When it comes to coal mining in the United States, environmentalists have a simple goal: End it. For the Obama administration, it’s a little more complicated.
Since taking office nearly three years ago, the administration has restricted coal-mining waste from being dumped into streams and imposed new pollution controls on coal-fired power plants. But on the fundamental question of whether the government should halt federal leasing, the administration’s answer has been: not yet.
Instead, the federal government is analzying the environmental impact of extracting coal from public land, drawing fire from both sides. Environmentalists say such action doesn’t go far enough, while industry officials question why it would pursue this analysis in the absence of a federal law on greenhouse gas emissions.
“On some level, the twin goals of increased fossil fuel production and reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are necessarily in conflict, at least without a national cap on emissions,” said Paul Bledsoe, who was a special assistant at the Interior Department during the Clinton administration. “This fundamental contradiction in current U.S. energy policy is playing out on the Keystone oil pipeline, in our public lands policy and throughout the energy economy.” MORE …