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January 07, 2009

Stopping the Coal Rush and Mountaintop Removal Mining: A Clean Slate

This blog is co-written by Bruce Nilles and Mary Anne Hitt, director and deputy director of the Sierra Club's National Coal Campaign

We are all thrilled that President-Elect Obama’s inauguration is coming up so quickly – we’re excited by the new possibilities for the U.S. to jump-start a clean energy economy, fight global warming, and to clean up and protect the environment. On day one of his administration, Obama can take long-overdue steps to put the nation on a clean energy path and finally address the most serious impacts of coal, including mountaintop removal mining. Between now and Inauguration day, we need your help to deliver that message.

The Obama Administration will release its energy agenda soon after Inauguration Day, and we here at the Sierra Club have created a quick and extremely effective “To Do” list for them. These are four steps they can take on the first day that will make a tremendous difference, setting the bar for the Administration’s work on energy and climate change issues - and they wouldn’t require Congressional action at all.

Taking these steps would give the U.S. a ‘Clean Slate’ on energy and global warming issues. One of the steps is for Obama to direct his EPA to end irresponsible mountaintop removal mining by stopping coal companies from dumping rock and waste into valleys and streams.

The need for action is urgent. If Obama does not act, the Bush Administration’s eleventh-hour changes to mining rules will make it even easier for coal companies to obliterate mountains in Appalachia. And with over 100 proposed coal plants in the pipeline now, if Obama does not regulate CO2 as part of his energy plan, then state and federal agencies may soon commit the nation to up to 488 million tons of new CO2 emissions annually (equal to 100 million cars).

On the campaign trail, President-elect Obama pledged to address the destruction caused by mountaintop removal coal mining. Obama can fulfill that commitment by restoring the original definition of ‘fill material’ under the Clean Water Act, which was weakened by the Bush Administration in 2002 in order to make it easier for coal companies to dump rock, debris, and other waste from mountaintop removal mines into valleys, burying streams.

To date, coal companies in Appalachia have blown up 475 mountains and buried over 1,200 miles of streams with mountaintop removal coal mining. This coal provides approximately 4% of our nation’s electricity, a small percentage that could easily be supplied by conservation, efficiency, and clean energy

By ending mountaintop removal coal mining on day one in office, President-Elect Obama would be making a tremendous and necessary move to protect Appalachian communities and the environment, as well as a taking a stand on clean and safe energy.

We hope you will join us in asking President-Elect to adopt our Clean Slate Agenda by taking action on our website, where you can also read up on the other three “To Do’s” on that list, which include ending the rush to build new coal-fired power plants, allowing states to set limits on global warming pollution from cars, and committing to real carbon emission reductions.

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