"He wants it as big as possible. He's going to just keep working for more and more and more money for this."
-- Jamie Smith, communications director for Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who's busy trying to get even more "clean coal" subsidies into the stimulus bill
• Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wants to get funding for FutureGen -- the proposed "zero emissions" coal plant that the Bush administration axed due to ballooning costs -- into the stimulus package. Durbin said Thursday that he got a "positive response" when he discussed it with energy secretary nominee Steven Chu. His state-mate Barack Obama pushed to revive the plant back when he was just a senator.
• At a hearing on Thursday, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) announced the newest Democratic members of his committee (though their appointments aren't yet final): Evan Bayh (Ind.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), and two new senators, Mark Udall (Colorado) and Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire).
• It's looking increasingly likely that Wall Street big-wig Steve Rattner, who works for the private investment firm Quadrangle Group, will be named as Obama's "car czar."
No one is watching the fallout over the TVA coal ash disaster more closely than Kentucky attorney Tony Oppegard. As the former adviser to the assistant secretary for Mine Safety & Health Administration (U.S. Department of Labor) and former general counsel for the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals, Oppegard served as the lead investigator for MSHA during the Martin County, Kentucky, coal slurry impoundment failure in the fall of 2000.
As a political appointee, Oppegard lost his job in January 2001 after George W. Bush took office. A career MSHA employee was brought in to take his place and the "investigation" ended quickly, despite the fact that the Martin County coal disaster was one of the worst in history.
I asked Oppegard a few questions about the TVA coal ash disaster, the impending investigation, and what we had learned since the Martin County coal accident.
Biggers: You were the lead investigator of the Martin County Coal Corporation slurry impoundment failure in 2000. Why do you think that disaster received such little media attention?
Oppegard: Primarily because it occurred in rural eastern Kentucky -- and few people outside of those who live there really care about what happens to the land and people of Appalachia. If the impoundment failure had happened in California or New York, it would have been front page news in The New York Times and the Washington Post. Can you imagine emergency rooms in Los Angeles being shut down because of a lack of clean water? Instead, it was deemed "not really that important" by most of the mainstream media. When wildfires consume beautiful homes in the hills of California, it headlines the CBS evening news. But when creeks are fouled and thousands of people go without water for weeks in Appalachia, somehow it's not considered "newsworthy."
Biggers: Why do you not like the term "spill," as it is being used with the TVA coal ash disaster?
Bye-bye, Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee, But the levee was under a half mile of rubble from a mountaintop that had been decapitated … OK, I’m no Don McClean, but then neither is the ACCCE (American Coalition for Clean Coal Euphemisms?). We’re still two weeks from Christmas, but the coal industry […]
As the Bush administration tries to cement W’s anti-environmental legacy by pushing through last-minute evildoing, ProPublica is keeping a close eye on the shenanigans. Here is a big-picture article on 11th-hour regulations, including speculation as to what President Obama could do to reverse ’em. Here is a list of 20 rules and regulations that the […]
A few weeks ago, Canadian resident Rachel Perks sent me an email puzzler. Why is it that apparently identical cars — same make, model, engine size, specs, etc. — are advertised with drastically better fuel economy in Canada than in the United States? To see what I mean, compare the official government fuel ratings in […]
Way back in March 2006, BP pipelines ruptured and dumped tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil all over the Alaskan tundra. It was the biggest oil spill since the Exxon-Valdez. There was a criminal investigation. And then … there wasn’t. What happened? Seattle’s King 5 has broken the story: Scott West, a top […]
The Republican National Committee and the McCain campaign have launched robocalls in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other coal states attacking Barack Obama on the issue of coal. “I’m calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC to tell you that coal jobs, which are so important to our community, are in jeopardy,” says the robocall. […]
For my money, there’s nothing more delicious than a book that lays bare the rot of a corrupted industry from an insider’s perspective. In the hands of a skilled observer, the subject can spring to life. Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis’s hilariously disturbing account of Wall Street’s investment-banking industry in the late 1980s, comes to mind. […]