Coal Tattoo


Coal industry lobbyists must be pretty worried about the possibilities for passage by Congress of the Appalachian Restoration Act. The National Mining Association yesterday sent out an alert asking its members and supporters to contact lawmakers and voice opposition to the bill:

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee could soon vote on legislation introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) that could eliminate or severely restrict all types of coal mining.

ACT now and contact your Senators and urge them to oppose the so-called “Appalachian Restoration Act” (S. 696).

This bill jeopardizes the future of domestic coal mining and will saddle American consumers and businesses with massive energy price hikes.  Hundreds of thousands of mining jobs could be lost and many projects intended to stimulate the economy will never be brought to fruition.

ACT now and urge Congress to reject misguided and ill-informed efforts to prohibit mining practices that create good American jobs and help power our homes and businesses with abundant and affordable domestic energy.

Carol Raulston, spokeswoman for NMA, told me yesterday that her group had heard reports that  the bill might come up for a vote last week, but that the vote was postponed. Oliver Bernstein of the Sierra Club told me his group expects action on the measure sometime in early 2010.

The legislation–  a mere two pages long — would remove “excess spoil” (the stuff that used to be the mountains) from surface coal mines from the definition of “fill material” that can be approved for dumping into streams under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Supporters say the legislation would “sharply reduce” mountaintop removal mining.

I don’t know if Sen. Robert C. Byrd was referring to this legislation or not when he recently said that mountaintop removal “has a diminishing constituency in Washington,” that there is there is “strong bi-partisan opposition in Congress to the mountaintop removal method of mining” coal, or that “most members of Congress, like most Americans, oppose the practice.” But Byrd is not a sponsor of this legislation.

And remember that Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said not long ago that he’s not seeking a legislative fix to the Obama administration’s crackdown on mountaintop removal because he’s worried opening up the Clean Water Act to amendment would end up making things tougher on coal, not easier.

This is just one of the many coal-related issues we can expect to see generating interest and controversy going into 2010 … so stay tuned.