Nice Economy You’ve Got There . . .

By James Kwak

That, I believe, was a line from Nemo in a comment long ago, on how the megabanks were holding the federal government hostage by threatening to collapse and take the financial system with them.

The coal industry seems to have learned something. Now that the EPA is recommending revoking a mountaintop mining permit (mountaintop mining is when, instead of drilling holes to get at coal underground, you simply blow the top off the mountain), the coal company in question has this to say:

“If the E.P.A. proceeds with its unlawful veto of the Spruce permit — as it appears determined to do — West Virginia’s economy and future tax base will suffer a serious blow.

“Beyond that, every business in the nation would be put on notice that any lawfully issued permit — Clean Water Act 404 or otherwise — can be revoked at any time according to the whims of the federal government. Clearly, such a development would have a chilling impact on future investment and job creation.”

No, every business would be put on notice a permit could be revoked for a project that “would bury more than seven miles of the Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch streams under 110 million cubic yards of spoil, killing everything in them and sending downstream a flood of contaminants, toxic substances and life-choking algae.” Which to me seems about the right message to send.

But this is the basic position of every big corporate interest: if you don’t let us do what we want to do, the economy will suffer.

(If you want to see what mountaintop mining looks like, go to this Google Maps mashup and zoom in. It’s the big gray scars in the green mountains.)


71 thoughts on “Nice Economy You’ve Got There . . .

  1. Such heated political rhetoric from the PR folks of a major corporation have to be viewed as the free speech of a corporate entity which may rightfully be
    held criminally liable for EPA superfund site generation, spoilage of natural resources, medical bills of those poisoned by their actions, and so on. These crimes are also the actions of individual corporate officers who set corporate strategy and policy.

    If corporate actions result in anticipatable harm, therefore, the acts constitutes a conspiracy. A jury might feel a lot less bad about convicting a faceless corporate entity in a criminal court. What I want to know is: does the latest Supreme Court ruling that grants 1st amendment free speech rights to corporations also mean we can drag a corporation into a criminal court?

    I can think of a few corporations I’d like to put into a virtual time out.

  2. No!! No!! No!! Simpson, you’ve got it all wrong. They change between corporate entity and person at will, depending on legal convenience. Changing forms at will between person and entity to save themselves from legal liability as a corporation and have the ability to give unlimited campaign contributions as a person with Freedom of Speech rights at the same time is easy. It just takes one phone call from Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts with a “team trouble alert”. Just like the Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna!!! Watch and be amazed!!!!!

  3. I thought this was going to be a post about record Wall Street bonuses and the possibility that the new mortgage mess could spark another financial crisis.

  4. The “latest Supreme Court ruling” didn’t “grant” 1st amendment free speech rights it upheld them.

  5. O.K., Kevin. Point taken.

    So now that “1st amendment free speech rights” have been upheld for corporate “persons,” I would like to know when we can put corporate “persons” in prison for the crimes they commit against the citizens of this country and the world every, single day.

  6. Kevin,
    Many, including 4 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, a retired Supreme Court Justice, and a majority of the American people see the facts differently than you and the 5 sellouts on the court. See here:
    and here:

    I have “choicer” words to describe Justice Thomas, but out of respect to Mr. Kwak And Professor Johnson I’ll keep those thoughts unwritten here. Think of a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe and you’ll get the drift.

  7. I just want to know how WE keep forgetting that an economy consists of a helluva lot more people than corporations. We The People can punish them without the courts’ interference if we’d learn to just deny them the money that is their lifeblood. Organize boycotts and destroy companies that ignore the law.

  8. Me, too. Not that I mind the EPA; I like breathing as much as the next guy.

    But it is a little disappointing not to have seen even a single post about “foreclosure-gate” on Baseline. Especially since one of the principals is a law student…

  9. It’s also curious that the exact opposite argument is being made by Whitman in the CA governor’s race about AB32, the cap and trade program. Apparently it is ok “on a whim” to continue to delay, delay, delay a program that could serve to create a credible green energy program in the US. Don’t hear any big coal companies complaining about that! Hypocrites.

  10. Tarring a government regulatory agency as being anti-business rallies Republicans to condemn this as a invasive government intervention. Undue corporate influence has everything to do with the subversion of the correct functioning of the democratic political process in the context of our apparent present inability to fix and flawed, corrupt, and unfair legislative and regulatory environment. In this sense, the post is very much in context.

  11. The really scary part of this is that the general public does NOT understand that corporate malfeasance caused the crash – they understand the argument that any government intervention will hurt the economy (even if the hurt is localized and helps the economy overall). The Republican/big business argument that government intervention hurts the economy is simple and so the general public doesn’t agree with you. They simply see you as a high brow socialist who doesn’t understand how the “real” world works. If we don’t figure out how to explain these complexities to the general public the net effect of the great recession will be MORE power for the banks and big business in general than if they had not misbehaved.

  12. It is. Just like Star Wars isn’t really about things that happened long ago in a galaxy far away.

    Tant pis. People read things like “John Thomas Financial” in these blogs and they don’t even smile.

  13. No, it gutted the first amendment, which of course applies to human beings, not alien predatory entities which have no right to exist at all, let alone to “speech”.

  14. People need to eschew the wrongly conceived “5 sellouts” meme.

    All nine judges are sellouts. All nine believe in corporate personhood. All nine are corporatists and anti-humanists. It’s just that 4 of them were more passive about it. Their dissent in Citizens United wasn’t fundamental, merely technical. They merely objected to the judicial activism of the 5, not the basic premise.

    (And by now they replaced one of the 4 with someone who, if the record is any indication, would likely have been a 6th vote for the majority.)

    The entire SCOTUS is a rogue court. When you focus on the majority in a case like CU you play into the hands of corporatists who can demonstrate the incoherency of that position, since the minority doesn’t broadly object to the concept, merely to that particular application.

    We really need to tighten the anti-corporatist discipline.

  15. The system is set up to make it very hard to boycott coal-fired electricity. In most places you’d have to go off-grid.

    And even where you have an option, that still wouldn’t cause less electricity to be generated, or less coal to be mined.

    Here I’m afraid the only effective boycott is to consume less, period. Which is what we should be doing for many reasons.

    Your point can be correct in many other contexts, of course.

  16. By most definitions these threats constitute terrorism.

    They’re actions taken with the intent of terrorizing the populace in order to attain a political goal.

    So the terrorist most wanted list, already copious with banksters and their flacks, also includes many other kinds of corporate criminals. We can add this one.

  17. Most (R)s I talk to veer the discussion CONTINUOUSLY to Freddie and Fannie, harping and harping on government programs designed to increase lending to non-white non-rich people. That’s quite literally the *sole cause* in their bigoted minds, because it fits with their discriminatory world view. “Those people” and “the democrats” are the only thing wrong with the world down around the bottom of their ivory tower.

    It’s like talking to a brick wall. Unfortunately, it’s a brick wall with a really loud media presence.

  18. Oh I realize it’s a bit more difficult in the case of a coal company. You would have to live somewhere that you can actually choose who you get power from, then see who’s using what suppliers. In some cases you might find yourself with two choices both using the same supplier. It’s difficult to boycott without choices, agreed.

    However I was also speaking in the more general sense you mentioned. It’s like we’ve forgotten how to punish companies without a court doing it. I’m sick of the super corporatist bent of the courts, but I’m equally sick of the helplessness of the people of this country. So many people are SLAVES to the consumer instinct to the point that they’ll curse a company to high heaven even as they hand cash over to it for a product they don’t need or could get elsewhere.

    Why are people such willful slaves, ya know?

  19. “The system is set up to make it very hard to boycott coal-fired electricity.. that still wouldn’t cause less electricity to be generated, or less coal to be mined.”

    Countervailing power. And there’s only one political interest with more influence than Wall Street and that’s the military-industrial complex.

    Want less coal-generated power? Give the Pentagon a blank check to build out and operate nuclear power plants (the Navy has more reactor experience than any other organazation on the planet).

  20. 3-D, if you haven’t already, check out Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone piece about the rugged individualists who populate the Tea Part–

    “Let me get this straight,” I say to David. “You’ve been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?”
    “Well,” he says, “there’s a lot of people on welfare who don’t deserve it. Too many people are living off the government.”
    “But,” I protest, “you live off the government. And have been your whole life!”

  21. This is an argument to buy insurance.

    The Domino theory, the Yellow Menace, “You’re with us or you’re with the terrorists”, “collapse of the financial system”, these things allow the salesmen to convince us to buy their insurance against catastrophe, which is to say, to allow action against our interests.

  22. I agree this post topic fits within the proviso of this blog.

    I also agree with Tom Slobko that the average person walking the street does not grasp the depth nor ramifications of malfeasance perpetrated through the vastly intertwined web of Wall Street, the beltline insiders and many of the corporate big players. please pardon me for the divergence from topic.

    The intellectual and often theoretically-based discussions here are essential to forming eventual solutions. In addition,though, I sincerely hope that each of you takes some sort of action to help simplify the bottom line to the average person in your area. Not that the average person is dim-witted, the majority are too busy to traverse the massive learning curve necessary to disect the politi-econo-coroporate speak.

    One example, take the time to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or ask to write a guest column. Leave the “university vocabulary” at home. Write in straightforward terms.

    The discussions here are enlightening, challenging, thought-provoking and on occasion, a tad bizarre- but they are essential. So is action.

  23. You folks raise some good points. If we’re going to continually expand the corporate personhood concept, granting them free speech and the ability to vote in and run for elections (I’m not making that up, Google it), then wee need to start aggressively prosecuting them for crimes they commit.

  24. Let us hope the EPA is not totally captured and can “nip this in the bud” before it reaches the courts.


    As many court observers have noted, the “elected” judiciary has increasingly become “corporate-friendly”. The number of decisions favoring corporations has increased over the past few decades.

    This results in the all too familiar decrease in verdict amounts resulting from repeated appellate court decisions (can you say, “Exxon Valdez”?).

    Once the damages are decreased to an amount the corporations can live with, the corporations quickly agree to the amount… thereby establishing a low-cost precedent!

    The end result is a “cost of business” model by which large corporations can rape the environment and pay a negligible fine established by legal precedent. This paves the way for corporations to avoid the prolonged bad PR that would raise public awareness and vitriol towards their companies.

    Buying judges just makes great business sense. And isn’t that what the tired platitude/excuse proffered by such corporations about the “obligation to maximize shareholder profits” is all about?

    SIDE NOTE: Several decades ago, the average OSHA fine was less than $200. The big corporations just paid the fines and went on. It did not make economic sense to fight them. Hilariously, these same big corporations through their industry and trade associations such as the Chamber and Roundtable advocated that medium and small business owners fight the OSHA regulations. This resulted in few legal victories… but was a nice windfall for law firms – large legal fees for the law firms the big boys recommended were paid by these smaller businesses… many of these same medium and small business owners still believe the rhetoric espoused by these large corporations to their detriment. Pogo was right.

  25. To return at last to the original posting, perhaps rather than threatening the already poor State of West Virginia with more abuse, someone could suggest a financially viable way to improve West Virginia’s economy without ruining the health of the people and the ecology of the mountains.

    I am tired of being threatened by corporate America. “Too big to fail” is too big; ultimately, the reality is that simple.

  26. “But this is the basic position of every big corporate interest: if you don’t let us do what we want to do, the economy will suffer.”

    Make that “every big interest.”

    “The ACTU [Australian Council of Trade Unions] president Sharan Burrow has defended the pay claim too, saying the economy will suffer if wages slide backwards.”

    “UKCGE [UK Council for Graduate Education] warns that the economy will suffer if PhD capacity is reduced”

    “Mark Odeinde, Abbey National business regional manager for Wales, said: “Entrepreneurs in Wales are on the verge of cracking up under the stress and it will be their children and our economy that suffers.”'+created.(News)-a090290078

  27. James Kwak: Perhaps you could comment on Arch Coal’s claim that the permit revocation is illegal.

  28. this form of rhetorical argument is time-tested, reliable and probably in the top ten recommended public relations communications

    business always argue that “it will cost you jobs” if you don’t give us what we want, as well as the converse, if you give us what we want “it will create jobs”

    it is basically a threat – it will cost you where it hurts if we don’t get our way

  29. Someone needs to ask the coal company why it is that the counties in WV that have coal mines are among the poorest counties in the state. Why has the economic boom that comes from no-holds-barred mining passed these counties by?
    I wonder if Obama will show some balls and stand up tho these mining companies. I have a feeling he will continue his pattern of backing down. He is a D after all.

  30. Looking out the window of a Southwest Airlines flight approaching runway 31 at Chicago’s Midway Airport, you can see an industrial facility that will never win an environmentalist’s award for beauty or sustainability – ArcelorMittal’s East Chicago steel mill. Acres and acres of rust brown buildings, railroad tracks and piles of raw materials planted on the shore of Lake Michigan. If you tried to build it today on the white sands and mature forests of northern Indiana you would likely fail.

    But the products of this mill have, for decades been made into refrigerators, automobiles, bridges, buildings, ships and other products that we see and use every day. And a new development …

    “Currently, ArcelorMittal USA is an active supplier of the plate for the fabrication of [wind] towers.”


    An environmental scab makes life better for millions and is now contributing to carbon free power generation. A good trade? I think so.

    Is mountaintop mining a good trade?

  31. An inspiring conversation this. I appreciate this site more and more.

    Where I live in Central Texas we have many choices regarding energy sources. Choosing a power company that offers clean energy is of course a step in the right direction, but, as boycotting goes this will do little to take power away from corporations. Their power is protected by their alliance with our government due to a shared mandate to gain as much global market share as possible. ‘Globalization’ is economic warfare. It is much like conventional warfare because each has an objective of claiming and holding territory. Corporations are therefore necessarily powerful from a jingoistic standpoint.

    MNCs, do however have a weakness, they are in fact very vulnerable to boycotts that transcend national borders.

    There is also a specific type of corporation that is more vulnerable than all others, that being companies producing goods that cause diet-related diseases. Part of the reason for this higher relative vulnerability has to do with how much more universal and understandable the external cost issues are. Parents all over the world are seeing their children addicted to food and beverages that did not exist when these parents were children themselves. These parents therefore have their own health history to compare to that of their offspring, and, as we have already seen in this country, especially as parents but also as concerned citizens, it is obvious that many food and beverages produced by corporations have a very poor record in regards to health.

    Responsible parents are therefore a natural ally of progressive thinkers. Progressives simply need to lead in unified effort that takes advantage of demographic factors that could provide an overwhelming advantage. This need not be a political effort. Vast numbers of people are being tempted with products that are obviously harmful and this could well be the ‘rope that corporations hang themselves with’ once enough people are brought together intellectually by sites such as this one. Once corporations are forced to accept that they must take full responsibility for the external costs of their commercial actions, consumer boycotts will be a threat to be reckoned with. But it needs to start with what is easy to understand so as to teach consumers to be better citizens. Once enough informed citizens begin to understand just how much power they actually have, responsible decision making will systematically become part of corporate governance. In other words , the mere threat of international boycotts will lead to competition between corporations to provide shareholders with investment opportunities that are not exposed to the threat of potentially crippling boycotts. We must make them compete for our patronage if we are to put the balance of power in equilibrium. It is simple, although, difficult because people have been conditioned to believe that governments should solve these types of problems, which, is a notion that has always had an element of folly, and of course this claiming of rightful power has only recently been made possible by these devices that we are using here, and of course the timing must be in place. But this conversation suggests that the time is drawing near!

    Obama, like his recent predecessors, may well do the most good by being ineffectual. Things just need to get a little worse before they can get better.

    Ray L-Love

  32. No, it is not a good trade. That mill was built decades ago. The processes have changed, the ability to manufacture this material without destroying the environment has improved immeasurably. Industries will continue to fight against tighter environmental regulations, but it is in the best interest of society to balance the need for producing steel at a reasonable price, and not creating the conditions that cause our rivers to spontaneously combust. This is a balancing act that will never end, and reasonable people will strike an acceptable balance. Maintaining the position that society must allow industry to do what it wants without any interference “or else” is not reasonable, nor acceptable.

  33. @Rich: Not only that, both Acelor Mittal and the companies that coal-mine (rape) mountaintops have learned how to produce steel and coal almost without people. These processes are highly automated and require a tiny fraction of the workforce they employed in the past.

    Furthermore, for all their threats, corporations routinely shut down profitable facilities and outsource jobs at will, in search of ever-greater profits at a lower cost. But we ALL pay the price.

    Just as constantly multiplying cancer cells eventually overwhelm and kill the host body, an economic system based on constant growth cannot continue indefinitely on a finite planet.

    Check out a viable alternative at

  34. Rue The Day:


    YOUR COMMENT certainly appears logical, but my dear citizen friend, which “we” are you referring to? The “we” that used to give some resemblance of equal representation in the government enforcement of public interest legislation? (MEANING “US”)?
    Or, the “WE” as in the big corporate money that will soon determine the very people in place who are captured to not enforce or even overturn such legislation…? (Meaning all paid up members of the current Chamber of Commerce?)

    (1) Would you like to call a friend?
    (2) Ask the audience?
    (3) Eliminate an answer
    (4) Buy the answer on the “Free Market” corporate grapevine.

  35. Ted K.

    Thanks! This is the best information I have heard in months and actually reveals something about the tactics and politics of influence peddling and insider politics!

    Best regards! B.E.W.

  36. It is interesting that big money corporate power resents a revoking of a permit but has no problem (en masse) with “regulatory capture” and revoking entire bodies of legislation. Legislation, I might add, that has substantial and substantive history for protecting the public interest…all dismantled with the vague threats of privatizing interests that all sound off on:
    “if you don’t let us do what we want to do, the economy will suffer.”

    Privatizing, profiteering or Povert-izing? As usually happens the public is left with the remnants and consequences…as well as ultimate costs…in the new Corporate Ownership Political Society.

  37. Yes, consumerism itself is the problem. To the extent people stop being consumers and become citizens, we have the power to prevail. But without that change of consciousness, nothing can be done, since people will remain slaves.

    I’m trying to figure out how to leverage the Depression into a virtue out of necessity. If people could only seize the opportunity to realize, “I’m losing my consumer status, but that’s really a liberation, let’s go all the way with it….”

  38. Nukes don’t solve any existing problem, but only add a new one. (Not to mention yet another obscene corporate welfare boondoggle.)

  39. Consider the power of an association of local residents that has veto power over government & corporate land use decisions. E.g. along the Gulf Coast and especially in Louisianna, a network of local residents probobly would not have let the oil co’s carve uo the delta.
    Recommend reading “Barefoot Economics” by Manfred Max-Neef or “The Value of Nothing” by Raj Patel.

  40. joel,

    Until recently I lived near Ft. Worth and I was a vested participant in the carving-up of the riches that were buried in the Barnett Shale. This is of course only anecdotal but I can attest to the fact that in that case, the ‘locals’ would have shot anyone who stood in the way of them gettin’ in on the action. The town I lived in, Cleburne, was right in the thick of of all things related to nat. gas and nobody cared ‘one whit’ about the environmental damage being done, and the damage was extensive and impossible to miss. The road system for example was damaged extensively in a very short period of time due the addition of so much trucking. Bridges rated for 50,000 pounds were subjected to loads twice that and the local enforcement folks just ignored that and the use of restricted roads through residential areas and etc. The damage was in fact everywhere and throughout from the roads to the depleted water-table and the consequent loss of vegetation to the limestone dust that eventually covered the landscape. “It’s good for the local economy” is what nearly every last local would say, even the dopes who were not receiving any direct benefits and whose lives were not improved in any noticeable way.

  41. As much as it kills me to say it, Yves Smith has done a great job with the foreclosure story, she has pretty much sliced it, diced it, and freeze dried it (I am not an Yves Smith fan and she has done a great job on it). If that isn’t enough Konczal has broken it down to layman’s terms with outstanding graphs (or flow charts).

    You know James Kwak last I heard was helping in the defense counsel side ofcapital punishment cases and he has a family. The guy must have a system of priorities and probably feels he can’t hand-hold people for every issue that comes down the line.

  42. Suggested reading: The Prize by Daniel Yergen. The Pennsylvania landscape in the early days of oil production makes a mountain top mine look like a championship golf course.

    The message for this thread is that there is nothing new in the world. Even though a huge body of resource law has developed over the years, it continues to evolve. Individuals and organizations will continue to look out for their own best interests. That’s the way the system works.

  43. Ray, I hope you are right, and things just have to get a little worse before they can get better. I have been fearing they have to get a LOT worse, but I prefer your version (and vision).

  44. “The message for this thread is that there is nothing new in the world. Even though a huge body of resource law has developed over the years, it continues to evolve. Individuals and organizations will continue to look out for their own best interests. That’s the way the system works.”

    We can continue to evolve, too.

    What are you speedy AT, Speed? Staying the same? Accepting the status quo because tackling it is hard? How sad.

  45. I hadn’t read that yet; thanks for the link. Taibbi, as always, is spot on. I’ve never met a more disingenuous pile of self-deluded wankers than modern conservatives.

  46. “Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.”

    Pearl Buck (1892 – 1973)

  47. It just actually only hit me just now how extra fascinating this topic should be to some people where I live. We had an earthquake here the last week, which is highly highly unusual for this region (At least until roughly the last year). It measured anywhere between 4.5 and 5.1 with the best estimate around 4.7.

    Why is this fascinating??? I have read about a big shale gas project that was done around Ft. Worth Texas and how there was a large earthquake which damaged the airport and officials later found was caused as a result of the shale drilling process. The state where I live, natural gas is a huge industry here and I am sure that there are many shale gas projects nearby. It makes almost zero sense that we would be having earthquakes here (there is a fault-line but it is highly inactive). Natural gas and oil has a lot of power in this state and I only heard one TV news analyst mention this (the possibility that shale gas drilling process could be the cause of the quake) in a casual way once, and the news anchor on to say he didn’t think the conclusion of investigation would say it had any role. I have a strong intuition or “sixth sense” that in fact it was caused by shale gas drilling, and I wonder how much environmental damage will be done to the local water supply and possibly major damage to peoples’ housing before there are serious efforts to discover which project or projects in shale drilling very very plausibly could be causing the damage.

    Until it becomes a serious issue, and peoples’ homes are ruined or the water starts smelling funny, and the damage is already done, I am guessing my local TV news outlets will be talking about the millionth domestic abuse case in our state, some woman using her mobile phone to get her phone horoscope while driving on the interstate, and cute kitty and cute rabbit videos from Youtube.

  48. Oct 13 2010 – Peter Schiff – excerpt

    “Bernanke asserts that the Fed brought on the Great Depression by allowing the money supply to contract by 30% after the Crash of 1929.

    He has also written that the Depression relapse of 1937 stemmed from Washington’s attempt to balance the budget and raise interest rates. Therefore, I can reasonably assume that he will not stop the presses until inflation has a firm and undeniable grip on the American economy.

    Many currently believe that ‘Helicopter Ben’ has yet to ignite inflation on the ground because the money he dropped from the sky is still stuck in the trees.

    In other words, the funds are caught in the banking system and not spreading among the populace.”

  49. Hey, the TBTF banks have suckered the American taxpayer out of trillions of dollars using the same argument.

    So it’s obviously going to be used by everybody else (except for the American taxpayer – he just gets to suck eggs).

    Some country we got here, Maybe it’s time to update the preamble to “we, the failing corporation”, and dump that old fashion “we, the people” crap.

  50. “The Black and Blue Gold Rush”

    “From Russia,China,and Iran with Love” Ref:

    “The Infinite World of Latter Day Energy Czars” Ref:

    “The Uncertainty about Letting the Good Times Flow” Ref:

    “The Azerbaijani Gas Shuffle/Scuttle” Ref:

    “No Gas for Nuucco?” Ref:

    Finally…”No Fracking Way is a Propaganda Ploy if done with proper protocal – but of course this will cut into profits (big fuel industry ie. coal and petroleum will do whatever too BS the public? JMHO) Ref:

    Thankyou James and Simon :-)

  51. Ted,

    I actually worked on the Barnett Shale for a few months and it was an interesting experience. I’ve been all through the mobile command centers and on the rigs etc.

    Most all of the gas is extracted from thousands of feet below the surface so there isn’t much chance of anything mixing into the ground water supplies because of the vast differences in depth. It does seem very possible though, and many of the locals did suspect, that local water supplies were simply used up in the fracing process. Fracing requires huge quantities of water. Some of our neighbors built dikes across watersheds and then sold the collected water. This of course alters watershed flows that should end up as groundwater but instead become fracing water which is pumped deep into the earth to provide the necessary pressure. Some of this freshwater then comes up mixed with the gas and with saltwater. This, which is as hot as bathwater, is then run through a ‘seperator’ which diverts the gas to a pipeline, and the watermix, which is mostly saltwater, goes to a holding tank to be transported to a disposal.

    Disposals are also many thousands of feet deep. Saltwater is dispensed into what are fissures that previously exist as empty voids. I asked why the exhausted wells are not used instead but I never received what came across as a logical answer, but these disposals are in fact drilled specifically for this purpose, but I don’t know why exhausted wells are left as voids. It does seem though that with such vast quantities involved, and ‘vast is not an exaggeration, that earthquakes could result from so many changes to subterranean shifts in weight. And there is no doubt that the local water supply is greatly diminished by fracing. And I suppose that surface water finds its way into the exhausted well cavities.

    Toxins do get into groundwater etc. but this occurs at what are called mud-farms. These are where the residual sludge from the drilling is spread on the ground and plowed into the soil. Each drilling operation produces about 50,000 pounds of a mud based goo that is rife with lubricant drainage from the many types of equipment used, and from the rig in general. It is after-all one very large well-oiled machine, essentially, and lubricants and hydrological fluids etc. rain down into the large rectilinear tanks that make-up the platform that is the main deck and this decking is porous. The sites are however left in good condition but… the mess must go somewhere and that place is usually on some flat terrain somewhere out of sight . But of course flat or otherwise (we had one near us that was by no means ‘flat’) these mud farms are something of a ‘dirty little secret’, literally and figuratively.

    Chemicals are used also in drilling and in fracing. These are disposed of by dumping into pits which either have a membrane or the pits are required to be of a specific consistency of clay. These pits are then left to dehydrate naturally but I don’t know what happens to the residual. It is not an industry filled with people who appreciate curiosity. They do have though a very healthy respect for the EPA due to the fines being rather swift and severe.

  52. Excerpt from:
    Media Matters: Saving the country, Murdoch-style

    “At the annual News Corp. shareholders meeting in New York this morning, CEO Rupert Murdoch was forced to answer a battery of questions from frustrated shareholders regarding the company’s controversial contributions of $1 million to both the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

    Asked to explain the reasoning behind the contributions, Murdoch said they were made “in the interest of the country and of all the shareholders … that there be a fair amount of change in Washington.”

  53. I was referred to this post by a FB ref from a friend, and I’m glad to read it.

    It is heartening to see that folks outside Appalachia are finally learning of the Apocalypse taking place here. In WV, southwest Virginia, eastern Kentucky and east Tennessee, more than five hundred mountains have been utterly destroyed by mountaintop removal. Along with them have gone some 2000 miles of buried streams. Small mountain communities of long standing have been disappeared under the bulldozer’s blade. The waters have been poisoned with heavy metals like selenium, cadmium, aluminum, magnesium, arsenic et al. ad nauseam. In West Virginia, alone, more than 3.5 MILLION pounds of high explosives (usually ANFOs) are used on our mountain communities every DAY. That’s roughly a Hiroshima every nine days.

    All those things contribute to a population that gets sicker and sicker. Dr. Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University has demostrated in a peer-reviewed literature that, even after adjusting for external lifestyle factors (smoking, dipping, fatty foods, etc.) the nearer one lives to mountaintop removal, the more disease predominates in the community. These are, among other things, upper respiratory disease brought on by the particulate matter discharged into the air from the blasting, GI disorders brought on by ingenstion of poisoned water, and cancers that come from exposure to a substance (coal) that is more toxic to contact than most people ever even imagined.

    I want to make sure that people reading this blog understand WHY mountaintop removal is happening. It is imperative that we understand it’s NOT about “electricity” or “making steel.” Mountaintop removal happens for only ONE reason: PROFIT.

    You see, mountaintop removal produces <5% of the nation's electricity. Read that again. LESS THAN FIVE PERCENT. Vast quantities of central Appalachian mountaintop removal coal are, however, shipped to China for THEIR electrical and metallurgical needs. Russian and Indian firms now own coal mines in Appalachia outright, cutting out the middle man.

    Finally, it should be note that the coal companies' cries of "Wolf" in regard to the EPA ring hollow. They always cry that it will "cost jobs" if we actually stop poisoing and destroying the Appalachians. Wrong. In WV, there are less than four thousand mountain removers. Even for a small state like WV, that means there are more florists, more nurses, more teachers, more retail workers than there are mountain removers. Coal companies use mountaintop removal precisely BECAUSE it requires so few workers.

    Should any of you wish to learn more about this horror that afflicts us in the heart of America's oldest temperate rain forest, and among the world's oldest mountains, please feel free to go to, and

  54. “Russian and Indian firms now own coal mines in Appalachia outright, cutting out the middle man.” Do these firms belong to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? If so, that would be a foreign influence, no?

  55. It all comes back to “property rights” and whether the “owner” is a slum lord or not, doesn’t it?

    That’s what a JD degree is all about – the “details” of property rights.

    For NORMAL minds, going down in history as creating a project that needs 700,000 “engineers” (that math formula of “employment” for “launching” an NEW industry was figured out with the Moon Walking project)

    and now was used to throw born and bred USA FAMILIES out on the street

    instead of re-tooling the “economy” away from fire worship (burn that oil)

    will never seem like a “good” idea concocted in the “best minds on the planet”.

    We need to move on from the ENDLESS shock and awe that NORMAL minds get stuck in when they realize that the 1% who “won” the “property rights” game

    are PSYCHOS.

    PSYCHOS are detail-oriented, for the most part. How many of the mass killers went home to write very detailed reports about their latest kill? A lot of them…

    Let’s stay focused on “simpler” approaches.

    Between the “short” sells and the prejudice against non-AAA rated “businesses”

    what we need to do to go fire up the olden kilns (in Chicago and elsewhere – (no need to pollute yet another piece of property)

    is create some kind of barrier against MODERN “financial services”

    like short-sellers and predatory loans for non-AAA rated HUMAN BEINGS (most people WERE AAA-honest “labor” until the banksters got in to their financial records


    and RUINED their credit ratings on purpose (the REAL goal of the “mortgage mess”, no?, including the prolonged and un-natural unemployment numbers which threw people who long ago payed off their mortgages, but could not pay the city and state property taxes and lost their homes THAT way…no one mentions THAT huge number of people…)

    as yet another way to keep NEW industry from taking off in a NORMAL WAY.

    This is how desperate and depraved the “grandfathered” industries are to maintain “market share”….and it is so ruthless and irrational, methinks grandpa’s mind has organic dementia and entrenched hatred – only such a combination could produce such a “project” as the mortgage mess in combo with funding AAA-rated fiberglass businesses, uranium ore mining, and now “rare minerals” mining

    while pouring millions into mama-grizzly mouths

    to crap all over solar, wind, and my personal favorite – the lightning tamer :-)

    non-AAA rated, “risky” business that don’t have any “property rights”.

    Constitutional Convention and burn the Patriot Act.

    The President of the USA is


    I repeat,

    IS NOT

    and WAS NOT

    ever meant to represent anybody but the INDIVIDUAL HUMAN BEING and the life-maintenance that ONLY a great civilization can provide.

    That’s why it is so easy to see when a President goes wrong in the balance of power.

    Yes, we have strayed so far beyond being a civilization that provides culture and a higher standard of living for the greatest number.

    NIHILISTS are in charge of “politics”. How’s that working out for everyone? Don’t let the careful detailing of their CRIMES (contracts?) freeze up your brain with pointless minutia.


  56. “the windswept treetops
    this symphony of immortalized windwoods and fern strings alike
    garnering in unison their melodic bounty of songfest upon thy berther
    altruistic mountainous majesty betrothed in delight misty sky chaperoning eyes above as the daylight clouds applaud their acquiesce approval
    so too is it for the mighty granite
    the creators foundation
    pardoning thy roots passage with grandiose creedance of acceptance
    thusly a eternal time tested symbiotic love affair with the sky above and the mud below
    hence this formality we call natures glory coming together as one
    thusly natures stewards must surely realize
    one with an ears of a fox
    eyes of a eagle would
    should think thrice
    that thou hath placed a permanent footprint on a perilous path of decadence”

    “The Splender of the Appalachian Trails” a true American Heritage !

  57. “What I want to know is: does the latest Supreme Court ruling that grants 1st amendment free speech rights to corporations also mean we can drag a corporation into a criminal court? ”

    Jeff– you’ve always had that option.
    All you have to do is convince a judge you’ve got a valid criminal complaint. What you can’t do is decide, unilaterally, upon the crimes, the verdicts or the punishments. We have laws.

    Your “anticipatable harm”, for example, pushes beyond law: If you drive, I can anticipate harm. It might happen, it might not, but I can anticipate it. I take it you agree, then, that any injuries you inflict as a result of an automotive accident are Assaults for which you should serve jail time? And that anyone who rode with you, or asked you to drive is a conspirator?

  58. I think Jeff is confusing civil and criminal law standards. What he describes as “anticipateable harm” is actually the “reasonably foreseeable” standard that arises out of torts, and is applied to a question of negligence. But yes, Swami, negligent homicide is, in fact, such a standard in the criminal law. A person who gets drunk and then drives and kills someone has usually committed negligent homicide in most jurisdictions, and the convictions are based, at least in part, on the fact that hazardous driving is a reasonable, foreseeable consequence of getting loaded and then getting behind the wheel.

    Still, no, he can’t, as you state, Swami, “convince a judge [he has] a valid criminal complaint.” At this juncture, in most jurisdictions, he has to convince a law enforcement officer, who then has to convince a prosecutor, who then has to convince a judge (and jury).

  59. Following up on the mountaintop removal issue as raised in this post, it’s interesting to note that Massey Energy is actually thinking about selling to the highest bidder:

    Could it be that the dodgy finance schemes in which Massey has engaged for years are finally catching up, especially with a number of banks having decided to get out of the business of financing Don Blankenship’s corporate loan-kiting?

  60. Hollywood has already made a movie, “The Truman Show”, about a corporation that exercises its right to have a child.

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