal with it — that would be one thing.

    But that’s not what they’re doing.


  4. […] Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made it clear he “likes coal,” the Interior Department “said on Monday it will try to overturn a Bush administration […]

  5. […] to assure anyone who was listening (especially coalfield politicians and mining operators? …Read more…Blogs @ The Charleston Gazette – » Did you hear? Ken Salazar likes … Amazon.com […]

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