Coal Tattoo

Friday roundup, June 26, 2009

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Ruth Tucker of the Coal River area was charged with battery after she allegedly slapped activist Judy Bonds during a face-off between miners, their families and anti-mountaintop removal protesters outside a Massey Energy operation in Raleigh County, W.Va., on Tuesday. Gazette photo by Chris Dorst.

As I write, the debate goes on (via C-Span’s Web site)  in the U.S. House of Representatives on the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act. Coal is at the heart of the matter, as shown by the speech I just watched by Illinois Republican John Shimkus, one of the leaders of the GOP’s effort to attack the legislation as a “job killer.” And now West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, also a Republican, is adding herself to those throwing around the “job killer” quote.

At least one coalfield lawmaker, Virginia Democrat Rick Boucher, continued to support the bill — and argue that it’s packed with language that will (as the United Mine Workers admits) keep the coal industry safe.

Even if the bill passes the House later today, it’s got a long way to go … so stay tuned. And give a read to my post today, West Virginia and global warming: Coal wins another round, for one take on what it all means.

This was also a huge week on the mountaintop removal front, starting with Tuesday’s big protest down at Marsh Fork Elementary School. For some thoughts and context on that, check out this post, Mountaintop removal protest: Finding a path forward?

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Actress and longtime environmental advocate Daryl Hannah was among those arrested during the big anti-mountaintop removal protest.

Then, there was yesterday’s U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing (with video and written testimony) on mountaintop removal and the bipartisan bill to outlaw valley fills.  I wrote a Gazette story and this blog post on that hearing, and I plan to write more about some of the testimony soon. Also check out Sue Sturgis’ take over at Facing South.

The fallout from the protest continues, as Massey Energy President Don Blankenship has renewed his challenge to debate global warming, mountaintop removal and the coal economy with NASA scientist James Hansen, who was arrested during the protest.

And hey, Blankenship is tweeting … follow him.

And I thought Coal Tattoo readers might enjoy reading this profile of Hansen, (registration required) written in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert, author of the great book on climate change, Field Notes from a Catastrophe.There’s also a short item on the magazine’s Web site about Hansen’s arrest.

In other coal and mining news:

The Daily Yonder blog reports on the recent studies examining the costs and benefits of coal:

One example of the economic weakness of coal mining communities is the continuing outmigration from these places. An average of 639 people moved from each coal mining county in West Virginia between 1995 and 2000. In non-coal counties, an average of 422 people moved in during those same five years.

Both reports came to the same conclusion: coal communities would be healthier and wealthier if they found ways to diversify their economies.

— Writing on Climate Progress,  reports on those same studies:

The Appalachian region has been supplying American with cheap energy for generations, a duty it has performed with a sense of pride and patriotism. But while electricity from the region’s coal has been cheap for the rest of us, the price has been extraordinarily high for the people of the mountains.

— The Obama administration — which has promised to be open and transparent with the public — refuses to release details of its meetings with the coal industry, according to this report from Kate Sheppard of Grist.

— Responding to West Virginia Chamber of Commerce claims about the climate change bill, Bob Kincaid of Victor, W.Va., explains in a letter on West Virginia Blue that West Virginia is already a poor energy state.

The Pump Handle has more on MSHA and FOIA.

The Associated Press,  the Knoxville News Sentinel,  and theTennessean have coverage of the TVA’s report on its coal-ash dam disaster.