Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Detroit News, the Guardian, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndrewKroll.

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Mountaintop Removal's Fate Heads to Capitol Hill

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 8:35 PM EDT

On Wednesday afternoon, lawmakers in Washington, DC, will finally take up the fate of mountaintop removal mining, a type of surface mining that levels the summits of mountains to expose coal seams. The practice inflicts substantial damage to the surrounding environment and communities, mainly because the removed rock and soil is dumped into nearby rivers and streams, contaminating them and often burying water sources. The Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife will host the first legitimate hearing on mountaintop removal in nearly seven years, titled "The Impacts of Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining on Water Quality in Appalachia." Witnesses include leading experts on the subject, like Maria Gunnoe, a 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for her organizing against the mining practice; Dr. Margaret Palmer of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Sciences; and Randy Pomponio, the director of the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region, among others.

An outspoken opponent of mountaintop removal, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) called the hearing to more thoroughly review the effects of the practice, a decision that comes on the back of legislation he introduced in March with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to completely ban the mountaintop removal called the Appalachia Restoration Act. The hearing also has supporters and opponents of mountaintop removal fired up: Both coal industry-friendly and environmental groups have chartered buses to Capitol Hill for the hearing, while other organizations will be streaming video of the event. (Not to mention the recent arrests of NASA's James Hansen and others who were protesting mountaintop removal in Southern West Virginia.)

 

SCOTUS Allows Waste Dumping in Alaska Lake

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 7:14 PM EDT

In a major setback for the people and wildlife of southern Alaska, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 today that the Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation can legally under the Clean Water Act dump more than 4.5 million tons of “slurry”—a mining waste byproduct that’s a mixture of crushed rock and water—in the Lower Slate Lake in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The ruling overturned a May 2007 decision by a lower appeals court denying Coeur d’Alene’s permit, which applies to its Kensington Gold Mine north of Juneau, Alaska's capital city.

But isn’t the Clean Water Act supposed to protect our lakes and rivers and other water sources? Well, yes. For nearly 30 years, the CWA expressly prohibited pumping harmful waste materials into waters, allowing only "fill material" for building structures like seawalls and levees to be dumped, and only then with permits from the Army Corps of Engineers. But in 2002, the Bush Administration tweaked the definition of "fill" to include dangerous waste products with an EPA memo that the public never saw. The memo's expansion of the "fill" definition permitted harmful slurry dumping into lakes and other water sources. In making its decision today, the Supreme Court relied on this memo.
 

Are You the Worst Driver in America?

| Thu Jun. 18, 2009 7:51 PM EDT

That's the question the Travel Channel is taking on the road for its new reality show (and a new low for TV): "America's Worst Driver." You know that saying about not being able to look away from a car crash? Well, now you'll get to watch lots of car crashes. And rewind them, pause, get up and use the bathroom, saunter over to the refrigerator and, yes, flip on the slo-mo—all from the comfort of your home.

A casting call on the Travel Channel's website says that the predictably ill-fated show will "determine which city boasts America's worst driver. Each week a number of bad drivers from a particular city will compete in a series of driving challenges designed to ferret out that city's worst driver." (Whereas, here at Mother Jones, we're all about safe driving—and even hypermiling.) At the end of it all, the winners (or is it the losers?) from New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Seattle, and San Francisco will battle it out for the title in what I can only hope is a Demolition Derby-meets-bad-cable-TV showdown.

So, MoJo reader, which city do you think has the worst drivers in America? After a summer spent dodging cabbies, errant tourists, and indifferent New Yorkers in Manhattan, my vote goes to New York.

Bailout Watchdogs to the Rescue?

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 3:17 PM EDT

What’s worrisome about the bailout repayments is that banks might buy back their government-held warrants on the cheap. If the ten big banks that have been in the headlines this week after the Treasury announced they could pay their way out of TARP get discounts like multiple smaller banks before them, taxpayers will be on the losing end...again.

But there's good news: Two bailout watchdogs, the Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP) and the Congressional Oversight Panel, announced today in a letter to the Senate that they intend to zero in on the sale of warrants in order to protect taxpayers and shed some much needed light on these transactions.

 

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