Coal Tattoo

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I’m just back from the Capitol, where a couple of dozen citizens were trying to talk with West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin about the lack of focus by state officials on planning for the ongoing decline in the state’s coal industry.

Protesters, organized by the group Radical Action for Mountain Peoples’ Survival (RAMPS), first knocked on the door of the governor’s mansion. A State Police trooper who answered the door declined to accept a letter to the governor, so the group walked next door to the Capitol. There, an aide at the governor’s office did accept their letter.  The group held up some signs, one protester sang a song, they talked to the media, and then they quietly left. There were a lot of troopers and Capitol police on hand, though, that’s for sure.

Here’s a bit of what the group said in its letter to the governor:

We know that you now find yourself in a difficult situation. You are in the pocket of a dying industry that has money to donate to your campaign, but has no long-term solutions to the immediate health, environmental, and jobs crisis that affect not just West Virginia, but the entire nation …

… You face a clear fork in the road if you are to win a new term as governor of this state. Do you continue to bow to the demands of a ruthless industry in decline, or do you enact solutions that address the coming dire economic reality of the people that live in the southern coalfields?

… Governor Tomblin, you know as well as we do that your War on Coal is a dirty lie. West Virginians are tired, misled, and divided by our political leaders … Governor, you are asking us for another 4 years. We are asking you, ‘What’s your plan?’ because we haven’t heard one that addresses the economic and health crisis in our communities …

Instead of confronting the very serious issues facing southern West Virginia, you have cynically exploited layoffs in the coal industry to boost your election chances. By fanning the flames of this supposed ‘war on coal’, not only have you lied to coal miners about the real reasons they are losing their jobs and created false hopes, you have increased divisions in our communities and helped incite violence against anti-MTR activists.

The letter urges Gov. Tomblin to create a non-partisan Citizens Advisory Council on Economic Diversification to advise his administration on a plan for the state to move forward. I’ve posted a copy of the letter here.

I’ve asked the governor’s office for a response … I’ll post whatever they have to say about this.

UPDATED: Here’s the response I received from Amy Shuler Goodwin in the governor’s office:

The governor had an event in Buckhannon late this morning so he did leave the mansion this morning a bit before 9:30am. We did receive the letter, however, the governor has not had a chance to review. I am having a copy sent to me now. In addition, we do have an open door policy here in the governor’s office and will be happy to review the upcoming calendar.

Governor Tomblin has been clear, as have several federal judges, on the overreaching demands of the EPA from this administration. Governor Tomblin’s primary focus has always been job preservation and job creation. Governor Tomblin believes strongly that West Virginia coal and natural gas play a critical role in energy independence–and he will continue to fight for those industries and the jobs they create.