The Rush to Oblivion, Slowed But Not Stopped

Coal Rush Reverses, Power Firms Follow
Plans for New Plants Stalled by Growing Opposition

By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 4, 2007; D01
The mayor of Missoula, Mont., is the latest person to discover just how unpopular coal plants have become.
In early August, Mayor John Engen (D) won city council support to buy electricity from a new coal-fired plant scheduled to begin operation in 2011. He said the city government would save money on its electric bills.
But three weeks later, Engen pulled out of the deal after receiving hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from constituents upset that Missoula would contribute to the creation of a coal plant and concerned about what the town would do if the plant never got built.
“Coal is a double-edged sword,” Engen said. “I sort of felt both edges.”
A year after the nation appeared to be in the middle of a coal rush, widening alarm about greenhouse gas emissions has slowed the efforts of electric companies to build coal-fired power plants from hills of eastern Montana to southern Florida.
Too late of course for five hundred mountains in West Virginia that have had their tops blown off, the trees, topsoil, underbrush and rocks spilled into lush valleys.
Five hundred mountains.
From purple mountains majesty to amber waves of grain. The grain was planted by man, but the mountains are either a billions of years old geologic process or God-given, depending upon your point of view.
America, America, God shed his grace on thee. God shed that grace on all of us and we have allowed individuals–guys like Bob Murray–to take it, ball it up, squeeze the money out of it and throw it in the wastebasket.
West Virginia’s wealth doesn’t lie in the coal under its soil, it lies in the enormous and underdeveloped tourist industry that depends upon an unspoiled wilderness. That gold mine of tourism lies within 500 miles of 200 million people–to say nothing of Japan and Europe.
500 mountaintops of it are already gone–one for every mile.

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