Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Appalachian candidates run 'War on Coal' ads, ignore mountaintop-removal studies

Candidates for federal office in Appalachian states such as Kentucky and West Virginia are pushing the fight against President Obama's "War on Coal" while promising to defend the industry. But no one is touching climate change and recent studies that prove the negative health effects of mountaintop removal, Ken Ward reports for The Charleston Gazette. He cites West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, the Democrat running to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Tennant has bought about $120,000 of television time for an ad in which she turns the lights off on the White House after asking, "Where do they think their electricity comes from? You and I know it’s our hard-working West Virginia coal miners that power America. I’ve fought to protect our coal jobs right alongside [Democratic Senator] Joe Manchin, and I’ll stand up to leaders of both parties who threaten our way of life. I’ll make sure President Obama gets the message."

Ward writes, "She doesn’t seem to want to talk about whether that “way of life” needs to include birth defects, heart disease, cancer and premature deaths. . . . This kind of complete nonsense is exactly why West Virginians are so very far from being able to discuss coal and climate change issues with even the smallest bit of intelligence, reason, and forward thinking. It’s a shame that Natalie Tennant won’t show more leadership than this. She’s got a great opportunity to really move the conversation forward about the future of our coalfield communities, the urgency to act on climate change, and the desperate need to diversify our economy. Instead, we get an ad that comes straight out of the 'Friends of Coal' playbook."

"We all know that coal’s share of the nation’s electricity generation has dropped significantly, from more than half just a few years ago to 39 percent last year," Ward writes. "Projections show continued coal production declines — even without the EPA carbon dioxide rules — here in West Virginia and the rest of Central Appalachia." (U.S. Energy Information Administration graphic)

"But rather than focus her campaign on this painful fact, and on whatever ideas she has for dealing with the ongoing bottoming-out of Southern West Virginia’s coal industry and diversifying the economy, Natalie Tennant is perpetuating the myth that if only West Virginia leaders could undo the Obama administration’s somewhat mild approach to dealing with climate change, things in places like McDowell County will be booming again," Ward writes. "It’s a shame that the West Virginia Democrats haven’t come up with a better campaign message than this in their effort to keep the Senate seat that Sen. Jay Rockefeller has held for so long."

"Over the last few years, though, it’s been pretty tough to get Natalie Tennant to talk at all about mountaintop removal," Ward writes. "When she was running for governor three years ago, she wouldn’t even respond to a question from the Gazette about the issue. This time around, her Senate campaign’s 'Coal and Energy Jobs Agenda,' doesn’t mention mountaintop removal. The campaign website doesn’t list an issue section focused on public health and the environment." (Read more)

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