One of the most contentious issues in the coalfields of West Virginia and Kentucky over the last few years has been mountaintop removal - wherein coal companies blow off the tops of mountains to more easily, economically, and (to be fair) safely extract the coal within. In addition to leveling the landscape, the process fills in valleys and streams - all those mountain tops gotta' go somewhere, after all. For years, coal companies, environmental activists, and the Army Corps of Engineers (which controls permits to do the valley filling) have wrangled in federal court over specific mine sites.
Not surprisingly, BushCo is riding to the rescue. In a payoff to its big money coal donors, the administration - not content with appointing a pro-company goon to oversee mining safety - is revising the regs covering mountaintop removal to resolve the legal wrangling in the favor of the coal companies. Who shepherded the proposal through?
The early stages of the revision process were supported by J. Stephen Griles, a former industry lobbyist who was the deputy interior secretary from 2001 to 2004. Mr. Griles had been deputy director of the Office of Surface Mining in the Reagan administration and is knowledgeable about the issues and generally supports the industry.Seems fitting, doesn't it?
In June, Mr. Griles was sentenced to 10 months in prison and three years’ probation for lying to a Senate committee about his ties to Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist at the heart of a corruption scandal who is now in prison.