W.Va. Senate debate: Gov. Manchin on mine safety, John Raese on global warming ‘myths’

October 19, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

West Virginia senatorial candidates Republican John Raese, left, Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson, second from left, and Constitutional Party candidate Jeff Becker, listen to West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, right, speak during a Senate debate in the studios of West Virginia Public Broadcasting in Morgantown, W.Va. on Monday, Oct. 18, 2010. (AP photo/David Smith)

Last evening’s discussion — it wasn’t really a “debate” — among the candidates to fill the U.S. Senate seat long held by Robert C. Byrd pretty much fell in line with the scripts from the two major candidates, Gov. Joe Manchin and Republican industrialist John Raese. See coverage from The Associated Press here and West Virginia Public Broadcasting here. And here’s a link where you can watch the whole thing on C-Span.

There was some discussion of coal issues, and in one instance what seemed like a pretty interesting response from Gov. Manchin when the AP’s Larry Messina asked what Manchin would do in the Senate regarding mine safety issues.

Now, you might have thought that the Democratic candidate for Senate would have offered even the least bit of support for the mine safety reform bill that has passed a key House committee and is pending in the United States Senate. After all, the measure was introduced by W.Va. Democratic Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Carte Goodwin, and it’s named for Sen. Byrd.

Gov. Manchin had a chance to make clear the distinction between blindly supporting whatever the coal industry wants and backing reasonable measures to improve the lives of the folks who mine the coal and live in coalfield communities … Democrats have tried to get this bill moving, only to have their efforts blocked by the Republicans in the Senate.

But remember that Gov. Manchin has allowed his mine safety office to delay implementing a key portion of the executive order he issued — calling for immediate inspections and coal-dust sampling in all W.Va. underground mines — just after the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. And, the governor has not moved on recommendations for reform legislation on the state level that were submitted to his office by his special investigator, Davitt McAteer, and other safety advocates.

In response to Larry Messina’s question, Gov. Manchin stuck to his position — that he wouldn’t be proposing any changes in state law or regulations until after all of the investigations of Upper Big Branch are complete.

Oddly, though, the governor also seemed to suggest that this was the way things were handled on the state and federal levels back in 2006 — when the record is clear that both the state Legislature (at Manchin’s behest) and Congress acted on new safety legislation before the investigations of Sago, Aracoma, and Kentucky Darby were completed. In fact, Gov. Manchin had repeatedly made a point of bragging that West Virginia moved before the feds did four years ago and he made a trip to Washington just after Aracoma to push Congress to act (See previous links here, here and here).

John Raese offered a similar answer, saying there’s no rush to pass any reforms and that legislation could wait until all of the investigations are completed:

We have to wait until all studies are in until we can really form the plan of attack.”

Raese also complained that “federal bureaucrats” have never asked him or his company what they believe should or could be done to improve mine safety … which was an odd comment, given that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration asks the mining industry for input all of the time, and Raese’s Greer Industries often provides it, as the company did in 2006 when MSHA was trying to increase penalties for serious safety and health violations. Oddly enough, Greer submitted this letter opposing the changes:

MSHA believes that the key to increased safety and health to our nation’s miners is through increased enforcement activities and penalties. This simply is not the case.

OK, now back at the debate, here was the spot that my friends who are backing Jesse Johnson must have been thinking their candidate was going to jump in and take on the coal industry and the unwillingness of both major political parties to properly regulate it.

And Jesse did start to do that … he said:

What we really have to  look at is proper application of regulations and that’s not being proffered right now on the state or federal level

But then, he continued that sentence this way:

… Or we wouldn’t be having a situation looking to the EPA to enforce our laws.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure Jesse knows that it’s MSHA in the Department of Labor that regulates mine safety. Perhaps he was just trying to make the point that if the state properly policed the coal industry in the first place, we wouldn’t see EPA coming in on strip-mining water enforcement and permitting issues. But, that sort of comment ignores the fact that MSHA has a legal duty to inspect coal mines and enforce federal safety laws that has nothing at all to do with what the state is or isn’t doing … the legal setup regarding federal mine safety authority is completely different from that with environmental enforcement and permitting — MSHA has dual authority and does not delegate that authority to the states under any circumstances.

And then, Jesse really left me shaking my head with this follow-up comment:

Deep mining is safe as long as it is done properly. We have proved that here in West Virginia and around the world for years.

I’m not sure where exactly in West Virginia, the United States, or around the world he’s talking about … I’d be interested to know.

Jesse, the Mountain Party candidate, did repeat his very clear and unequivocal opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining. But then he went on a bit of a tangent about his idea that while “coal mining is essential to West Virginia,” the goal should be not to burn it for energy, but use it to manufacture all sorts of carbon-based products to create “a new coal economy based on carbon.”

I haven’t heard Jesse’s supporters talking much about this particular part of his platform, and I’m interested in what Coal Tattoo readers make of this … comments?

Probably the closest the candidates came to discussion some of the key issues facing West Virginia’s coal industry — such as the projected declined in Central Appalachian production over the next decade and beyond — was Gov. Manchin’s very, very brief remark that “coal is in this transition period” that might last 30 to 50 years. But the governor, in his zeal to emphasize “coal will be a mainstay for many, many years to come” didn’t articulate much of a plan for easing this transition and its potential impacts on coalfield economies.

John Raese, of course, cited the standard industry line that we don’t need to worry about “peak coal” because we’ve got 200 years of the stuff left in the ground … it’s unfortunate that he wasn’t really challenged on that statement.

But then again, none of the other candidates or the panelists or moderators challenged Raese on his statements about what he insists is the “myth” of global warming. Raese made some kind of remark about how there’s so much carbon dioxide emitted by the oceans compared to what humans emit from industry that there’s simply no way humans could be impacting the global climate system. We’ve been through this whole carbon cycle thing before with Raese’s fellow Republican, Shelley Moore Capito, so I won’t belabor the point.

Raese says the fact that he doesn’t believe in global warming “differentiates” him from the other candidates in this race … he doesn’t mention that it also differentiates him from the vast majority of the world’s scientific experts on the subject.

19 Responses to “W.Va. Senate debate: Gov. Manchin on mine safety, John Raese on global warming ‘myths’”

  1. Albert Pilkington says:

    What happened to balanced reporting? If you are going to try and sway voters with your articles then take some economics, history and leadership classes. This has go to be on of the most pop culture articles I have ever read.

  2. Thomas Rodd says:

    There is a substantial global awareness that burning coal is the single biggest cause of substantially increasing the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. That increase is pushing our planetary climate into a warming trend that if unchecked will render Earth inhospitable to human civilization.

    As a result of this fact, leaders, scientists, and ordinary people around the world agree that we must agree to drastically limit the burning of coal, unless the carbon emissions are captured.

    Of course, there are a few people who don’t agree, and not surprisingly they are basically people who make a living from burning coal. Most people see the world through paycheck-colored glasses.

    Then there is a separate issue, the destruction of steep mountains by strip mining to mine coal in Central Appalachia. People in the region and their allies have been fighting strip mining for sixty years, and this battle shows no signs of being over.

    These separate issues are being linked in some campaigns. Showing how hard strip mining is on the land, and adding costs to strip mining through regulations, weakens the coal industry’s national political power on climate issues. Local people who oppose strip mining welcome global allies who are primarily concerned with reducing global coal use, like James Hansen.

    On a national level, though, politicians who have to win elections in West Virginia but who do understand the problem of global warming, like Joe Manchin, have less room to maneuver when they feel they have to defend both short-term jobs on strip mines — and also deal with climate change’s inevitable effect on the long-term prospects of coal.

    The dilemmas of this situation are evident in the remarks of the candidates in this forum.

    The departure a decade ago of some activists who oppose strip mining from the Democratic Party, based on frustration, has been at best ineffective and probably damaging to that cause. It was great to see Ken Hechler raise the issue in a Democratic primary, but then disappointing to see him refuse to accept the judgment of the voters, and instead lend his support to a “purist-separatist” approach that has done no good.

    Of course, some people will be third-party activists in the face of all the evidence that it this approach is almost always a mistake — the Al Gore defeat is a recent example of how serious a mistake it can be.

    But a new generation of environmentally-minded “Young Democrats” are not taking the bait. Good luck, youngsters — eyes wide open!

  3. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Let’s be careful about going down the road of characterizing those you disagree with as taking a “purist-separatist” approach … that word “separatist” can have quite a load of connotations that you may or may not mean to invoke here.

    Reasonable people can disagree about whether a third-party candidacy is the best way — or any way at all — to affect change in this state or nation. But your previous posts were not in keeping with most of your Coal Tattoo comments, or with our goal of having a respectful discussion.

    So now that you raise the same issue again, please try to be more tolerant and respectful of those you disagree with on this important matter.


  4. Thomas Rodd says:

    Ken – I always am pained but ultimately glad when you point out something in my comments that might not meet the tolerance and respect test.

    Here are a couple of recent Coal Tattoo comments on Joe Manchin’s campaign that as far as I can see didn’t merit any comments calling for “tolerance and respect.”

    “I find this ad the most despicable and chilling political ad of all time.”

    “Pretty powerful message. Leni Riefenstahl would have understood it just fine. She produced a little movie called “Triumph of the Will” back in the 1930s. Pretty powerful symbolism in that one, too. Maybe that was another one of those ones where violence wasn’t the intended consequence. Too bad it didn’t work out quite that way.”

    I think my saying that some people, including good friends of mine, are erroneously pursuing a “purist-separatist” approach, is quite accurate under the circumstances, at least as I intended it.

    Do those terms have negative connotations? If they do, it is only to people who think that a political movement that highly values being pure, and that adopts the strategy of having a separate party, is usually making a mistake. People who think that being pure and taking a separate party approach are both good ideas should not be offended.

    The example of the anti-abortion movement may be instructive. They are definitely purists, which gives them a real strength, but they have never taken a separate party approach. The NRA is another example.

    I admit to having strong feelings about what I consider to be the misguided separate party effort that defeated Al Gore. Some good people lost important jobs who could have done us a lot of good.

    I refuse to be silent when that sort of terrible mistake could be repeated in West Virginia, even if my criticism riles the hackles of people whom I both respect and tolerate.

    And lastly — of course, I could be wrong!

  5. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I do my best to give people leeway and to speak their minds on issues that they feel very strongly about — and I spend far more time than I would like both trying to keep these comments within the boundaries of being respectful and polite, and even more time than that both online and offline discussing the decisions I make with readers and with those who comment.

    It’s a very rewarding experience in many ways. But it’s also terribly frustrating. People are used to a political discourse — taught to use via conservative talk radio and liberal blogs — where simply calling those you disagree with names is the way to make points. Of course, this is all made worse by those of us in the mainstream press, who too often focus on and cover whoever is saying the most outrageous things on either side, rather than ideas that make sense or facts that need to be reported to the greater public.

    Like so many other important issues, the question of third-party candidates is not one that has to devolve into yelling, name-calling or demonizing — or even trying to paint those you disagree with as “extremists” or “separatists.”

    Reasonable people can and should disagree in a respectful and polite manner. You can refuse to be silent all you want … but if you’re not respectful of others here on Coal Tattoo, your comments will be summarily deleted. While I may and probably am often wrong in my decisions about what is and isn’t acceptable, I’m the poor fellow who decided to start this blog, so I get to make those decisions, for better or worse.

    I’ll continue to try to get better at that part of my job, and I’d appreciate it if you — and other readers — will continue to try to get better at yours.


  6. Thomas Rodd says:

    Will do, Ken.

  7. Paula says:

    I don’t get it, after listening to Raese say he is a capitalist and basically is about making money, and seems to be against mine safety, health care for the middle class and is slinging mud to the point, I must turn the TV off….I saw a well-heeled supporter of his saying we need to get rid of the people who aren’t for the people. Well Raese is not for the people I know. Those who don’t own big corporations.
    Where is this mindless chant coming from. Yes, we are a capitalist country, but the ability of the rich to get richer on the backs of the workers, is tempered by certain government programs which support the middle class. Mail, fire departments, public utilities, schools, policemen, social security are all socialist type programs Americans like having, last time I checked.

    How much would water cost if it was all for profit? Could you afford a glass? Ask people in South America who had to have an uprising to take back their water from corporations. Google that if you want a scary scenario of having corporations owning your basic needs! How about the guy in California whose home burned down when he didn’t pay his fire dept. bill. That is how the city of San Francisco burned…every other house was paying for protection, but when the fire started and homes were left to burn, everybody suffered. Do people want to go there?

    Think about it people. Obama has been in office for 2 years; it will take awhile to get out of the hole that was dug over the last 20 years. Wait and see if the Dems can do it! One thing is for sure, the Repubs have already told us they want to undo your right to have insurance whether you are very sick or were pre-existing or if your child is 19 or 20. They want to go back to letting the banks and credit cards overcharge us. Incidentally, they rail against the stimulus that was a Republican idea.

    “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” As my granny said, People need to use their heads for something besides a hatrack!! A Vote for Raese is a vote for the rich and the corporations, not for the rest of us! At least Jesse Johnson is offering some ideas on ways to utilize coal as we eventually switch to alternative and cleaner and greener methods of powering the country. And Raese professing his ideas about denying global warming would be hilarious, if it wasn’t downright scary that people believe that idea and also that Obama was born somewhere outside of the US, or that the entire Muslim nation is responsible for 911?

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if Ken was able to screen the disrespectful and impolite (to put it mildly) political ads before they were placed on TV? I guess if you have enough money, you can lie about and call people names anytime you want. Manchin and our state really are in a dilemma with our economy so dependent on coal and our world so dependent on reducing its use. This conundrum will never be solved until people recognize both truths and work out a way for our state to progress under a more diverse economy. Raese is definitely not someone who will be able to do this. He doesn’t recognize the problem. At least Manchin does.

    As Paula points out, water is going to be another scarce resource soon. Newsweek just had an article about the privatization of water. One of the consequences of mountain top removal mining is the destruction of good water wells used by homes in surrounding communities. These folk then have to have “city” water piped into their communities. This is one more step creating a dependence where they once was independence. West Virginia is in an area that is not currently shown to have a water resource problem. We could be a resource for water for others who have less. However, that won’t be able to happen if we continue to contaminate the very resource that gives us all life. This is such a complex issue, but I think Mountain Top Removal “mining” is wrong for everyone except the coal corporations.

  9. Taylor says:

    Mr. Ward,

    I find myself compelled to comment on your response to Mr. Rodd, fwiw.

    If you are spending “far more time than” you would like policing the comments on Coal Tattoo, then I think everyone, including you, would be better off if you lightened up a bit.

    I completely agree with you that name calling should not be allowed, and that people should generally be able to express their views without being mean and nasty. But what I often find on Coal Tattoo is you scolding someone over a comment that hadn’t caused me to bat an eye when I read it . . . and so I for one end up being far more turned off my your scolding than by commenters’ rhetoric. Mr. Rodd’s comment today was one example. J.W. Randolph’s comment last week was another—imo, it was light years from deserving what you said to him: “Please be more respectful of others, or don’t bother commenting.”

    I know some reasonable people who’ve stopped commenting because of this, or because you’ve censored their comments. Some people may not take the time to discuss it with you, assuming they’re likely to get a response like, “If you don’t like it, start your own blog”–since they’ve seen you respond that way to others.

    So if you’re spending more time on this than you’d like to, then I for one would much prefer to see you use your time and your considerable talent to do what you do best: informing the public of things they might not otherwise find out about the coal industry. Save your scolding or your censorship for comments that truly are beyond the pale.

  10. Bob Kincaid says:

    In truth, “debate” (unlike the pageant we witnessed last night) is what tries to take place on the pages of Coal Tattoo. I am one of those “scoldees” who writes in anticipation of Ken’s “Delete” button. On many occasions, he has been correct. Other times though, we have agreed to disagree, with the default position being that he wins because it’s his blog. I understand that since, unlike many, I understand the nature of the First Amendment. I don’t have a constitutional right to post here.

    The point, though, is that debate in its pure form may seem staid and academic. “Debate” has taken on another shade, however, in our public fora. It is either pure political fluff, as last night’s was, or it’s the sort of scream-fest we find on Mr. Murdoch’s network. It is, I suspect, a function of appealing to audiences so overfed on sensation that they’ve lost the ability to discern real stimulation, rather like the experiment years back in which rats fed cocaine ate it faster and faster and faster in an attempt to achieve a baseline feeling (No, Ken, I’m not comparing anyone to rats).

    Couple that problem with our national dialogue to the heated nature of the disagreements over our states’, communities’, friends’ and families’ lives relative to the coal industry here in Appalachia, and the tension mounts through the roof. As such, I think Ken’s watchword has been to err on the side of caution in this very volatile situation (I wish Joe Manchin had shown as much restraint when someone told him using a rifle in an ad talking about the President was a GREAT idea). Personally, I think Ken’s err-ing goes too far. I also, however, see the fear that once that Pandora’s box opens, it might easily reach a fever pitch to which there is no remedy.

    We who post here have responsibilities to try to conform our comments to the rules of the forum. I think we all understand that what’s appropriate for Sat’dy night down t’ the armory wrasslin’ show is definitely not appropriate to Sunday morning worship services. I suspect Ken would prefer his blog be more Sunday morning and less Sat’dy night. I can live with that, if he can understand ALL of us have, at one time or another, let fly with a word of which the preacher didn’t approve. The trick is, sometimes the preacher smiles a little smile and looks away.

    Ultimately, if we assert facts as facts and opinion as opinion, most of this will sort itself out. For instance, I’m itching to explain to Tom that third party voting played little or no role in the 2000 election. (I’ll save that one for later).

  11. Bob Kincaid says:

    By the way, Ken, if I understand Jesse Johnson’s view of doing other things with coal (a position with which I do not entirely agree), it is the idea that we find other things to do with it beyond current models. By way of simile, think about silicon: it’s the most abundant element on the planet. For a long time it was used only as an alloying element (aluminum engine blocks, for instance). With the advent of the computer era, however, the need for silicon shifted to something much more pure for use in computer chip manufacture, thereby transforming that industry.

    Personally, I take the view that burning coal for heat is simply too 19th century, too wholly toxic to be used in the 21st. Burning coal is such an incredibly dirty process that it should be done only for the very most unquestionably necessary processes. Think of the steel-making process.

    We have the means to create enough electricity in coming decades from sun, wind, geo-thermal (even in WV, no less!) and other sources to make the burning of coal unnecessary. It should be used only in those manufacturing processes where

  12. Thomas Rodd says:

    Dear Bob Kincaid – don’t scratch that itch here, or Ken will take us down, and deservedly so!

    With all the tumult, the indisputable fact is that this blog is kickin’ — and we owe it to Ken and his thankless moderation/scolding.

    So — kudos all around, along with respect and tolerance!

  13. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    I will just point out that Al Gore failed to win his home state of Tennessee in 2000 … but beyond that — gosh, if you all wanna argue about that one, please by all means start another blog. PLEASE! Ken.

  14. Chip Blankenship says:

    I had not committed to voting for any particular candidate before the debate aired. During the debate, Jesse Johnson was the only candidate who impressed me as having put some serious thought into the future of West Virginia’s economy after the rest of the nation begins to transition away from dirty coal energy production. I was a bit disappointed in the debate moderator’s effort at throwing issues back and forth between Manchin and Raese towards the end of the debate, thus robbing Johnson and Becker of equal time to clarify their positions. The actions of the moderator and the reactions by reporters after the debate, unfortunately, continued along the lines of the entrenched two party system (note the title chosen for your article Ken). However, the debate did give me the information I needed to make a decision, and I am thankful to those who put the debate together and to those who reported on the debate.

  15. Charlie West says:

    Mr. Ward,

    I am emailing a link to Gov. Manchin personally bragging to the Coal Association that he told his mine safety inspectors to hold off on issuing citations after miners were killed at Sago and before the Upper Big Branch explosion.

    My question for you is this:

    Will you report on the Governor’s personal responsibility for the deaths at Upper Big Branch in your newspaper before the election?


    Or you can watch a full motion 21 minute video of our governor admitting that he told mine inspectors to not do their jobs at the 2008 WV Coal Symposium:


    One last question:

    Which of the Charleston Newspaper reporters were in the room when he talked about his “Retail Government” back in ’08, and why didn’t they report this plan?

  16. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Charlie West,

    Thanks for your links, your comments and your questions … I’ll try my best to answer them … in reverse order.

    If anybody from the Gazette was in the room at the time the governor made those remarks, it would have been me. So if anyone is to blame here, it’s me. But I’ll try to explain — I don’t believe I was there when these remarks were made.

    That was at the West Virginia Coal Association’s annual symposium in January 2008 — it’s held each year, almost always during the first week of the legislative session. Normally, the governor gives a talk the first thing in the morning on Thursday, the day after his State of the State address. Sometimes I attend that part of the symposium, and sometimes I don’t — it really depends on what was going on that day and what other stories I need to cover.

    I don’t see a record in our online archives of a story about this particular speech, and I even checked our microfilm archives and didn’t see a story there, either. My notes and my personal calendar don’t indicate that I attended. One possibility is that the WV Public Service Commission had that week begun its formal hearings on the TrAIL power line, and I know I attended several days of that testimony — so perhaps that’s where I was Thursday morning. As the risk of sounding like a politician, I don’t recall. I do know that I did attend Thursday afternoon’s session at the Coal Symposium, where then-MSHA chief Richard Stickler spoke, and Friday morning’s event, when then-WVDEP mining director Randy Huffman gave a presentation.

    My apologies for not being to give you a better answer … but there it is. Criticize me if you want for not following the governor around 24/7 to see what he might say.

    My best recollection is that I became aware of these comments when the folks who made the film clip you link to (http://www.blip.tv/file/3472953 ) brought them to my attention shortly after the Upper Big Branch Mine blew up. I included them in a story that we published on April 12, 2010, here:


    Manchin has been at odds with the Obama administration over regulation of mountaintop removal and of greenhouse gas emissions from coal, and had told industry officials he favors working with companies over taking tough enforcement action.
    For example, Manchin described this philosophy during a speech two years ago to the West Virginia Coal Association’s annual meeting. The governor said inspectors should tell mine operations, “Hey John, you’ve got a problem here, now before I write you up with a violation, here’s what I think you ought to do to fix it.
    “Let’s get together, get our people together,” the governor said at the time. “I’ll come back in a week or a month or whatever the rotation time would be. Then if you’ve made those changes, tried to make the changes, we’re working in the right direction. Rather than going out with a ball bat and a cease and desist order and fines, I’d rather you spend the money to fix what’s wrong, try to make it safer, than give the money to government. I guarantee you we won’t fix it.”

    Without putting words in your mouth, I take it from your comments that you believe the Gazette has somehow gone easy on Gov. Manchin’s record on coal. You’re welcome to your views, and I should add that I don’t control everything the paper does — I’m not an editor or the publisher. But I would put my own coverage of Gov. Manchin on these issues up against anyone in the media. I’m not perfect, but our coverage has been comprehensive, strong and appropriately critical of the governor’s policies.

    In addition, I”m not sure that you have proven your case that the governor is personally responsible for the Upper Big Branch Mine deaths. I am not aware of any specific violations that were not written at this mine based on the governor’s comments that would, if written, have prevented the disaster. I’m not defending the enforcement philosophy the governor outlined in those remarks. But that philosophy alone does not make the governor personally responsible for the deaths.

    Thanks again for your comments, your links and your questions. I appreciate you holding me and the Gazette accountable for doing our jobs.


  17. One Citizen says:

    Mr. Ward

    Regarding Charlie West’s comments and links, along with your subsequent reply, you apparently expect your readers to think your article isn’t misleading, and are fine with Manchin’s “Retail Government” approach to mine safety.

    Let’s review what you wrote, and then compare it to the facts.

    You wrote:

    “Still, Manchin has been at odds with the Obama administration over regulation of mountaintop removal and of greenhouse gas emissions from coal, and had told industry officials he favors working with companies over taking tough enforcement action.”

    It’s a statement I believe purposely crafted for the purpose of misleading readers when the video actually reveals that Manchin had introduced his top administrators over his mine safety inspectors to the Coal Association, but not anyone from his his DEP.

    In other words, you swerved from the truth so hard that you completely crashed it into the ditch back in April, yet now you’re apparently fine with not covering it before the election anywhere except in this comments section.

    The bottom line is that those miners died at Upper Big Branch because of a buildup of methane gas, which would have been impossible if the Mining Safety and Health Act minimum requirements for fresh air ventilation had been strictly enforced.

    By the way, it “just so happens” that when federal officials started enforcing ventilation mandates instead of Manchin’s “Retail Government” inspectors, they caught a number of miners in violation of the law.


    see also


  18. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    One Citizen,

    Thanks for your comment and your interest in fair and accurate reporting by the media on these issues. We need all the help we can get in trying to get these stories right.

    However you stated:

    “… The video actually reveals that Manchin had introduced his top administrators over his mine safety inspectors to the Coal Association, but not anyone from his his DEP.”

    You should listen again … go to the 0:44 mark in the video to hear Gov. Manchin introduce Stephanie Timmermeyer who was at the time the Secretary of the WVDEP. In addition, at the 5:40 mark, when the governor introduces his statements about “retail government” he explains:

    “What I tell Ron and C.A. every day AND I TELL STEPHANIE THE SAME THING.”
    (I’d suggest readers check that out via this link, http://blip.tv/file/3472953 which provides the actual video instead of the YouTube version with all of the editorial comments).

    Your incorrect recounting of what the governor said in the video aside, I take it your allegation is that I deliberately referred to his comments in the context of “regulation of mountaintop removal and of greenhouse gas emissions from coal” … “for the purpose of misleading readers” I take it into thinking the governor was not talking about mine safety … do I understand you correctly?

    Well, you are welcome to your opinion of what was in my head when I wrote that particular story, and I doubt anything I can say will convince you otherwise. But if you believe that’s the context I was describing his comments within, then I obviously didn’t write the story very clearly, because that was not my intent. Any reasonable reading of the governor’s comments will conclude that he tells both WVDEP and the state OMHST to regulate in the manner in which he describes, and I believed that was clear from my story, especially given that it was written a week after Upper Big Branch, that he was talking about his broad approach to coal regulation, in both safety and environmental matters. I apologize for not making that more clear.

    In addition, you stated:

    “By the way, it “just so happens” that when federal officials started enforcing ventilation mandates instead of Manchin’s “Retail Government” inspectors, they caught a number of miners in violation of the law.”

    This statement may confuse some readers about what federal inspectors found and what the relationship between federal inspectors and state inspectors is … it’s not clear from your comment that you understand how the system works.

    It’s not a situation where MSHA inspectors “started enforcing ventilation mandates instead of” the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training after Upper Big Branch. MSHA does not work the way EPA and OSMRE do. Under federal mine safety law, there is a COMPLETELY SEPARATE mandate for MSHA to inspect coal mines and enforce safety standards. MSHA is not coming in after the fact to see how well the state did, the way that EPA and OSMRE might regarding water quality and strip-mining requirements, as your comment suggests.

    In fact, state and federal laws put completely separate mandates on MSHA and the OMHST to enforce ventilation — and many other — standards at West Virginia’s coal-mining operations.

    And further, you posted two links, one from EHS Today and another from the Washington Post, as evidence that federal inspectors found problems at Upper Big Branch and other mines … the suggestion seems to be that Gazette readers have somehow not been given this information by the Gazette or me specifically. That’s simply false.

    The EHS article is based on an MSHA press release, http://www.msha.gov/MEDIA/PRESS/2010/NR100824.asp which was posted in its entirety on Coal Tattoo, http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2010/08/24/msha-releases-more-inspection-findings/ and in the Gazette (albeit with an AP version, http://wvgazette.com/News/montcoal/201008240914).

    The Washington Post article of April 23 covers material that I wrote about in a Gazette story more than a week earlier than the Post did, http://wvgazette.com/News/montcoal/201004130905

    Not for nothing, but you didn’t mention that the Gazette is the only mainstream media outlet to do a story about the Manchin administration’s failure since Upper Big Branch to follow through on the governor’s order for more rock-dust sampling in West Virginia’s underground mines, http://wvgazette.com/News/montcoal/201009230654

    Thanks again for your comments and your interest in fair and accurate journalism on coal issues.


  19. Joe G WV says:

    Thank you, Ken, fot writing this.

    I’m familiar (though not supportive) of Jesse Johnson’s proposal to make high-tech products from coal. Alan Tweddle touted the use of coal for carbon foam and carbon fiber at a coal forum at WVU a year or two ago. Though it would be environmentally (less greenhouse gases and toxins emitted) and economically (value-added, high-tech product) less detrimental than burning coal, I still see the comment as a giveaway to the coal industry. Consider that coal is not a long-term solution for the West Virginia economy, and also that purer carbon can be sourced from plant matter (which can be produced/harvested without the same severe environmental and human impacts as coal.

    I’m still voting for Johnson, because ultimately I see him as more accountable to West Virginia citizens than corporate interests.

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