Sunday, March 30, 2008

Democrats equivocate on mountaintop removal

Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both equivocate on the controversial issue of mountaintop-removal strip mining for coal in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The presidential primaries in the state where the issue is biggest, West Virginia and Kentucky, are May 13 and May 20, respectively.

Clinton told The Courier-Journal of Louisville yesterday that if elected president, she would serve as a mediator to help find solutions to the problem. She was interviewed by C-J Indiana statehouse reporter Lesley Stedman Wiedenbiener, who covered the senator's stop in New Albany, Ind., on her way to stops in Kentucky. Wiedenbiener asked, "Mountaintop mining has been a big issue in Kentucky. How would you approach that issue?"

Clinton replied, "This is one of these areas where we've got to get everybody together and come up with some solutions. I understand the argument that it's a cost-effective way to get at the coal, but I also understand and sympathize with the concerns people have about stream and river pollution, about the effects on the environment and the livelihoods of people who are in other walks of life in the economy. My administration would serve as a mediator and conciliatory presence in trying to figure out what we're going to do." For the rest of the interview, on other subjects, click here.

Clinton's position contrasted with the initially reported position of Obama, who told the anti-mountaintop-mining group Appalachian Voices in January, "Strip mining is an environmental disaster. We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains." (Read more)

But in Beckley, W.Va., last week, Obama also equivocated: "My job as president, and one of the keys of federal government, is to listen and work with local and state officials who are knowledgeable about these issues, whether it’s a governor, or a mayor, or senators, so that we can make this work properly. One thing I can promise you I won’t do, though, is I’m just going to take a bunch of contributions from the coal industry and then just do their bidding, any more than I would just listen to the environmentalists. I want to listen to everybody, get everybody’s point of view, and then make the best decision for the people of West Virginia." For a transcript by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, click here. For audio, click here.

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