We must continue to stand up for our coal miners and their families! We are not asking for a handout. All we’re asking for is the permission to work!
That’s the take-home message as far as coal is concerned from West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin’s 2010 State of the State address, which wrapped up just a little while ago down the street at the Capitol.
(The exclamation marks were actually in the prepared text distributed by the governor’s office.)
It’s obviously not especially surprising, given the strong — and sometimes over the top — stance Gov. Manchin has taken as the state’s mining operators try to fend off any effort by the Obama administration to more closely police mountaintop removal.
But I wonder why Manchin didn’t make even a tiny step toward the environmental community (and the growing scientific consensus about mountaintop removal’s negative effects) … He could have easily done so by talking a little bit about the new effort over at his Department of Environmental Protection to step in and come up with some new limits on the downstream water quality damage strip-mining is allowed to do. A mention by the governor might have emphasized to the Obama administration and EPA that WVDEP Secretary Randy Huffman is serious about embracing the future.
Instead, the governor stuck to his previous themes, with statements like this:
Despite the fact that half of our nation’s electricity is generated by coal, and that our national economy depends on this abundant, reliable and affordable energy, some want to villainize this resource that helped us win two world wars and built the greatest country in the world.
And with his focus on the b-word (balance):
We are reaching new and better ways to use our coal. There is a balance to be had between our economy and our environment and West Virginia is leading the way in finding that balance.
What does he mean by balance?
Well, the governor touted his energy bill, passed last year by the Legislature:
Our alternative and renewable energy portfolio requires one-fourth of the energy used in our state to come from alternative or renewable energy sources by the year 2025. A progressive law such as this is already paying off.
We have more than 1,000 megawatts of wind power in service or in development – that’s enough to power more than 250,000 homes! And we have the third-largest wind capacity of any eastern state.
He didn’t mention that, as we’ve been over many times before (see here, here and here, for starters), the legislation defines “alternative and renewable energy” so broadly that it’s not clear it’s going to really accomplish much.
Manchin rightly praised American Electric Power’s major carbon capture and sequestration demonstration project at the Mountaineer Plant in Mason County (though he stumbled over the term, but did a nice job making fun of himself for it).
But then he had to go and tout that Mingo County coal-to-liquids plant — going so far as to say:
Through this technology, West Virginia coal will be our primary energy source as we make the transition to the fuels of the future.
Manchin didn’t bother to mention that this project has no plans on capturing its carbon dioxide emissions, meaning it’s going to essentially double the CO2 that would created by just using plain old petroleum fuels.
Then, of course, the governor talked about his post-mining land use bill, also passed last year:
Last year, we also passed a post-mining land use bill that requires surface mine operators to have a plan for how the land they want to mine will be restored. Those plans include highways, industrial parks, schools, recreation facilities, farms and other renewable and alternative energy projects.
This law is about creating more jobs.
We’ve been over this before on Coal Tattoo as well … Existing law already required coal operators to come up with plans for developing the mine sites they flatten — it’s just that state and federal regulators have never really bothered to enforce those requirements. See previous posts here, here, here and here.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, was understandably happy with the coal portions of Manchin’s speech:
The governor has been very helpful. I think they’re probably doing everything they possibly can to get the federal government’s attention.
Don Garvin, legislative coordinator for the West Virginia Environmental Council, was unimpressed, but not especially surprised:
It’s a continuation of his mantra … against the review of mountaintop removal by EPA … it was basically a big rallying cry …
I wish he had a future vision, instead of a vision of the past, because the burning of fossil fuels is old technology, and it’s coming to an end.