Coal Tattoo

Friday roundup, Jan. 29, 2010

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In this Dec. 4, 2009 file photo, coal vendors load coal briquettes pounded from soft coal on to a cart at a coal depot in Beijing, China. China has set up a government agency headed by Premier Wen Jiabao to better coordinate energy policy, as the world’s second-largest power consumer faces growing domestic demand and struggles with shortages. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel, File)

We’ll have a short Friday roundup this week, as I’ve been pretty swamped covering the situation here in the Kanawha Valley at the DuPont Belle chemical plant (check out the coverage over at the Sustained Outrage blog).

I would welcome readers to point out their own news and commentary items on coal below in the comments section … Please include links!

If you missed it, the New Republic had a piece on West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd and his call for the coal industry to “embrace the future.”  In “Old Senator, New Tricks,” writer  Jesse Zwick concludes:

Byrd’s not about to become an environmentalist; even in his op-ed, he insisted that coal was here to stay. But he seems to recognize that the realities of global warming will force the country to rethink how it uses coal sooner or later and that the state’s companies aren’t playing a constructive role. (Blankenship, for instance, has criticized coal-heavy utilities in other states, like Duke Energy, for working with Congress on climate issues.) Byrd’s longtime mantra, according to political historian Robert Rupp, is that “It’s better to be at the table than on the menu.” And so he seems willing to spend what’s likely his last term in Congress getting West Virginia to realize that, in the end, obstructionism won’t serve the state very well.

Over at The State Journal, Pam Kasey had a great story headlined “North-Central W.Va. is Ground Zero for Surface Mine Coal Ash.” Pam explains:

On the eve of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision about regulating coal combustion waste as a hazardous material, mine operators are spreading the substance extensively across north-central West Virginia.

From the coalfields of Wyoming, Dustin Bleizeffer of the Casper Star-Tribune reports that details Powder River Basin coal’s contributions to the economy.

We had earnings releases this week from Arch CoalAmerican Electric Power, Alliance Resource Partners, Peabody Energy, CONSOL Energy, and International Coal Group.

Over in Kentucky, my buddy Jim Bruggers wrote about the MSHA inspector who thought it was a good idea to courage readers of the  Facebook page for the pro-coal Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security to “Hang a tree-hugger today.”

I asked Bryan Brown, one of the PR guys behind FACES of Coal, about this and he told me in an e-mail message:

We can monitor, review and delete posts (and do) but cannot control what people say.  Of course we do not condone violence or the threat of violence.  As a matter of fact and unfortunately, we have had to remove several similar comments that appear to have come from both coal supporters and environmentalists over the past several months.

Coal Tattoo readers know that I’ve been trying to encourage civil discussions in the comments section of this blog. So I certainly understand Bryan’s frustration. And FACES did remind its Facebook readers this week:

A comment tool is provided to encourage thoughtful discussion of the ideas posted on this site. We welcome open debate and viewpoints that differ from those of the post authors. That said, we wish to keep the conversation civil and ask that readers abide by the following guidelines:
Remember that the people under discussion are human beings. Comments that contain personal attacks about the post author or other commenters will be deleted. Challenge the ideas of those with whom you disagree, not the posters themselves. Repeated violators will be banned.

But right under that warning was an example of the kind of name-calling that doesn’t help coalfield communities resolve the many challenges they face:

I am so sick of ” protesters of coal” complaining to everyone that they are being picked on! Well stop acting like a MORON and we will not respond! But if you are going to go in a tree on mine property, make sure that you are ready to take all comments.

And, you have to wonder, if you read through the FACES of Coal news releases, does this group really encourage thoughtful discussion — or it just about trying to scare everybody to death and divide the region’s residents?  FACES repeatedly uses phrases like “outsiders” — as if everyone who is concerned about mountaintop removal is from somewhere else — and praises news stories in which political leaders greatly inflate the potential threat to West Virginia from reasonable limits on the coal industry. And sometimes, FACES just gets its facts wrong. For example, look at where Bryan Brown wrongly claims that the WVU studies of coal’s impact on public health in Appalachia did not account for other factors that can negatively affect residents’ health. Or, note that Bryan made prominent mention of Coal Tattoo pointing out inaccuracies in what Robert F. Kennedy said in the big debate with Don Blankenship, but didn’t mention any of the weaknesses in Blankenship’s debate performance that this blog also pointed out.

And by the way, I asked Bryan for examples of posts where environmentalists have urged others to hang or otherwise physically harm coal miners … he hasn’t come up with any.

Finally, here’s a link to a video that’s making the rounds in the social networking world about a new mountaintop removal permit that WVDEP is considering issuing for a mine adjacent to Kanawha State Forest Outside Charleston. My guess is we’ll have some Gazette coverage of this permit coming up soon …

Have a good weekend, everybody.