Coal Exec: Let Us Blow Up the Appalachians or We’ll All Be Speaking Chinese

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Friday, January 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm

By all accounts, it was quite a show last night in Charleston, W.Va., where Don Blankenship, president of Virginia-based Massey Energy, squared off against environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. over the hot-button (and increasingly high-profile) topic of mountaintop coal mining. But the money quote, via the Charleston Gazette, comes from Blankenship:

“The mission statement for coal is prosperity for this country,” Blankenship told a packed house at the University of Charleston. “This industry is what made this country great and if we forget that, we’re going to have to learn to speak Chinese.”

He has a point: Coal is cheap, and more than 50 percent of the nation’s electricity is generated from it. But the critics aren’t arguing against the importance of coal, they’re arguing against the destructive method by which the industry is harvesting it in Appalachia. And those are two different things.

The Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. has been following this topic for years, and has the debate rundown here and here. (And for real devotees, West Virginia Public Broadcasting has the full audio here.)

For those unfamiliar with mountaintop removal, the gist of the issue is this: Coal companies have learned that they can save time and money by blowing the tops off of the Appalachian Mountains — the oldest range in the country and among the oldest in the world — in order to reach the seams of coal contained inside. The heavy machinery used in the process means that the companies need fewer laborers; and lax enforcement of environmental laws, both federal and state, has allowed companies to dump the waste into adjacent stream valleys, which saves the cost of trucking it to more distant dumping sites. That the process violates the Clean Water Act has been no problem in the eyes of West Virginia’s powerful Democrats.

The industry argues that this process creates much needed jobs in a downtrodden part of the country — ignoring the inconvenient fact that harvesting the coal by other methods would create even more jobs. Environmentalists, for their part, say that mountaintop removal comes at the too-high cost of poisoning waterways, contaminating air, killing off wildlife and flooding nearby homes.

“This is the worst environmental crime that has ever happened in our history,” Kennedy said. “These companies are liquidating this state for cash with these gigantic machines.”

The 90-minute debate wasn’t going to change any minds among the hundreds of miners and environmentalists in attendance. But as ABC News accurately noted, “the real audience extends far beyond West Virginia and central Appalachia; it’s the millions of Americans who don’t know a strip mine from a slurry impoundment, but whose anger or acceptance of mountaintop mining could tip the political balance one way or the other.”

Indeed, the more exposure this issue gets, the tougher it will be for Washington lawmakers to accept the decimation of the country’s oldest mountain range.

Comments

11 Comments

jrusso
Comment posted January 22, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

One would think this is the kind of case that both jobs advocates and environmentalists can actually agree on. The reason the coal companies do mountain topping is so they can eliminate all the miners they have to employ to get coal the old-fashioned way. So not only is this bad for the environment, it's also bad for workers.


Hardy Spire
Comment posted January 22, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

You can view the entire debate by clicking on this link:

http://www.cleanskies.com/videos/kennedy-blanke…

Clean Skies News provides in depth coverage of energy and environmental news.


monkey99
Comment posted January 22, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

No kidding, but the folk up there have been worse off than the rest of the nation for generations. They're not stupid, but when desperation sets in, it's difficult to argue with an industry that brings jobs, however few.

They could have used a better example than China. The Chinese are having some real problems with the coal they're extracting, not to mention the horrendous health problems they will be saddled with for generations to come by burning it in the amounts they are, currently.


uberVU - social comments
Trackback posted January 22, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

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Midday Open Thread | TheWorldPolitics
Pingback posted January 22, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

[...] president of  Massey Energy makes the industry’s case says screw the consequences on mountaintop [...]


caseyverdant
Comment posted January 22, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

The Future of Energy debate will provide Massey Energy with the opportunity to try and explain their environmentally-destructive, resource-deficient mining methods. Hopefully, Robert Kennedy Jr. will do more than talk about the disastrous environmental effects by proposing some domestic alternative-energy solutions.

If you are interested in alternative energies and environmentally-friendly technology, check out http://www.greencollareconomy.com. It has hundreds of case studies on green tech and the largest b2b green directory on the web.


daniel_cobb
Comment posted January 23, 2010 @ 3:06 am

Mr. Kennedy was correct on every point, and Mr. Blankenship is a criminal thug. Oh, and yes, lets blow the living hell out of all of our mountains, in Appalachia and everywhere, 'cause God knows, Chinese is a really hard language to learn, especially when your IQ has been tweaked by mercury-laden coal dust and your brain is starved for oxygen from dead lungs. Forgive me, is my attitude showing? Go figure. GREED KILLS. The mining industry is in DESPERATE NEED OF REFORM.


caseyverdant
Comment posted January 23, 2010 @ 3:23 am

The Future of Energy debate will provide Massey Energy with the opportunity to try and explain their environmentally-destructive, resource-deficient mining methods. Hopefully, Robert Kennedy Jr. will do more than talk about the disastrous environmental effects by proposing some domestic alternative-energy solutions.

If you are interested in alternative energies and environmentally-friendly technology, check out http://www.greencollareconomy.com. It has hundreds of case studies on green tech and the largest b2b green directory on the web.


daniel_cobb
Comment posted January 23, 2010 @ 8:06 am

Mr. Kennedy was correct on every point, and Mr. Blankenship is a criminal thug. Oh, and yes, lets blow the living hell out of all of our mountains, in Appalachia and everywhere, 'cause God knows, Chinese is a really hard language to learn, especially when your IQ has been tweaked by mercury-laden coal dust and your brain is starved for oxygen from dead lungs. Forgive me, is my attitude showing? Go figure. GREED KILLS. The mining industry is in DESPERATE NEED OF REFORM. See http://www.themine-thebook.com


» Activist Biggers fights uphill battle against dirty coal
Pingback posted February 10, 2010 @ 7:42 pm

[...] concerns. “The mission statement for coal is prosperity for this country,” Blankenship said. “This industry is what made this country great and if we forget that, we’re going to have to [...]


Louis Vuitton Artsy
Comment posted August 21, 2010 @ 7:03 am

No kidding, but the folk up there have been worse off than the rest of the nation for generations.


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