Coal Tattoo

Friday roundup, March 6, 2009


The big coal news this week included coverage of the major climate change protest in Washington, D.C., focused on efforts to de-coal the Capitol Power Plant.  Jim Carroll, Washington correspondent for the Louisville Courier-Journal, has a coalfield paper’s take on the event, and here’s an interesting essay by one of the protest’s main promoters, author Bill McKibben.

And the other huge coal-related story was the oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court over the West Virginia case involving state Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin’s ties to Massey Energy President Don Blankenship. Here’s a re-cap from The Wall Street Journal.

In The Huffington Post, Jeff Biggers ties all this together — the big protest in D.C., the Benjamin-Blankenship case, and the growing civil disobedience against Massey and mountaintop removal in the Coal River Valley.

And here’s my weekly effort to round up other coalfield and mining news:

— Jobs are scarce and poverty is pervasive on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, but rich coal deposits lie beneath the buttes where wild horses roam, reports USA Today. For decades, many members of the tribe have resisted coal mining. Now, increased demand for coal and the election of a new tribal president who is determined to create jobs are reigniting debate over energy development among the reservation’s 4,500 residents. It’s a conflict between tribal traditions and economic self-sufficiency that has long divided people here and on other reservations across America with coal, oil and gas and other mineral reserves.

Continue reading…

Judd joins fight against mountaintop removal


Actress Ashley Judd had some strong words about mountaintop removal, when she added her voice to the fight against the practice during a protest in Kentucky on Tuesday:

Mountaintop removal coal mining is a scourge on our land and on our people. Nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the sheer trauma of seeing mountaintop removal coal mining sites.

Continue reading…

More weekend coal news

A few quick links to interesting weekend pieces about the coal industry:

— The New York Times published a fairly long Valentine’s Day story about the ongoing war of words between the coal industry, coal-powered utilities and environmental activists who want to wean the nation’s appetite for coal. The article focused on Duke Energy CEO James Rogers.

Rogers is a bit of a darling of the Times, and was the subject of a previous flattering profile in the paper’s Sunday magazine.

The Times is always looking for these “friendly” corporate chiefs to praise, and the most recent story is no exception:

 Mr. Rogers, 61, may adhere to the pro-coal sentiments of many of his peers, but he is hardly a typical captain of the energy industry. Five years ago, he began advocating for climate change legislation at a time when some companies were still saying human activity had nothing to do with global warming. Mr. Rogers, a native of Birmingham, Ala., considers himself an environmentalist and calls his decision to move forward with the new plant, made shortly after he became chief of Duke in April 2006, a difficult one.

Environmentalists aren’t as keen on Rogers.

“Among the utility guys he’s the most dangerous because he talks a good game, but his actions are among the worst,” Bruce E. Nilles, who oversees anti-coal initiatives for the Sierra Club, told the Times.

There was also a recent report, Duke Energy: the Power of Green in North Carolina, which examined state-level campaign contributions by Rogers’ company as Duke sought favorable state action on a host of energy matters, including approvals for a new coal-fired plant.

— The Associated Press provided an update to the latest fight between Murray Energy and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (See Bob Murray is at it Again). Apparently, Murray has shut down a Utah longwall mining operation in a standoff with MSHA over safety concerns following a series of “bounces” — the same type of dangerous mine collapse that caused Murray’s Crandall Canyon disaster — at the West Ridge Mine near Price, Utah.


— West Virginia lawmakers are promising to demand monthly reports and closely watch over the state DEP to force the agency to do a better job investigating potential health threats related to coal slurry injected underground. (for background, see Seeking slurry answers and missing deadlines).

— TVA CEO Tom Gilgore admits that the coal-ash spill was, in fact, a catastrophe, contradicting the talking points issued by his company’s PR department.

And the Grammy goes to …

West Virginia native Kathy Mattea’s album of old coalfield songs missed out on this year’s Grammy for folk album.

But Kathy shouldn’t feel too bad, given that the winner was folk legend Pete Seeger, for his “At 89.”

If you haven’t seen Seeger and Bruce Springsteen do “This Land is Your Land” for President Obama, I encourage you to check it out:

And yes, they did the “censored” verses, and here are all the words:

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.