W.Va. Chamber: Block health care reform to help coal

November 20, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.

steveroberts-web.jpg

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is calling on the state’s congressional delegation — particularly Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockfeller — to refuse to advance health-care reform legislation unless or until the Obama administration stops what the Chamber calls a “war on coal/energy.”

In a press statement issued this morning, Chamber President Steve Roberts (above) says:

Since the start of the Obama Administration and the new Congress there has been a growing campaign against the mining and use of coal. This war against coal and domestic energy threatens our state and its citizens with increased poverty, lost tax revenues and economic disruption. This needs to end before irreparable damage sets in.

The Chamber’s press release continues:

Roberts noted that job losses and poverty are major factors that contribute to poor health. “No other factor affects a person’s — and a family’s health — than being impoverished,” he added. “West Virginia has made good strides over the past five years to improve the health and well-being of its citizens, and a strong, productive state energy industry is central to this.”

“It seems counterintuitive to ask taxpayers in this country to pour money and take on a trillion dollars in future debt to expand health care coverage and benefits while at the same time the Obama administration and Congress are working to destroy jobs, eliminate good health care benefits and hurt people’s well-being.”

Moreover, this new campaign against coal and domestic energy production will only put added pressure on the nation’s growing energy needs and costs, and, thereby cause additional jobs to be lost in manufacturing, services, technology and a host of other industries. “Coal, which is an affordable, domestic energy resource used to generate 50 percent of the nation’s electricity, should not be cast aside based on the radical viewpoints of the some fringe elements. Nor should new attacks be allowed to start against the domestic natural gas industry.” Roberts called on the state’s congressional delegation to withhold voting to advance national health care reform until the Obama Administration, particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, backs down on its campaign against coal.

“Votes to advance national health care reform are at razor-thin margins in both houses of Congress, and West Virginia’s congressional delegation needs to use this time – and their clout and seniority — to get this anti-coal situation stopped.”

State Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin first came up with this idea, but Sen. Rockefeller has one has already rejected the notion of blocking health-care unless EPA stops reviewing mountaintop removal permits.

21 Responses to “W.Va. Chamber: Block health care reform to help coal”

  1. A-mouse says:

    So, let’s punish the whole nation by fighting against needed health reform, in order to blackmail the Obama Admin into backing off its attempts to improve it’s regulation of an industry that has been proven to have significant impacts on people’s health. I think the white rabbit has found a permanent home in West Virginia.

  2. Contrarian says:

    “No other factor affects a person’s — and a family’s health — than being impoverished..”

    Don’t let facts get in the way of a good talking point.

  3. […] Blogs @ The Charleston Gazette – » W.Va. Chamber: Block health care reform to help coal blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2009/11/20/wva-chamber-block-health-care-reform-to-help-coal – view page – cached The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is calling on the state’s congressional delegation — particularly Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockfeller — to refuse to advance health-care… Read moreThe West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is calling on the state’s congressional delegation — particularly Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockfeller — to refuse to advance health-care reform legislation unless or until the Obama administration stops what the Chamber calls a “war on Read less […]

  4. Andrew says:

    Nobody wants this health-care reform except big government and the 14% without health coverage. The majority is worried about the economy and jobs. Let’s punish 85% of the population with this Health Care Reform (oxy-moron), come on!!

  5. blue canary says:

    Well, Andrew, I have excellent health care coverage and I fully support health reform. There’s polling data here that shows people generally split down the middle on the issue: http://www.pollingreport.com/health.htm Check your facts before making statements like that.

  6. Sassafrassmolly says:

    I agree with blue canary. I have health coverage and think we desperately need to reform that system.

  7. Same Here says:

    I too have health insurance and ‘strongly’ support the recent health care legislation. As well, mining has recently been implicated to be a significant (statistically) contributor to reduced health and well-being among coalfield residents. So, while Chamber is correct in its assertion that poverty is associated with poor health, so is coal mining. What we should work toward is ensuring both are given much deserved attention.

  8. STEVE says:

    Watch your statements here Andrew because they want only facts on this blog. You can’t have an opinion without facts.

    Question to blue canary, same here and sassafrassmolly.

    Would you give up your 100%, 90/10 or 80/20 coverage for the 14% without coverage? Or do you think we could have taken the cash for clunkers 3 billion and used it for coverage for the elderly and less fortunate. I have coverage also and I know how much it means this day and time if you have any health issues at all.

  9. […] carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette noted, Rockefeller has already rejected a similar proposal of blocking health reform unless the EPA stops reviewing mountaintop removal […]

  10. Judy Bonds says:

    This gives new meaning to the phrase “coal is filthy”.
    This situation is getting attention, but it may not be the kind of attention the Chamber of Commerce or Senator Truman Chafin wants.
    I have to say well done to Senator Rockefeller for rejecting this proposal – I think he understands the implications that this “proposal” has.

  11. […] carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette noted, Rockefeller has already rejected a similar proposal of blocking health reform unless the EPA stops reviewing mountaintop removal […]

  12. blue canary says:

    Steve,
    Good question. I think we should also include the under-insured and those with outrageous premiums in that 14% statistic. I would have loved to see the “cash for clunkers” money go into health care, but that horse is out of the barn. But I would be happy to give up certain portions of my coverage to help the uninsured, like cosmetic surgeries for example. I’d be happy to pay in full for a boob job or tummy tuck (which I’d never get anyway) if it meant a mother with breast cancer could get treatment without bankrupting her family. Or I’d pay more in a co-pay at the doctor’s office or pharmacy (though controlling drug costs would be a huge money-saver across the board).

    If we’re not willing to make a little sacrifice to help the less fortunate, we’re a pretty sorry society.

  13. […] carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette noted, Rockefeller has already rejected a similar proposal of blocking health reform unless the EPA stops reviewing mountaintop removal […]

  14. STEVE says:

    blue canary,

    I am a coal miner and have been all my life. I’ve lost my job and been very lucky to find another before I spent my last dollar in savings. I am bitter about the assult on coal with all other issues we face and a day to day bases. But I am not an idiot to think that some things have to change which is the toughest thing a person must face. The idea we as miners have is that someone is after our jobs because that has been a worry from our past. All the studies and data we here about only mean more ammo for those after our jobs. I can be and am hard headed as the next person when you push me. In all these years that the environmental issues have been in the for front we as miners have not once heard about a plan. Is it a 50 year plan or a 5 year plan to phase coal out. I feel that it could end in a year from all the na-sayers. But what is the plan or is there a plan. There should be a middle to this road we are all on that before well condem people for the jobs they have put a plan together that has a time frame and details built in. We as miners face a negative attiude now after doing what we thought was a service to our communities and the users of coal. What is the answer for the future and where will it come from? Your guess is as good as mine. We all are being used like poker chips or cow chips for lobbies and politicians. Granted we all have different ideas and suggestions that are different from the next person.

  15. Thomas Rodd says:

    Steve, thanks for your sincere and honest statements.

    You say:

    “We as miners face a negative attitude now after doing what we thought was a service to our communities and the users of coal. What is the answer for the future and where will it come from? Your guess is as good as mine. We all are being used like poker chips or cow chips for lobbies and politicians. Granted we all have different ideas and suggestions that are different from the next person.”

    Here’s one person’s SWAG (“stupid wild-a**-guess”) on what the future will bring, and where it will come from:

    As Wall Street and global investors and mega-corporations lay out billions and billions for the next generation of power plants and transmission lines, etc., the trend will be (and already is) strongly and rapidly away from new coal-fired power plants — and toward natural gas, nuclear, and renewables like solar and wind and biomass.

    This switch to lower-carbon fuels will be moderated by legal protections designed to “smooth out” the economic effects of this changeover on electricity customers (and coal miners). But the trend is clear, and most experts say it has already started, and will be very noticeable during the next five to ten years.

    Meanwhile, huge government investments in trying to get the carbon out of the emissions from coal plants may pay off, and permit a significant — but still a lot smaller — longer-term role for coal as a fuel in the world’s energy systems.

    (With a shrinking demand for coal for power plants, I’d guess there will be more competition between Eastern and Western US mining companies. I don’t have any idea how that will play out.)

    On the mountaintop removal area, I think proposed new mines will have trouble getting permits for constructing large valley fills. If the companies can make money without those big fills, MTR will continue in a modified way — otherwise, it will be scaled way back in the next five years.

    I repeat, these are SWAGs. What do others think?

  16. […] carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette noted, Rockefeller has already rejected a similar proposal of blocking health reform unless the EPA stops reviewing mountaintop removal […]

  17. blue canary says:

    Steve,
    Thanks for those thoughtful comments! I think most Appalachians can agree on a lot of things – we want good jobs, we want a future for the next generations, we want healthy communities and lives, we love the mountains and respect the integral part coal has played in our past. Nobody wants to see a ghost town covered in coal dust and nobody wants anyone to be out of a job!

    Unfortunately, politicians and the coal CEOs don’t want anyone to know how much miners and folks fighting MTR have in common. It’s so much easier to keep us all divided, otherwise we might start working together to build a better future, and that’s bad news for the coal cronies.

    Coal’s on its way out in Appalachia, there’s no two ways around it. It’s unconscionable that our politicians have completely and utterly failed to prepare for the next generation of energy production. They tout the Coal-to-Liquid plant, but there is no market for it! Even the military’s given up on it!

    Instead of training construction workers to retrofit homes for energy efficiency, or courting turbine and solar panel manufacturing, or developing a sustainable tourism industry, our so-called “leaders” are doing a song-and-dance for Blankenship & Co and hoping that nobody notices that while they’re telling people they’re going to lose their jobs, they’re not doing anything to generate any new jobs for the future.

    Sorry for the disseration, but this is something that gets me so riled up!

  18. Judy Bonds says:

    I and many others against strip mining believe in a just transition away from strip mining. We would be proud to stand up with the miners and demand our politicians give retraining, extended benefits and bring safe, clean new jobs for our communities. If President Obama would release the AML funds, that is many good paying jobs for a lot of years.
    It is best to not fight the end of a finite resource because we know change is coming, but rather to start the adjustment “yesterday”.
    I have been hearing promises of bringing a diverse economy to West Virginia for the past 30 years, but not 1 politician has kept that promise. A mono economy is what is taking away people’s choices here and has caused people to deny what they know in their hearts to be true.

  19. bill smith says:

    How many jobs have we seen produced by the Obama administration whom I voted for. Me as a coal miner am very reluctant to giving up my job hopeing there will be some sort of green job for me. I for one do not have anything in common with people who love a mountain more than they love their neighbor. Ihope what you get paid to harass the lives of coal mining families will be worth it when you stand before an all knowing GOD. Lots of Love Coal mining Bill

  20. blue canary says:

    bill smith, I personally know several people who have new jobs or whose jobs have been saved because of stimulus money. But those folks don’t work in the coalfields. Unlike coalfield politicians, their elected officials went to bat for their constituents and did everything they could to get stimulus funds for rebuilding infrastructure, energy efficiency, etc. Don’t blame Obama for not creating jobs in Appalachia, blame the politicians who aren’t trying to get the available money!

    I’m not harassing any coal mining families, and I’m not worried about telling God that I fought to save the beautiful mountains that He created for us.

  21. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    OK, folks. I think this thread has gone far enough. Ken.