WASHINGTON, May 31 (UPI) -- Environmentalists say they are alarmed at the large percentage of mountaintop-removal coal projects approved by the Obama administration.
The Environmental Protection Agency has given its approval to 42 of the 48 proposed mining projects it has reviewed this year, including two dozen involving the controversial practice of blasting away the tops of mountains to get to coal deposits, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
The EPA's blessing passes the projects on to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to grant final approval.
"It is disturbing and surprising that this administration, headed by a president who has expressed concern about mountaintop removal, would let such a large number of permits to go forward without explanation," said Joan Mulhern, a lawyer for Earthjustice, a legal organization that has challenged mountaintop removal projects.
The Times said the seeming lack of aggressive steps to curb mountaintop removal are a reflection of the White House's reluctance to restrict coal production and increase unemployment in areas of the Appalachians that are union and Democratic strongholds. The newspaper also noted Obama had pledged during his campaign that he would review mountaintop-removal mining but did not make any promises to ban it.