This morning’s sessions over at the West Virginia Coal Association’s Annual Mining Symposium didn’t disappoint, that’s for sure. Especially if you — like most of the industry crowd there — can get worked up about just about anything that criticizes President Obama.
I’m not sure which was the highlight … but here are my two nominations:
— My good friend Ben Bailey, the Charleston lawyer who represents the state in its taxpayer-funded lawsuit to block the U.S. EPA’s crackdown on mountaintop removal.
Ben hauled out an oldie but a goodie — quoting the lines from Isaiah 40:4:
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Ben cited this as proof of a “Biblical admonition to move earth.” But of course, as I’m sure Ben knows, some versions of the Bible talk about every valley being “exalted” — which I’m not sure really means burying it under millions of tons of waste rock and dirt from a mountaintop removal mine.
— Or, Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association. First, Mike at least twice referred to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson as having been head of the state EPA in Delaware. I don’t think I misheard him, and perhaps I’m mistaken, but I think he meant to say she was head of the state EPA in New Jersey.
But the best one — and perhaps this gives Mike the edge over Ben — is that he hauled out the old, out-of-context attack that Sarah Palin tried to use against then-candidate Obama just days before the 2008 election, turning Obama’s simple explanation of how cap-and-trade works into proof of a plan by Obama to bankrupt the coal industry. (See our 2008 coverage of this issue, including a transcript of the comments, here). Not for nothing, but Mike didn’t bother to quote this part of what Obama said at the time:
The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. I have said that, for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying that if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way we should pursue it, that I think is the right approach.
Anyway, probably the most interesting bit of real news to come out today was the discussion by John Craynon of Virginia Tech of the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science, or ARIES. Here’s the official description of that project, posted on the university’s website:
The purpose of ARIES is to engage in detailed studies of the environmental impacts of the mining, gas, and energy sectors in Appalachia, focusing on both upstream (mining, drilling, and processing) and downstream (water, land, and air) issues. To meet that purpose, ARIES will conduct scientific inquiry and research, foster publication and contribute to the relevant literature, and engage in outreach efforts to share and disseminate results. Initially, work carried out by ARIES will focus on the coal mining industry.
But what caught my attention were comments by Craynon that one of the first projects is a set of reports that aim to see if there “different interpretations” of the data than those presented in the papers published by West Virginia University’s Michael Hendryx. Hmmm … you guessed it, here’s what else I found on the ARIES website:
Several companies have become industrial affiliate members of ARIES. These are: Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, Cliffs Natural Resources, CSX, MEPCO, Natural Resource Partners, Norfolk Southern, Patriot Coal Corporation, and TECO. Other industrial partners will likely be added in the future. These partners have provided $15 million over the next 5 years to fund the work of ARIES.