Coal Project Is Bellweather for Obama Mining Policy

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A West Virginia project may show how serious the Obama administration is about rolling back the environmental policies of its predecessor.

The Spruce 1 mountaintop-removal mining project has been hotly disputed for years, and now there are signs that Obama's Environmental Protection Agency may tilt the scales against the approval of the project.

"The Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit in 2007 to blast 400 feet off the hilltops here to expose the rich coal seams, disposing of the debris in the upper reaches of six valleys, including Pigeonroost Hollow," reports Erik Eckholm in The New York Times. "But the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration, in a break with President George W. Bush's more coal-friendly approach, has threatened to halt or sharply scale back the project known as Spruce 1. The agency asserts that the project would irrevocably damage streams and wildlife and violate the Clean Water Act." If Spruce 1 is stopped, it would come as a welcome move for environmentalists, who have been waiting for Obama to push back on former President Bush's policies.

In a 2009 study of Appalachian coal mining, Colorado State political scientists Charles Davis and Robert Duffy found that the Bush administration "effectively achieved his energy production goals by combining the use of discretionary authority with staff controls, executive orders, and regulatory initiatives to lessen industry compliance costs with environmental regulatory requirements."

Image: Mary Workman, who waged a long fight against Hanna Coal Company, and was photographed during the EPA's photo archival project, Documerica. Erik Calonius/National Archives and Records Administration

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