Offshore Drilling, Auto Emissions and Mountaintop Mining–Busy Week, Huh?

President Barack Obama announced this week that his administration would open areas from Delaware to Florida and in Alaska to offshore drilling for gas and oil. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation also released new guidelines for auto emissions to cut carbon emissions, and the EPA said new benchmarks for issuing mountaintop mining permits would prevent damage to waterways in Appalachia. The environmental community welcomed these last two announcements but both were overshadowed by the off-shore drilling decision, which green groups largely condemned.

Off-putting off-shore drilling decision

Although as a candidate President Obama began by opposing off-shore drilling, by the end of the campaign he said he would support an expansion of drilling areas.  Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard explains the series of decisions that made this week’s announcement possible:

“In October 2008, amidst calls of “drill, baby, drill” from conservatives, Congress failed to renew the long-standing moratorium on offshore drilling. Months earlier, George W. Bush had lifted an 18-year-old executive ban on offshore drilling, which had originally been imposed by his father in 1990. Obama, of course, could have issued his own order, but didn’t.”

The administration had been considering the decision to go ahead with drilling for about a year but kept deliberations quiet. Key senators, however, knew the decision was coming, and it’s pushing Democrats like Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) to warm towards energy legislation, TPMDC reports.

Cars’ carbon emission

The EPA’s announcement on auto emissions, on the other hand, comes as no surprise. It marks the first big step the Obama administration has taken to limit carbon emissions through regulation. Auto regulations are a relatively easy sell.  A chunk of Congress wants to keep the EPA from taking these sorts of actions, but in this case, the auto industry supports the federal regulations. At the Washington Independent, Aaron Wiener notes that “the guidelines drew immediate praise from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which has long advocated national emissions and efficiency regulations rather than patchwork state-by-state rules.”

Mountaintop removal mining

The coal industry will be less happy about the EPA’s announcement on mountaintop removal mining. The agency admitted that the practice causes significant damage to streams and said its new guidelines would lead to significantly less harm.

The new policies, Jeff Biggers writes at AlterNet, will “effectively bring an end to the process of valley fills (and the dumping of toxic coal mining waste into the valleys and waterways).” It could be, he says, “the beginning of the end of mountaintop removal.”

One sign that mountaintop removal’s doomsday is nigh? Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), one of coal’s staunchest and most powerful advocates on the Hill, praised the EPA’s decision, reports Mike Lillis at the Washington Independent.

Green groups groan

Green groups are lauding the EPA’s two announcements. (The Sierra Club called the mining announcement “the most significant administrative action ever taken to address mountaintop removal coal mining,” for instance.) But the push for off-shore drilling has environmental advocates squirming.

“As the president extends olive branches to his critics, he’s alienating allies in the environmental community, who say his policies are reminding them more and more of those of his predecessor, George W. Bush,” says Mother Jones’ Sheppard. “Some enviros are even likening Obama to Alaska’s oil-loving ex-governor, Sarah Palin.”

On Democracy Now!, Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity, called the decision “horribly disappointing” and said, “Obama is essentially embracing wholeheartedly the policy of: we can drill our way to energy independence.”

The Obama administration’s energy and environmental policy is creeping ever further towards the center. Ken Salazar, Secretary for the Interior, said this week that “Cap-and-trade is not in the lexicon anymore,” TPMDC reports. It’s no wonder that progressive members of Congress are starting to feel uncomfortable with the direction their climate bill is taking, as Sheppard reports. The president may be using up his reserves of political support from his allies as he stretches to meet conservatives and centrist Democrats on some shaky middle ground.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

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photo credit: thanks to Adam Swank via flickr for the photo
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger


Eli Is Here
Past Member 6 years ago

Thanks for posting this article.

Julie G.
Julie G6 years ago

I don't really understand his reasoning.

Allison J.
Allison P6 years ago

I guess he is trying to take the middle ground and compromise. Which is good. I have to say I'm not excited at all about the off-shore drilling but I'm hoping that with the cut in carbon emissions and hopefully another energy bill on it's way we will not need the off-shore drilling sites.

I guess the good thing is he is trying to compromise... but the republicans don't care anyways... he can do no right in their eyes. So I feel like he should just do what he said he was going to do and piss of the right... he is going to piss them off anyways.

Grant Coleman
Grant Coleman6 years ago

Of course Obama is like Bush, and whoever replaces him will advance the agenda even further. These people use their party politics to manipulate and confuse the general public, and it never stops. Keep it up Mr. Obama, you are opening the eyes of many Americans.

gail d.
gail dair6 years ago

thanks for post

gail d.
gail dair6 years ago

thanks for post

rene p.
Rene p6 years ago

Our oceans are in trouble from many fronts....most recently in the news,ocean acidification,the evil twin of global warming.Obama campaigned as a green President,opposing off shore drilling.a Green Revolution was his rallying cry....stopping our dependence on foreign oil by mainly clean,green technologies.He is caving to his critics and making nice w/ the oil cos. and acting more like Bush in some ways(removing wolves from the ESL).He needs to know how his supporters feel.

yaremis l.
Sarah M6 years ago

stupid obama

Jessica G.
Jessica G6 years ago

thanks for the post!

Jessica G.
Jessica G6 years ago

thanks for the post!