We know that one of the major sources of the greenhouse gasses that are driving climate change is the coal the we burn to generate electricity. If nothing is done to change that, the all of the other stuff we might do would not be enough to reign in our warming climate... making 650 ppm CO2 much more likely than 350.
One would think that it might be easy for Democrats to pass some sort of climate change legislation. Well, it would if they didn't need the votes of two Senators from West Virginia, Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, to stop what ever delaying tactics that Oklahoma's Sen. Inhofe has planned... and Inhofe has promised to block any attempt to address climate change.
We all know that Robert Byrd is the last of the old Southern Democrats and maybe the only one not to have changed parties. In fact, Byrd is older than sliced bread or band aids and even voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964. That is the kind of Democrat he is.
This connection of West Virginia and coal and the political power they have makes a very long story and one that points to a lot that is wrong in this country in these times. Perhaps no one documents this better than Ken Ward Jr., a reporter for the Charleston WV Gazette and the owner of their Coal Tatoo blog. I have been following @kenwardjr on twitter and two tweets today are very interesting, worth everyone's attention even if your previous view of West Virginia ended with John Denver's Country Roads.
Click Read more! below for the real dirt and slag.
The first was a bit of a surprise. WV's coal interests are pretty well protected in the House of Representatives. Nick Rahall (WV-03 Dem.) is currently the Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resource and any mining regulations have to go through his committee. I will admit that Rahall is better than he predecessor, my own ex-Congressman Richard Pombo. But he has still been described as a "whore for coal."
Then I was surprised when one of Ward's tweets pointed me to a story on a primary opponent for Rahall.
Delegate Ralph Rodighiero of Logan filed pre-candidacy papers Friday that allow him to raise money for a possible primary challenge in the state's 3rd Congressional district.It appears that maybe the "whore for Coal" is taking the votes but not putting out.
The 46-year-old legislator says coal industry figures approached him several months ago, encouraging him to run. They are upset with the Obama administration's handling of mining permits.
The Obama Administration is beginning to challenge mining permits and even appears to be willing to have the EPA go to court over Clean Water Act violations from mining operations and Rahall has not been able to block it. This is what happens when you don't jump through the master's hoop.
We know how much coal, and especially Massey Energy controls WV politics. After all, there was a recent trial where the Chief Justice of the WV Supreme Court had to recuse himself after it was revealed that he had been wined and dined on the French Riviera by Massey Energy's CEO Don Blankenship.
The mention of Blankenship ties to the next item I picked up from Ward. It seems that Blankenship and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are scheduled to debate the future of coal at an energy forum sponsored the University of Charleston. We have seen the way Blankenship operates. This is what Kennedy thinks:
In a column in The Washington Post in March, Kennedy referred to mountaintop removal coal mining(MTR) as "the greatest environmental tragedy ever to befall our nation."
"This radical form of strip mining has already flattened the tops of 500 mountains, buried 2,000 miles of streams, devastated our country's oldest and most diverse temperate forests, and blighted landscapes famous for their history and beauty," he wrote.
It is the ability of Corporations like Massey Energy with CEO's like Blankenship, to manipulate the political process for their own gains... and of course to protect the jobs of all of their workers, as they will tell you... that makes the prospect for meaningful action against climate change so dim. Even the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has called for Byrd and Rockefeller to block health care legislation over actions to clean up the coal industry. Unfortunately, Byrd and Rockefeller are in a position to do just that.
Obama promised us a change. We are beginning to see a little, with the EPA, for the first time, actually going to take a look at Massey Energy's latest MTR operation as Coal River Mountain. This would never have happened in a Bush administration. But, it is far too little and far too late.
We don't think a lot about coal out here in California. We had better start doing it, our children's lives may depend on it.