Big Coal launching another PR campaign

August 19, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.


This afternoon, the coal industry is launching yet another public relations campaign — this one billing itself as “an alliance of people from all walks of life who have joined forces to educate the general public and lawmakers about the importance of coal and coal mining to our local and national economies.”

This group is calling itself the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security, which creates the nice abbreviation, FACES of Coal. The group is having a kick-off press event this afternoon at the offices of the Charleston Area Alliance, a regional chamber of commerce group.

Among those I’m told are taking place in today’s event are West Virginia state Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, Vivian Parsons, executive director of the County Commissioners’ Association of West Virginia, and Rick Rice, president of Mountain State Steam Inc. in Buckhannon.

This group joins the Friends of Coal, Citizens for Coal, and the West Virginia Coal Association —  not to mention those fine letter-faking folks at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy (Five more fake constituent letters to Congress, written by the ACCCE’s PR outfit, have been discovered, congressional investigators announced yesterday) — as well as the National Mining Association and who knows how many other industry front groups out there … oh yeah, don’t forget the new organization Friends of America.

10 Responses to “Big Coal launching another PR campaign”

  1. Matthew Cook says:

    Mr. Ward,
    Thank you for the publicity. There are not as many pro-coal as anti-coal groups (ohvec, CRMW, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, West Virginia HIghlands Conservancy, United Mountain Defense, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, EarthJustice, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, World Wildlife fund, Climate Action Network, mountain justice summer, appalachian voices, friends of the earth,, WJU-jk etc.) and we need the help.
    Matthew Cook

  2. Art N. Livestock says:

    My appologies, I’ve always had trouble understanding the communication efforts–no doubt sincere–of industry groups. Am I a member of the general public or someone who walks one of the walks of life?

  3. Dave Cooper says:

    Matthew Cook, the majority of the groups you cite are not “anti-coal” they are anti-mountaintop removal. There is a big difference.

  4. Don’t forget the ironically named “Coal Mining Our Future”, “Coalition for MTM”, and of course “Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy” (FORCE) which is being teased on blogs for not allowing families to join.

    Though I think they do allow families to sign up to their list.

  5. Matthew Cook says:

    Mr. Cooper,
    I suppose some of it comes down to semantics. In a way I’m sure that none of them are really against coal, just the mining or burning of it. For my purposes a group qualifies as anti-coal if they are opposed to the burning of coal, the mining of coal(including longwall), or structures necessary for the same (which includes at the current time slurry and ash impoundments). While a few of the groups I mentioned might be single issue, anti-mountaintop groups – I’m not that familiar with a couple of them-I’d be willing to wager my public apology on this board that a majority (8-I was just kidding about Wheeling Jesuit University) meet the requirements I listed above. Not sure how we could prove it either way, but I enjoy the discussion.

  6. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I guess the question that comes to my mind, given your very broad — and unfair, I think — definition of anti-coal , how would you define pro-coal?

    I mean … I think you’re unfair, because you seem to be defining anti-coal to include anyone who happens to think that certain aspects of your industry should be more closely regulated is anti-coal.

    Suppose, for example, that I think longwall mining is fine, but I think that any company that wants to mine under someone’s home should pay them $1 million compensation — just for the sake of argument — does that make me anti-coal? Suppose I think that it’s wrong for a company to, oh, I don’t know, deliberately violate the rule that requires a primary mine escapeway to be isolate from a belt entry … does that make me anti-coal?

    The reason I saw your definition is this broad is that built into your definition is the assumption that certain things are “necessary” — such as a wet fly-ash impoundment or a slurry dam. Not all experts agree such things are necessary. So I think you’re arguing that if you don’t support coal as is — warts and all — you’re anti-coal. That doesn’t seem fair.

    So … I wonder — to be “pro-coal”, do I have to support everything the coal industry does? Do I have to oppose any new regulations? Is someone like Rick Boucher anti-coal? How about the UMWA — they support tougher safety rules … does that mean they can’t be pro-coal?

    The media is as guilty as anybody at pigeon-holing people — and I do it all the time, too … are coal miners and their families not “coalfield citizens”? Well, of course they are.

    All of this pigeon holing, taken too far, leads to unnecessary name-calling — throwing around things like “tree hugger” or “environmental extremist.” I was sorry to see the new FACES of Coal group resorting to that kind of rhetoric.

    I’ve also been wondering lately — what’s it mean to be a “Friend of America”? If someone supports action on global warming, are they not a friend of America?

    I think we should all strive not to pigeon hole, and as I write this, I know that I will probably not do a very good job at it, either. But we should try.


  7. Matthew Cook says:

    Mr. Ward,
    Of course it is unfair, although I think the tongue in cheek attitude was obvious in my posts. I guess I would also say that I was reacting to my perception of the tone of your original post. As long as it is civil, I think the debate is valid. I will also state that I think certain groups pursue criticism of certain aspects of mining as part of an overall agend to attack mining and coal. However, I concede citizen complaints certainly have a valid role in government. Basically my point was that the groups you mentioned have just as much validity as any other special interest group.

  8. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I was attempting a bit of tongue in cheek as well … to make my point.

    I’d suggest that you shouldn’t assume what the “overall agenda” of any particular group is. You can’t get in their head and know what they are thinking. Try to take folks for what they are.

    In that regard, let’s not pretend that FACES of Coal is some grassroots uprising to support your industry. According to Bryan Brown, the group’s PR guy, it was formed by the coal association and Friends of Coal. It’s astroturf — hardly a grassroots organization.

    I agree that it is valid — but it also is what it is … and that’s another coal industry front group. Pretending it’s anything else isn’t quite as bad as the ACCCE faking letters to Congress, but it’s still not very honest.


  9. Matthew Cook says:

    Mr. Ward,
    If groups which support coal are necessarily industry “front” groups and “astro-turf”, what are protestors advocating the dissolution of state agencies, who claim their houses are being destroyed by blasting and then turn out to all be from out-of state? How about the people who claim (in court) they used to swim in pristine rivers 30 years ago, when residents will tell you the river used to run black 50 weeks out of the year. I don’t support faking letters to congress, the person involved should be prosecuted if applicable, but I don’t think the dozen letters or so involved should be used to invalidate my and others participation in the process. As a final statement, as I’m sure everyone but me is bored by this post, the statements being made about Mr. Huffman on the other thread are much more incendiary and unfair than any I have made.
    Thank you for the forum.

  10. Sandra Johnson says:

    It is not Mountain Top Removal, but rather Mountain Top Development. How is it that Lexington and Louisville are allowed to destroy farm land, or horse grazing lands every day to make way for development of new schools, hospitals, etc., but we move mountains (and not all!) to make way for schools, move rivers that were destroying towns (Pikeville), and businesses desparately needed for our area.

    With regard to Coal Mining, all of the documentation being distributed by Anti-Coal groups use outdated (1970’s-1980’s) documentation to hand out their myths of how bad coal mining is. We recently sent a delegation to China. They are asking for our help with regard to making “cleaner” coal. If we want to save our environment, and truly are serious, then we need to send help to the Chinese government to help them clean up their carbon emissions. Theirs is 1000% higher than we and are not even started with making changes. You cannot even see from one skyscraper to another in HongKong due to this. These emissions are coming to America, first with California and then the rest. Let’s put our government money to work where it is really needed.

    And yes, I am one of the Faces of Coal.

    Sandra Johnson
    Pikeville, KY

Leave a Reply