Last updated: July 18. 2013 12:48PM - 122 Views
By Michael Browning
Staff Writer



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BELLE — Officials meeting at a Coal Forum in Belle say they plan to educate people on the benefits of coal.


U.S. Senator Joe Mancin (D-WV), Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, W.Va. Senator Art Kirkendoll (D-Logan) and coal and business industry leaders met Wednesday morning at Walker Machinery in Belle for a Coal Forum, hosted by the FACES of Coal and West Virginia Coal Association.


The outcome of the roundtable discussion was that Manchin, Tomblin and Kirkendoll have pledged to take the message of coal from the mountains of West Virginia to elected officials in other states, with the hopes that the message will spread and people will see the benefits of coal.


Senator Manchin thanked Governor Tomblin, Senator Kirkendoll, FACES of Coal, the West Virginia Coal Association, labor leaders and business leaders for holding a frank strategy session yesterday morning about how to work together to win the war on coal.


“We should be so proud of what we have done for this nation,” Senator Manchin said. “And now, it’s almost like they have us on the defense, defending what we do as our way of life. Coal is an energy source that has made our nation what it is. We just have to tell our story more. That’s what I’m trying to do all over this country, telling what we have done. Every night, you should get on your knees and say a prayer for a coal miner and a coal operator that have basically given all of us in this country the life we have. It’s built our industrial might.”


Senator Manchin said the United States needs to have more energy indepenence, but it can’t as long as the Environmental Protection Agency wages a war on coal.


“We need to be less dependent on foreign oil and be more independent as far as domestic energy,” Senator Manchin said. “But, you can’t do that if your own federal government is working against us and that is what seems to be happening. We want to change their minds with the facts. The rest of the world is going to use more coal, whether we use a ton or not. If you really want to clean up the environment, why not help other countries with new technology we should be finding here so that we can continue to burn coal and they can continue to develop their nations. It just makes common sense, but, boy, are we having a tough time getting through.”


Senator Manchin said his two best allies in the fight for coal are Tomblin and Kirkendoll.


“They are working hard and they are the best partners I’ve got,” Senator Manchin said. “Gov. Tomblin has been my partner for many, many years, when he was a senator and I was governor. Art Kirkendoll understands coal. These guys will fight for the facts. We’re not just defending coal for the sake of defending it. We’re trying to bring common sense and realization so that people know the facts.”


Kirkendoll said the EPA’s regulations on coal are “ridiculous.” He said he hopes that the Coal Forum attendees will be able to make understand just how vital coal is to the nation’s energy independence.


“We brought all the stakeholders together — business leaders, labor leaders, utility companies, elected leaders — to talk about how America is in trouble if we don’t do something about our energy problems,” Kirkendoll said. “Some of the sanctions the EPA has put on our coal industry are simply unreachable.”


Kirkendoll said that EPA’s attacks will hurt West Virginia’s coal production at a time when coal consumption will be high.


“We want to mine coal the right way,” Kirkendoll said. “It is a proven fact that coal consumption is going to increase about 30 percent in the next two decades and we’re going to be left unable to produce coal in West Virginia. We’re going to have to import coal to use it because we can’t get permits to mine it. If we get permits to mine it, then we can’t get permits to burn coal.”


Kirkendoll said the American public is going to suffer high energy costs from the EPA’s war on coal, but many people don’t know that fact.


“We’re going to try to put a program together to tell America the truth about coal,” Kirkendoll said. “The EPA is totally out of compliance and totally ridiculous in their standards. We are the most scrutinized industry in the world and we want to be environmentally sound. We don’t want the EPA putting America out of position because we cannot have permits to work in the coal mines. We’re going to step up our efforts to find a gameplan and to tell America about the benefits of coal so that we can move West Virginia and America forward.”


Branch Banking and Trust Vice President Joe Raymond, from the Danville branch, also took part in the meeting. He said the forum brought together coal and business leaders so that those involved can better educate people about coal.


“I think the focus of the meeting was to bring everybody together,” Raymond said. “We don’t feel that a lot of people understand the regulations the EPA is putting forth, such as the definition of a stream. When you think of a stream, you think of a stream in which you swim, play and fish, when, in fact, under the EPA’s definition, a stream carries water maybe only at times of rainfall. Many people, including lawmakers, may not understand that and we want to make sure that people do understand those regulations.”


Gov. Tomblin said coal has been the backbone of the state’s economy for a long time. He said the EPA’s war on coal has been affecting the way of life in West Virginia.


“Everyone wants a clean environment and we want to do it right, but we need the time for the technology to be developed where we can burn coal cleanly or come with alternative fuel sources. We’re doing that very well in West Virginia,” Tomblin said. “But, the time schedule of the EPA is quicker than what is realistic in our country today. We’re willing to play by the rules, but they have to be reasonable rules and that’s the message we’ll take away from here today.”


More than 30 people attended the Coal Forum.


“Just bringing all of us together in one room proves one thing: in West Virginia, we can work together. That’s why I say that creating a true all-of-the-above energy plan is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem; it’s a problem for all of America to solve. Neither political party can do this on their own, so we need all of your help in telling our story,” Senator Manchin said.


During the closed-door session, Senator Manchin explained his efforts to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency and encourage more investment in clean coal technology. He highlighted the fact that the Administration is investing in unproven technologies that produce very little of the country’s energy when they should be working instead to improve the effectiveness of coal, which produces nearly half of the country’s electricity.


“Instead of investing $500 million in bankrupt solar companies like Solyndra, we could’ve invested in cleaner coal technology and had something to show for it,” Senator Manchin said. “If the EPA wants us to build cleaner coal-fired plants, then the government should help us develop that technology.”


Senator Manchin pointed out that West Virginians want to invest in making coal cleaner because, like all Americans, they care about their environment, economy and jobs – and that the state constantly works to keep that balance.


“If you’re concerned about clean air and clean water, then you have to figure out how to use coal more efficiently and cleanly. Here in West Virginia, history shows that we’ve done it and can do it. We just want the federal government to be our ally, not our adversary,” Senator Manchin said. “As we’ve shown with our Alternative and Renewable Portfolio Standards, you can be ‘all in’ with every source of energy you have, reduce your emissions and maintain coal production. You just have to live in the real world, deal with the fact that coal produces nearly half this country’s electricity, work with the market you have and clean up your environment. We’ve proven that we can do that here in West Virginia.”


Senator Manchin thanked West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Rainey for pointing out that West Virginia responsibly achieved lower emissions called for in the portfolio standards 13 years ahead of schedule – without diminishing coal production.


Participants raised concerns with the EPA’s approach to energy on several issues, calling their war on coal an attack on “air, land and sea.” Senator Manchin described how he’s fighting new overly burdensome emissions rules that are forcing power plants to close prematurely and preventing new coal-fired plants from being built, unrealistic timetables for implementing additional rules, the backlog of permits, and EPA’s interference with state permitting programs.


Senator Manchin is on a two-week tour called “Fighting for Every Job,” and winning the war on coal is a key element of the fight. During the tour, Senator Manchin is highlighting the connection between jobs and energy independence, his agenda to help small businesses succeed, how to revitalize American manufacturing, the importance of training the workforce through higher education, and his growing effort to hire unemployed veterans.


Senator Manchin kicked off the tour last week with a major speech on energy and jobs at the John Amos power plant, where he vowed to fight the EPA’s proposed new rules on greenhouse gas emissions and highlighted the connection between energy independence and creating good jobs. He also outlined his energy approach: using all our domestic resources in a true “all of the above” strategy. He underscored the grave consequences if the country fails to embrace coal-fired generation, which produces about 45 percent of the energy used in the country and is projected to produce the lion’s share of energy decades into the future.


Since arriving in the nation’s capital, Senator Manchin has fought from his first day to stand up for the state. After killing the cap-and-trade bill on the first day he took office, Senator Manchin has:


• Proposed the EPA Fair Play Act to prevent the agency from retroactively vetoing permits;


• Cosponsored legislation to push for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline to bring oil from Canada, our closest neighbor and ally;


• Proposed the American Alternative Fuels Act to allow the government to use more domestic fuels;


• Proposed the Fair Compliance Act to create reasonable deadlines for utilities to comply with EPA rules so that jobs aren’t destroyed, the electric grid isn’t jeopardized and families don’t have to pay skyrocketing utility bills.


• Cosponsored the REINS Act to give Congress oversight over any regulation that has an economic impact of more than $100 million, taking those decisions out of the hands of unelected bureaucrats.


Citizens For Coal official Roger Horton said it will take everyone working together to get the message out about the importance of coal.


“We discussed how we need to move forward in dealing with the EPA,” Horton said. “They have been assaulting us from land, sea and air. That’s the absolute truth. What we have decided today is to begin educating all the congressmen, all the senators and all the public about the importance of coal to our economy. We have 26 states that mine coal. We have 30-some that utilize coal. There are states that use coal in their electric generating process up to 70-80 percent and they don’t even know how important coal is to them. We need to educate those people so we can turn this administration’s mindset around.


“Coal is important to all 55 counties in West Virginia because they all benefit from the coal severance tax. It is so vitally important to this entire state.”


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To contact Staff Writer Michael Browning, call 304-752-6950, extension 309, or email him at mbrowning@loganbanner.com.

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