Open letter to President Obama: Keep your promises
Dear President Obama,
In case you aren't sure what devastation looks like, I thought I'd show you a picture of a tree near death. Now, this tree isn't an Appalachian tree, and it isn't near any coal mines. Nevertheless, it depicts the bankrupt landscapes that result from environmental devastation. Appalachian apocalypse describes it quite well.
Throughout your campaign you promised over and over and over again that the mountaintop removal mining would stop. Every time you said "clean coal technologies" I cringed, but consoled myself that you would keep your promises.
My reasoning went this way: Because your campaign was funded by citizens, you would remain responsive to citizens.
Evidently I was wrong. Today, I was truly shocked to discover that your administration is poised to approve 42 of 48 permits to devastate one of the most beautiful areas of our country so that coal mining can continue.
Permit me to echo Jeff Biggers:
Since President Barack Obama has taken office, an estimated 300 million pounds of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil explosives have been detonated across our American mountains.
In effect: Residents in the mountaintop removal areas have been subjected to a kind of waterboarding environmental policies.
Biggers also points out that your administration will now be responsible for approving more applications for this than were approved in the entire duration of the Bush Administration.
I have to ask this: Who got to you? What made you decide it was okay to devastate the Appalachian mountains in some twisted bow to the coal mining companies? I know that Appalachia wasn't exactly friendly to you in the primaries or the election, but for a man who calls for fair-minded discussion, this decision -- this green light for destruction -- runs exactly counter to what you have promised. It hurts the poor and needy to the benefit of the coal mine operators. It destroys an incredibly beautiful part of our country. It certainly doesn't promote the development of alternative energy resources.
If you don't want to listen to me, listen to Al Gore:
Mountaintop mining is an atrocity. It is an outrage. My wife Tipper and I give out an award at the Nashville Film Festival every year for best documentary on these environmental issues. This year's winner was called "Mountaintop mining" (actually, Mr. Gore, that is "Mountain Top Removal"). I learned more about it from that movie. What they do, you all know, they just chop off... then dump the detritus, the rock and the dirt, into the creeks and it just poisons the whole ecosystem. It is part and parcel of the same dysfunctional energy system that is causing global warming. It is also facilitated by the same moral blindness to the consequences of what we're doing. And by the way it's all being done in an automated way, and that's why the coal miners lost all their jobs.
So here's the deal. Maybe it's a mistake. Maybe it's really just a miscommunication, perhaps the real message was that 42 of 48 permits will be declined, with 6 considered.
I'm going to hope. Because that's what you said I should do. Hope.
I'm going to speak. Fair-mindedly. Because you said we should use fair-minded words. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt.
Please do not disappoint me. What good is health care reform, economic recovery, and the rest if we leave no world for our children worth inhabiting? What good is hope if it's met with cynical, political decision-making?
I want to believe I was right. Until now I have believed it. Show me that I jumped to the wrong conclusion by insisting that the EPA NOT approve these permits.
Yes, you can.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Update: 5/28/09 Karl Burkhart has much more to say about it here. Sign the petition. Save this resource.