That was the scene at the West Virginia Capitol back in early November, when the stae’s political leaders turned out in force to join Gov. Joe Manchin in backing the mining industry against what they say is the Obama administration’s “war on coal.”
This afternoon, Gov. Manchin is having a quite different meeting — one where folks like Bo Webb and Judy Bonds will give Manchin a contrasting view about the coal industry. I understand that the citizen groups are also taking West Virginia University’s Michael Hendryx to brief Manchin about his work detailing the damage coal does to public health and its net-loss for the Appalachian region economically. The preliminary attendance list I saw also includes singer Kathy Mattea.
This meeting comes just after the big Don Blankenship-Robert F. Kennedy Jr. debate on coal and energy, and occurs while some activists are in Day 5 of another tree-sit protest at Massey’s Coal River Mountain operation (see graphic map above, from Climate Ground Zero).
More importantly, though, it comes not long after the release of a major paper in the respected journal Science, which detailed the “pervasive and irreversible” damage being done by mountaintop removal. And, it’s a chance for Manchin to hear from Rory McIlmoil, one of the authors of the huge study which reported on the projected decline — by nearly half before the end of this decade — in Central Appalachian coal production.
During his press conference following the big coal executive summit, Manchin said the purpose of the meeting was to make sure West Virginia’s elected leaders speak “with one voice” to the Obama administration about coal. Of course, it wasn’t long after that event that we heard a little different version of things from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who encouraged the coal industry to “embrace the future.”
So what will Gov. Manchin say at this press conference?
It was one thing for him to stand up there with the coal industry folks and take their side. But what will he say when he stands at the podium with coalfield citizen groups who think the governor’s policies on coal, energy and West Virginia’s future are all wrong?
Should be interesting.