West Virginia mine accident highlights moves to boost Colorado coal industry

Recent moves by the both the Obama administration and Gov. Bill Ritter to bolster Colorado’s coal-mining industry come at a time when the obvious risks – beyond the global climate change debate – are at the forefront of national attention in the wake of a deadly mining accident in West Virginia.

Environmentalists blasted recent lease sale decisions by Obama’s U.S. Bureau of Land Management in both Colorado and Wyoming, and others are highly critical of Ritter’s roadless rule petition submitted Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Detractors claim the Colorado rule for managing 4.2 million acres of federal land in the state provide too many road-building exemptions for industrial activities like coal mining.

The methane that built up and exploded in the West Virginia mine, likely killing at least 25 mine workers, has been a source of controversy nationally and in Colorado because climate change advocates say the gas is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to warming the earth’s atmosphere.

Federal agencies, conservationists say, should be much more proactive in requiring the industry to capture and process methane, or at least flare it to reducing its impact as a greenhouse gas. That debate has fallen largely on deaf political and regulatory ears in Colorado, they claim.

Don Blankenship, who runs the company (Massey Energy) that operates the deadly West Virginia mine, is a notorious right-wing climate change denier and outspoken critic of the policies of “Obama bin Laden.”

He also serves on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization under the microscope for its opposition to climate change legislation.

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