Tuesday, September 30, 2008

McCain, Obama oppose mountaintop removal

Friday's first presidential debate showed many differences between Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, but they agree on at least one thing: They want to put an end to mountaintop-removal mining of coal, reports Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette.

While campaigning in Florida, McCain was asked whether he supported "eliminating mountaintop removal mining and the practices like that." The Republican responded, "You know, I do." He went on to say that coal companies are working to become more environmentally sound, and that he supports other types of coal mining, Ward reports.

Obama told an environmental group last winter that other forms of mining need to be found, and told supporters, "We're tearing up the Appalachian Mountains because of our dependence on fossil fuel." (Mountaintop removal occurs in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.) But this month, his campaign confirmed to Ward that he supports ending mountaintop removal.

What Ward finds so interesting about the candidates' position on this issue is not that they agree, but that they haven't caught much flak for their stances. Asked about them, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said only that the state regulates mining responsibly. Phil Smith, a spokesman from the United Mine Workers, said that where coal is mined is not their concern: "We just mine it." The "toughest reaction," Ward reports, came from the National Mining Association. Carol Ralston, the association's spokeswoman, said the candidates need to reconcile their position on mountaintop removal mining with their support for using coal as an energy resources and "clean coal" research.

In the past, opposition to mountaintop removal has been considered a tricky political issue. Al Gore's reputation as "anti-coal" may have cost him West Virginia's electoral votes and the presidency in 2000. One Democratic pollster told Ward that, in today's political climate, the candidates' positions make sense. "Political opinion has just caught up with public opinion," Lakje said. Ward notes a Lake poll showing that West Virginia has three times as many people who "strongly oppose" mountaintop removal as there are those who "strongly favor" it. To read more, click here and here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Being from West Virginia I can tell you that coal had nothing to do with Gore's loss in 2000. He lost because of the 3 G's---God, Gays and Guns.