Coal Tattoo

Remembering Sen. Robert C. Byrd

What does one say about someone who rose up from such humble beginnings to become one of the most powerful men in the country and the longest serving Senator in U.S. history?

Well, perhaps the most complimentary thing is to say that Sen. Robert C. Byrd was willing to grow, and change, and modify his views and positions as science, economics and so many other facts made it unwise not to do so.

President Obama nailed it, with a statement just issued, when he said this of  our Sen. Byrd:

He had the courage to stand firm in his principles, but also the courage to change over time.

And among the areas in which Sen. Byrd had the courage to change was his position and public statements regarding West Virginia’s powerful coal industry.

The nephew and son-in-law of a coal miners, Sen. Byrd was a longtime champion of miners and of the industry, working for tougher mine safety legislation and to moderate environmental laws and rules to protect coal workers.

Among environmentalists, Sen. Byrd developed a bad reputation. First, he championed a 1997 Senate resolution aimed at blocking action on greenhouse gas emissions.  And he led efforts by West Virginia’s congressional delegation to overturn Judge Haden’s 1999 ruling to limit mountaintop removal, at one point ridiculing environmental activists, saying:

These head-in-the-cloud individuals peddle dreams of an idyllic life among old-growth trees, but they seem ignorant of the fact that, without the mines, jobs will disappear, tables will go bare, schools will not have the revenue to teach our children, towns will not have the income to provide even basic services.

But as the urgency for action on climate change became more and more apparent, and as the science showing the harmful effects of mountaintop removal grew more clear, Sen. Byrd’s positions changed. And, as coal industry leaders and political figures seemed more intent on throwing gasoline on the fire, Sen. Byrd urged calm and reasonable debate.

About a year ago, Sen. Byrd sent his staff into the coalfields, on a fact-finding mission, and last December came out with his major statement, urging the coal industry to “Embrace the Future.”  Among his most important points? That change was coming to the West Virginia coalfields, regardless of what happens with cap-and-trade legislation and mountaintop removal restrictions:

The increased use of mountaintop removal mining means that fewer miners are needed to meet company production goals. Meanwhile the Central Appalachian coal seams that remain to be mined are becoming thinner and more costly to mine. Mountaintop removal mining, a declining national demand for energy, rising mining costs and erratic spot market prices all add up to fewer jobs in the coal fields.

The greatest threats to the future of coal do not come from possible constraints on mountaintop removal mining or other environmental regulations, but rather from rigid mindsets, depleting coal reserves, and the declining demand for coal as more power plants begin shifting to biomass and natural gas as a way to reduce emissions.

And, Sen. Byrd told us:

Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry. West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear. The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose.

Later, after 29 miners died in the Upper Big Branch Mining Disaster, Sen. Byrd renewed his call, demanding that the coal industry respect miners, coalfield communities, and the land from which coal is mined:

The sovereignty of West Virginia must also be respected. The monolithic power of industry should never dominate our politics to the detriment of local communities. Our coal mining communities do not have to be marked by a lack of economic diversity and development that can potentially squelch the voice of the people. People living in coal communities deserve to have a free hand in managing their own local affairs and public policies without undue political pressure to submit to the desires of industry.

The old chestnut that “coal is West Virginia’s greatest natural resource” deserves revision. I believe that our people are West Virginia’s most valuable resource. We must demand to be treated as such.

Not surprisingly, such words weren’t greeted warmly by the coal industry or by most of our state’s political leaders. The folks at the West Virginia Red blog opined after Sen. Byrd’s December statement:

The facts of the matter are clear. Senator Robert Byrd has run his last campaign. It’s very unlikely he will be here in 5 years or 10 years. West Virginia will still be mining coal in that time. Heck, Senator Byrd may not be here in 5 months much less any longer.

Gov. Manchin repeatedly challenged Sen. Byrd’s statements on coal, demanding that the Senator explain himself:

I want to know if he’s against mountaintop removal completely or if he just wants to modify it. I want to make sure we’re still on the same page. If we have some clarification, it will help all of us.

Still, when it seemed convenient, some political leaders would jump on Sen. Byrd’s bandwagon, such as when the Senator took on Massey Energy President Don Blankenship over the potential safety threats to the kids at Marsh Fork Elementary School. I don’t recall hearing much out of Sen. Rockefeller or Rep. Rahall on this until Sen. Byrd spoke up.

One of Sen. Byrd’s last votes in the U.S. Senate was one in which he split very clearly with Sen. Rockefeller, opposing a GOP-promoted resolution to overturn the EPA’s scientific finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health and welfare.

West Virginians will mourn now, and political leaders are going to be saying a lot nice things about the legendary Sen. Byrd. You have to wonder if any of them are going to go back and take a look at things that Sen. Byrd was saying about our state’s future … things like this:

There is no doubt that the West Virginia coal industry and many West Virginia workers have been dealt a difficult hand over the past ten years, and are indeed facing some uncertainty about their futures.

… As I have said before, to deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say “deal me out” of the future. But we have also allowed ourselves to ignore other realities. It is a simple fact that the costs of producing and consuming Central Appalachian coal continue to rise rapidly. Older coal-fired powerplants are being closed down, and they appear unlikely to be replaced by new coal plants unless we very soon adopt several major changes in federal energy policy. In 2009, American power companies generated less of their electricity from coal than they have at any other time in recent memory. In the last month alone, two major power companies have reportedly announced that they will idle or permanently close over a dozen coal-fired powerplant units that have consumed millions of tons of West Virginia coal in recent years. Moreover, an even larger portion of America’s aging fleet of coal-fired powerplants could be at risk of being permanently closed in the coming years–and the ability to sell coal in those markets could be lost for an indefinite period, if there is no new Federal energy policy to support the construction of new coal plants.

Some companies may feel that it is helpful for Congress to go on denouncing a new energy policy that makes it once more attractive to build new coal plants. But those companies are taking this opportunity to invest in natural gas, or other types of investments. They are not thinking about fighting for the longer term future of coal jobs and other jobs in West Virginia. I am. In the meantime, what happens to the miners, other workers, local governments, and many West Virginia citizens during the course of further delay on a new energy bill? They continue to be laid off, and to struggle with insufficient revenue, and to remain frustrated about their uncertain future.

… For the sake of West Virginia’s best interests, and the vital longer-term interests of our Nation and our world, the Senate must now move promptly to take responsible, decisive, and effective action on a moderate but major new energy policy.


West Virginia Day update: Another year older

A year ago on West Virginia Day, I wrote a piece for Jason Keeling’s A Better West Virginia blog about the challenges West Virginia faces in figuring out its future and how the future interacts with the coal industry.

Among other things, I wrote in that post:

Through the climate crisis and the continued outrage over the damage caused by mountaintop removal, West Virginians are confronted with major challenges about our coal industry. While coal no longer has the statewide economic impacts it once did, it is still a major source of good jobs in coal-producing counties — and in some places is really the only economic engine. But the state has never really fully faced up to questions like: If coal is so good, why are all of the places it is mined still so poor? That’s changing though, because the global challenge of dealing with global warming, and the national furor over mountaintop removal, are pushing us along.

We’ve seen some fascinating and important developments since then, including the remarkable two statements from Sen. Robert C. Byrd (see here and here) about the future of our state’s relationship with coal. Among other things, Sen. Byrd advised us:

The sovereignty of West Virginia must also be respected. The monolithic power of industry should never dominate our politics to the detriment of local communities. Our coal mining communities do not have to be marked by a lack of economic diversity and development that can potentially squelch the voice of the people. People living in coal communities deserve to have a free hand in managing their own local affairs and public policies without undue political pressure to submit to the desires of industry.

But we’ve also seen other political developments, like Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s increased hostility to dealing with climate change, and Rep. Nick J. Rahall’s refusal to even consider both sides of the mountaintop removal issue.

We continue to be educated by new reports on the science, economics and on-the-ground realities of coal. There was the great report by Downstream Strategies about the inevitable decline of Central Appalachian coal production, the blockbuster paper in the prestigious journal Science about the impacts of mountaintop removal,  more work by West Virginia University’s Michael Hendryx about the connections between coal and health problems in the region, a National Academy of Sciences study on coal’s huge hidden costs, and a report by the group Physicians for Social Responsibility about coal’s Assault on Human Health.

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Happy West Virginia Day!


State considers abandoning Blair Mountain road

My buddy Dr. Paul Nyden has the story in today’s Gazette about citizen groups who hope to preserve a central part of the area along the Boone-Logan county border where coal miners fought the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921.

As Paul reports:

Transportation Secretary Paul A. Mattox Jr. is considering a request to abandon 3.9 miles of County Route 119/7, near the town of Sovereign.

The request for the state to abandon the road came from a coal company, Walker said. He did not name the company.

Read all about it here.

In this April, 1981, file photo, U.S. Bureau of Mines’ John Stockalis, right, and Dan Lewis drop a thermometer through a hole on Main Street in Centralia, Pa., to measure the heat from a shaft mine blaze that burns under the town.

Last month, I posted an AP story on Coal Tattoo with the headline “The Fire Still Burns:  Centralia’s Last Days.” But now, we have the following AP story about a legal effort to save the town:

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM

The Associated Press

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Centralians have long believed the government’s demolition of their beloved town in the 1980s was part of a plot to swipe the mineral rights to anthracite coal worth hundreds of millions of dollars — and not, as state and federal officials said, the solution to an out-of-control underground mine fire that menaced the town with toxic gases.

Now, in a last-ditch effort to save their homes from the wrecking ball, the few holdouts who remain in the Pennsylvania town are taking their claims of a conspiracy to court.

In a filing late Monday, four property owners and the borough of Centralia said a “massive fraud” forced the needless relocation of more than 1,000 residents and the destruction of more than 500 homes. The property owners asked a state appeals court to stop Pennsylvania officials from kicking them out and finishing off the town 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

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Some interesting words from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, in his weekly commentary:

This year, 2010, is the fortieth anniversary of the premier of John Denver’s musical tribute to West Virginia as “almost heaven.”

When I think of Denver’s classic song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” (which was co-written with Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert) I think about the things that make West Virginia so unique.  First, of course, is the kind and generous nature of the people of our beloved state.  Next, I picture the beauty and serenity of our mountains.  They seem sacred, and, in fact, mountains are a frequent location for events in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments.  It was on Mt. Sinai that God revealed himself to Moses and gave Him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:16 and 20:17).  God allowed Moses to view the Promised Land from a mountain.  It was on Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal, and, on Mt. Ararat that Noah’s Ark came to rest (Genesis 8:4).

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Remembering Buffalo Creek

(A dog sits in Buffalo Creek hollow in the aftermath of the 1972 coal-slurry dam disaster in this photo by longtime Gazette photographer Lawrence Pierce)

Thirty-eight years ago today, a coal-slurry dam on Buffalo Creek in Logan County, W.Va., broke. A wall of water and coal waste — 30 feet high and 550 feet across — burst from the impoundment, and rushed more than 15 miles down the hollow, toward the confluence of Buffalo Creek and the Guyandotte River at Man.

The disaster killed 125 people, injured 1,000 and left 4,000 homeless.

Here’s part of  “Disaster on Buffalo Creek: A Citizens’ Report on the Criminal Negligence in a West Virginia Mining Community,” which we posted online back in 1997 as part of Voices of Buffalo Creek, a series to mark the 25th anniversary of this terrible disaster:

For the Buffalo Creek disaster, like the recent coal-mine fire tragedies at Farmington, West Virginia, and at Hyden, Kentucky, could have been prevented — it need not have happened. Clearly and simply, people living downstream from the Buffalo Mining Company’s coal refuse dam at Saunders were the victims of gross negligence.

In Appalachian — sometimes known as “the last white colony of western civilization” — absentee owners of the region’s vast energy resources and their subservient homebred and imported politicians time and again are to blame for mass death and destruction. Time and again, those most at fault throw up smokescreens to obscure their responsibility .

There is a basic question raised anew by Buffalo Creek, the latest assault by the coal operators in their long slaughterhouse in death, injury and disease: Whether the people of Appalachia and West Virginia can any longer afford this senseless destruction of their lives, their land, and their democratic institutions; or whether the ownership and operation of coal mines should be brought under democratic control to benefit all the people. All to clearly the tragedy of Buffalo Creek has torn away the mask, revealing the ugly truth that powerful coal interests dominate the government, the environment, and the West Virginia way of life to the detriment of all citizens. Discussion and action are needed now to transform King Coal, the tyrant, into Citizen Coal, the servant of all — before and not after another Buffalo Creek disaster.

MEM


The fire still burns: Centralia’s last days

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010, photo, retired Centralia Postmaster Tom Dempsey is photographed with in an empty Centralia, Pa., as steam rises from the ground behind him. The steam is caused by a fire that burns underground. The fire began in 1962 at the town dump and ignited an exposed coal vein, eventually forcing an exodus of more than 1,000 people, nearly the entire population of this mountain town. Almost every house was demolished. After years of delay, state officials are trying to finish their demolition work in Centralia, a borough in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania that all but ceased to exist in the 1980s after a mine fire spread beneath homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Here’s an interesting story by Michael Rubinkam of The Associated Press

CENTRALIA, Pa.  — Standing before the wreckage of his bulldozed home, John Lokitis Jr. felt sick to his stomach, certain that a terrible mistake had been made.He’d fought for years to stay in the house. It was one of the few left standing in the moonscape of Centralia, a once-proud coal town whose population fled an underground mine fire that began in 1962 and continues to burn.

But the state had ordered Lokitis to vacate, leaving the fourth-generation Centralian little choice but to say goodbye — to the house, and to what’s left of the town he loved.

“I never had any desire to move,” said Lokitis, 39. “It was my home.”

After years of delay, state officials are now trying to complete the demolition of Centralia, a borough in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania that all but ceased to exist in the 1980s after the mine fire spread beneath homes and businesses, threatening residents with poisonous gases and dangerous sinkholes.

More than 1,000 people moved out, and 500 structures were razed under a $42 million federal relocation program.

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Remembering Aracoma: Jan. 19, 2006

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Four years ago today — on Jan. 19, 2006 — a fire broke out in the belt take-up storage unit for the longwall conveyor belt at Massey Energy’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Logan County, W.Va.

A crew of workers, including Ellery Hatfield and Don Bragg (above, left to right), ran into thick, black smoke in their escape tunnel and had to find another way out. Ten men from the crew escaped. Bragg and Hatfield somehow became separated from the group, got lost and eventually succumbed to the smoke.

Federal investigators cited a variety of major safety violations that led to the fire, including “prolonged operation” of a misaligned conveyor belt and allowing large spills of combustible coal dust and grease to build up on the belt. Serious safety problems at Aracoma built up over time, and an independent report found that a lack of tough enforcement by state and federal agencies contributed to those problems. In an internal review, MSHA found its own performance at Aracoma unacceptable.  (Not for nothing, but a Department of Labor review conducted after the Crandall Canyon disaster found that MSHA still had a long ways to go in fixing these problems).

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My buddy Paul Nyden had the story Sunday, updating us all on plans for an appeal of the Obama administration’s decision to remove Blair Mountain from the National Register of Historic Places.

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It’s official: Blair Mountain delisted

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Making good on what it previously said it planned, the Interior Department’s National Park Service has formally announced it has removed Blair Mountain from the National Register of Historic Place.

There’s a brief notice of the move in today’s Federal Register.

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The Sago Mine Disaster, Jan. 2, 2006

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Four years ago today, an explosion ripped through a small underground coal mine in Upshur County, W.Va. Soon, the nation’s eyes were focused on the Sago Mine, as a frantic rescue effort was waged to try to save 13 coal miners trapped deep underground.

Twelve of those miners never made it home to their families. They were (left to right and top to bottom, above): Tom Anderson, Terry Helms, Marty Bennett, Martin Toler, Marshall Winans, Junior Hamner, Jesse Jones, Jerry Groves, James Bennett, Jackie Weaver, Fred Ware, and David Lewis.

32d5958b-3629-462e-80ad-feb2e00a0b16pobjmini.jpgOf the 13 workers who did not escape immediately after the explosion inside a sealed area of the International Coal Group mine, only Randal McCloy (right) was alive by the time rescuers reached the crew more than 40 hours later.

It was the worst mining disaster in West Virginia in nearly 40 years, and brought a renewed focus to the nation’s mine safety efforts, which had suffered major budget and staffing cuts — along with an industry-friendly focus on “compliance assistance” — during the Bush administration.

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MSHA marks annivesary of 1969 mine safety law

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Longtime Charleston Gazette photographer Larry Pierce took this famous photo of the Farmington Disaster, which was a defining event that pushed Congress to write a new mine safety and health law.

This statement just in from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today commemorated the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (Mine Act), which instituted the strongest and most comprehensive occupational safety and health protections that had ever been enacted in the country.

The Mine Act was born out of a mining disaster that occurred in November 1968, when 78 miners died in an explosion at Consolidation Coal’s No. 9 mine in Farmington, W.Va. Members of the mining community, angered by the continuing toll being taken on the lives of miners, rallied together and called for sweeping changes. Widows of some of the fallen miners even traveled to Washington to testify before Congress.

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Merry Christmas from Coal Tattoo

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Coal Tattoo is going to be closing down for a week or so for Christmas. We’ll be back online Dec. 28. Hopefully, there won’t be any major news — especially bad news — between now and then.

Historically, this has been a tough time in the coalfields.  Low barometric pressure and low humidity, along with seasonal drying of many areas in underground mines, have contributed to a larger number of mine explosions during winter months.

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Sen. Byrd: “Coal Must Embrace the Future”

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This is the full text of a statement today by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. — And audio is available by clicking in this button:

For more than 100 years, coal has been the backbone of the Appalachian economy. Even today, the economies of more than 20 states depend to some degree on the mining of coal. About half of all the electricity generated in America and about one quarter of all the energy consumed globally is generated by coal.

Change is no stranger to the coal industry.  Think of the huge changes which came with the onset of the Machine Age in the late 1800’s.  Mechanization has increased coal production and revenues, but also has eliminated jobs, hurting the economies of coal communities. In 1979, there were 62,500 coal miners in the Mountain State. Today there are about 22,000. In recent years, West Virginia has seen record high coal production and record low coal employment.

And change is undeniably upon the coal industry again.  The increased use of mountaintop removal mining means that fewer miners are needed to meet company production goals. Meanwhile the Central Appalachian coal seams that remain to be mined are becoming thinner and more costly to mine. Mountaintop removal mining, a declining national demand for energy, rising mining costs and erratic spot market prices all add up to fewer jobs in the coal fields.

These are real problems. They affect real people. And West Virginia’s elected officials are rightly concerned about jobs and the economic impact on local communities.  I share those concerns.  But the time has come to have an open and honest dialogue about coal’s future in West Virginia.

Let’s speak the truth. The most important factor in maintaining coal-related jobs is demand for coal. Scapegoating and stoking fear among workers over the permitting process is counter-productive.

Coal companies want a large stockpile of permits in their back pockets because that implies stability to potential investors. But when coal industry representatives stir up public anger toward federal regulatory agencies, it can damage the state’s ability to work with those agencies to West Virginia’s benefit. This, in turn, may create the perception of ineffectiveness within the industry, which can drive potential investors away.

Let’s speak a little more truth here. No deliberate effort to do away with the coal industry could ever succeed in Washington because there is no available alternative energy supply that could immediately supplant the use of coal for base load power generation in America. That is a stubborn fact that vexes some in the environmental community, but it is reality.

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Naomi Mine Explosion, 1907

On Dec. 1, 1907, an explosion at the Naomi Mine in Fayette City, Pa., killed 34 coal miners.

The Web site of the U.S. Mine Rescue Association provides this summary of what happened:

About 7:45 p.m. Sunday, an explosion of firedamp augmented by coal dust resulted in the death of 34 miners, all that were in the mine. A large quantity of gas must have been ignited. The gas was not detected before anyone was allowed to enter the mine. For some time previous to the explosion, only the working places were being examined before the mine was allowed to be entered.

The cause of the gas being present was an open door. The explosion was caused by an open light or electric arc from the wires. The system of ventilation was fauty having too many doors.

They commenced to sink a shaft but very little progress has been made. It was evident that the fireboss had been trying to get the men together preparatory to leaving the mine. 

The association has also posted front pages of local newspapers with coverage of the disaster.

The Farmington Disaster, Nov. 20, 1968

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Forty-one years ago today, 78 miners were killed in an explosion at Consolidation Coal Co.’s No. 9 Mine in Farmington, W.Va. The famous photo above was taken by longtime Gazette photographer Lawrence Pierce.

Readers might be interested to go back to last year’s Gazette, when my friend Paul Nyden wrote this story  to mark the Farmington disaster’s 40th anniversary. There’s also video, the front page of the Gazette from the day after the disaster, and we posted a copy of the official government investigation report and some analysis from Dr. Nyden’s dissertation of the Farmington disaste, all here.

And in today’s Gazette, new MSHA chief Joe Main has an op-ed commentary about Farmington, discussing the mine safety reforms that followed, and the other reforms that followed other disasters. Main concludes:

Each one of these remarkable legislative actions has saved countless lives and reduced the number of accidents, illnesses and injuries in the mining industry. Further improvements are needed, though, to achieve the health and safety goals that this nation’s miners deserve. We must continue our efforts to keep miners safe and healthy each and every day. The sacrifices of our fallen miners must never be forgotten.

Later today, we might get a glimpse from Joe Main about what “further improvements” he plans, when he holds his first discussion with the media since being confirmed by the Senate.

Stay tuned …

The Cherry Mine Disaster

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A postcard shows the ruins of the fan building at the Cherry Mine.

One hundred years ago tomorrow, 259 coal miners were killed in a fire at the Cherry Mine in Cherry, Ill.

This was one of four major mining disasters that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 workers in a two-year period, and helped lead to creation of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1910.

Karen Tintori wrote a book, Trapped: The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster, about the tragedy, and Jeff Biggers wrote a piece this week for The Huffington Post about the disaster. There’s also been coverage in the regional media, including the Peoria Star and the Chicago Tribune.

How does Big Coal honor veterans?

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I caught part of the Veteran’s Day parade in downtown Charleston this morning, and I’ve been reading this New York Times story which contains some of the more grim news to come out of the Fort Hood massacre:

Fort Hood is still reeling from last week’s carnage, in which an Army psychiatrist is accused of a massacre that left 13 people dead. But in the town of Killeen and other surrounding communities, the attack, one of the worst mass shootings on a military base in the United States, is also seen by many as another blow in an area that has been beset by crime and violence since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. Reports of domestic abuse have grown by 75 percent since 2001. At the same time, violent crime in Killeen has risen 22 percent while declining 7 percent in towns of similar size in other parts of the country.

And incredibly:

Since 2003, there have been 76 suicides by personnel assigned to Fort Hood, with 10 this year, according to military officials.

Coalfield communities and coal miners are no strangers to the military, with places like West Virginia historically sending — and losing — a larger share of their young people to foreign wars than other parts of the country.

But then, I read reports out in the last two days from Mother Jones and Climate Progress about the latest antics of one of Big Coal’s major lobby groups, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

According to Kate Sheppard at MJ:

The coal front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has been in hot water lately for employing an astroturf group that forged letters to Congress opposing the House climate bill—and then for possibly lying under oath about their position. Now ACCCE is in trouble again—for misrepresenting the views of two major veterans groups in an email hyping coal’s role in energy security.

The email, sent in anticipation of Veterans’ Day, argues that coal can play a vital role in reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and cites two groups—VoteVets and Operation Free. The problem: both of those groups are strong supporters of climate legislation—in part because of the national security threats posed by global warming—while ACCCE has been working energetically to undermine a bill.

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We had a little item in the Gazette today, based on a press release from West Virginia’s delegation, about a congressional resolution to create a National Miner’s Day. But the article and the press release both left out the most interesting part: The resolution calls for the National Miner’s Day to be Dec. 6, the anniversary of the Monongah Mine Disaster, the worst coal-mining disaster in U.S. history.

Here’s the text of the congressional resolution:

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

November 4, 2009

Mr. RAHALL (for himself, Mr. MOLLOHAN, and Mrs. CAPITO) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

Supporting the goals and ideals of a National Miner’s Day to celebrate and honor the contributions of miners and encouraging the people of the United States to participate in local and national activities celebrating and honoring the contributions of miners.

Whereas miners daily risk life and limb in their labors;

Whereas the foundations of civilization are constructed from, advanced by, and sustained with, the materials procured with miner’s sweat and blood;

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