Coal Tattoo

W.Va. Gov. Tomblin easing up on coal rhetoric?


Photo via governor’s website video stream.

If you were watching or listening closely to tonight’s State of the State address, you might have noticed what is at least a slight change in the tone of West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s rhetoric about the coal industry and the Obama administration’s policies. Here’s what the governor said:

Serving new markets for coal, Carbonyx, a Texas-based company, will invest tens of millions of dollars in a new Jackson County plant. This new development will create 60 jobs in its first phase. The plant will make a carbon alloy replacement for coke, a key ingredient for steelmaking. And best of all, Carbonyx will use West Virginia coal in its manufacturing process.

To keep our coal industry alive and well—and I promise you we will—we must continue to seek out new markets and uses for it, while doing what we can to help the industry reduce costs, and be more productive, efficient, safe and environmentally friendly.

While I will never back down from the EPA because of its misguided policies on coal, we should remind ourselves a challenge doesn’t always lead to confrontation. Last summer I sat across the table from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and shared our story. We have been hit hard. But with planning and perseverance I believe the obstacles can be overcome. 

That highlighted part really struck me, both when I read the embargoed prepared text provided to journalists, and when I watched Gov. Tomblin deliver the speech. So I went back and compared those comments to his previous State of the State addresses. Clearly, the governor tonight said less about the coal industry and its problems than in his earliest State of the State three years ago. And, he appears to have backed off the rhetoric — at least a little bit.

If you want to compare yourself, here are the appropriate portions of his previous speeches:

The 2011 State of the State address:

As we move to diversify and expand our economy, we cannot forget one of the cornerstones of our State – the production of our natural resources. The appropriate use of natural resources can serve as a strong foundation for West Virginia’s economic future.

We all know that coal keeps the lights on. But we cannot forget – or let others ignore – that it is vital to the economic and national security of our country to utilize West Virginia’s natural resources. According to recent studies, coal means 63,000 jobs to West Virginia and over twenty-five billion dollars to our State’s economy.

And it’s not just about West Virginia. Our Country relies on coal for almost half – HALF – of all its electric generation. Coal-fired electricity costs 1/3 than that of other forms of generation. In these tough economic times, we should be looking for more ways to use coal, not less. It is hard to understand why some people want to turn their back on and vilify such an important resource that has such potential – and a proven track record – for our Country.

Do not misunderstand my message – the fact that coal has such a positive impact for West Virginia and our country does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to safety or environmental concerns. I firmly believe that we can mine coal in an environmentally safe manner. And, I firmly believe that we will develop ways to burn coal in a carbon-friendly manner.

But what we cannot stand for is a mentality that ignores the realities of the world we live in. While the rest of the world moves toward industrialization and the use of coal-fired generation, our own federal government seems focused on bringing a crushing halt to one of the cheapest, most reliable forms of energy we have ever known. And if we turn our back on coal while other nations use it, all we are doing is continuing to give other nations additional economic advantages over America.

The 2012 State of the State address:

Let me now speak very directly about one of my problems with Washington.

As long as I am Governor I will continue to fight this administrations war on coal! A few months ago, a federal court agreed with our lawsuit and ruled that the federal EPA had in fact overstepped its authority. I will keep fighting until Washington recognizes that one of the keys to America’s future is the use and promotion of our natural resources. It is a fight from which I will not shrink, and one that I fully expect to win!

The 2013 State of the State address:

We also cannot forget an industry that has been an integral part of West Virginia—and that is our coal industry. This industry continues to enable West Virginia to be a national leader. The dedication of coal miners is the work that built our State and the work that sustains it. I believe in the production of coal, its value to our country, and I will continue to do everything that I can to fight the EPA and its misguided attempts to cripple this industry.