Four States Rally Around Coal in Day-Long Show of Support for Industry
Thursday, June 07, 2012
Joe St. Clair
Some delivered it with the fervor of evangelists, some were more toned down, but all who spoke during a coal rally in Abingdon last Saturday had the same message -- how important coal is, not only to the region's future, but to the future of the nation, as well. More than two-thousand people were estimated to have attended the rally held at the Abingdon Fairground. The event was hosted by the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES) and the Eastern Coal Council. In addition to a host of speakers, the event featured music throughout the day, food, games and rides for children. The rally ran from 11 a.m. to just after 4 p.m. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell joined an A-list group of politicians - both Democrat and Republican - from four central Appalachian states who roused the crowd with speeches on the importance of standing together to save the industry from what many see as a regulatory "war on coal." Speakers included politicians from Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee, as well as a number of representatives of the region's largest coal producers.
McDonnell spoke of the $5.5 billion economic impact coal has on Virginia. "We have the best metallurgical coal in the world," he noted and added the largest coal export port in the U.S. is located in Virginia at Hampton Roads. McDonnell said coal is the backbone of the nation's electric utility generation system. He said that in an "all ofthe above" approach to energy, the nation "needs to start by protecting the ones (energy resources) that work." The governor said the EPA has gotten "too heavy handed" in regulations affecting the coal industry. He urged all in attendance to take a stand - regardless if they are Democrat or Republican - to speak up in a united voice that coal and coal jobs in the U.S. need to be protected.
Former U.S. Senator George Allen told the crowd Saturday, "the EPA as an unelected bureaucracy, should not have the power to bypass the will of the people and impose regulations that would debilitate our economy, resulting in terrible job losses in Southwest Virginia communities and all businesses related to coal." Allen, once again seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate, said in order to continue our way of life in the United States it is time to "unleash" the nation's energy resources, including coal. "The point is," he said. "When coal is doing well, businesses do well." U.S. Ninth District Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) said he was elected to fight President Obama's policies regarding coal. "I've been fighting every day since I was elected," he said. Griffith added he, too, is one of the faces of coal who include not just miners, but people who sell cars, work in manufacturing, work in restaurants and all the many other industries who also depend on coal. "Faces of coal includes us all," he said. Griffith said now is not the time for the coal industry to wave the flag of surrender, noting the worry is not just about jobs, but how citizens in the U.S. will be able to afford heating and cooling their homes. Griffith said with increasing government regulations threatening the operation of coal fired power plants and also making it more expensive to mine coal, a number of energy cost factors are already rising, some as much as eight-fold.
Virginia Lt. Governor Bill Bolling told the crowd "the American coal industry is worth fighting for." "The fight is not about Republican and Democrat," Bolling said. "It's about standing up for an industry and way of life." Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said the country's current administration is 'literally looking for ways to destroy coal." Cuccinelli said current government agency regulations "make it literally illegal to build another coal-fired power plant." Virginia Senators Phillip Puckett and Bill Carrico also spoke at the rally, with Puckett saying how important it is to let people know the importance of coal, both for jobs and the nation, saying it is the energy source that "keeps the lights on" in the country. Carrico called coal the "lifeblood of the region." He said "God gave us coal" and all other natural resources to use and he feels when it comes to environmental regulations, the "EPA is wor- shipping the creation more than the Creator." Barbara Comstock, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, serving the 34th District that includes McLean, Great Falls, Vienna and parts of Loudoun County, told those attending the rally, "you have friends in Northern Virginia." She noted what happens with regard to coal in the southwestern region of the state is important to all of Virginia. Virginia Delegates Terry Kilgore, Israel O'Quinn, as well as Virginia Senator Mark Obenshain and Shane Clem of U.S. Senator Mark Warner's office, were also among the the many who spoke throughout the day.
Other speakers included many from Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee who stressed the importance of the Central Appalachian states standing together to support coal. One such speaker, Tennessee 1st District Congressman Phil Roe, said one company in his region - Eastman Chemical - uses 60 rail cars of coal every day. "We have 250 years of coal in the U.S.," Roe said. "Why in the world don't we use it?" Kentucky House of Representatives Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, a Democrat, said the district he represents has a coalfired power plant and that it is under regulatory attack. Adkins urged American Electric Power to stand up and support such plants and also the continued mining and burning of coal. "We cannot allow AEP to wave the white flag in the middle of coal country," Adkins said to a roaring crowd. He noted coal mining is safer and cleaner than at any time in history. "It's a direct attack on the coal industry," Adkins said of efforts by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Sierra Club and others opposed to mining. He said federal EPA regulations have affected "thousands of jobs in Kentucky and "sent people home who had good jobs. These are not statistics, these are real people impacted by the war on coal." VA Gov. Bob McDonnell (right) greets KY House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins as Ninth District Congressman Morgan Griffith, other elected officials and coal industry leaders look on during a coal rally In Abingdon Saturday.
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