Coal Money And Violent Rhetoric Hold Appalachia Captive to Dirty Energy

While Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continues her amazing recovery in the wake of the tragic Tucson shootings, the coal industry and its captive members in Congress and the right wing media continue to talk about a "War on Coal."

The industry front group Friends of Coal issued "A Call to Arms" yesterday announcing the "Rally for Coal" taking place this afternoon at the West Virginia capitol and featuring the state's top politicians. Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's office quickly labeled the "Call to Arms" rhetoric "an unfortunate use of words," but wouldn't confirm whether Tomblin had any plans to discuss the use of such violent rhetoric with the coal industry.

Isn't it a bit more than "unfortunate" to witness the violent tone of coal industry rhetoric so soon after the Tucson tragedy?

Author Jeff Biggers, who happens to be a part-time resident of Tucson, wrote about the Tomblin rally:

What happened to the new era of civility? ... An emergency situation of thinly veiled threats and increasingly strident rhetoric in West Virginia now has besieged coalfield residents wondering if the Department of Justice should intervene before their state becomes the next headline tragedy. At the very least, coalfield residents are asking whether the permit for the "call to arms" rally should be revoked for inciting violence.

Sadly, this is just the latest display of the penchant among West Virginia coal proponents to use guns to send intimidating messages to Washington. Recall coal-friendly politician Joe Manchin's campaign commercial taking "Dead Aim" at even a weak proposal to address climate change?

Apparently it pays for the state's politicians to talk tough about coal and other dirty energy sources. According to, newly elected Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) received a whopping $345,171 (with 81% coming from coal) between 2009-2010 from polluters aiding his election campaign. But Manchin is no stranger to dirty money, having collected $285,613 just from mining interests in his various campaigns between 2000 and 2008, according to His veteran Senate colleague Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who was not up for re-election last year, has also received substantial dirty energy contributions totaling $368,850 since 1999 (with 75% coal related).

Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has also collected a grip from dirty energy over the years, receiving $328,286 from energy interests prior to today's rally, which will surely give him the coal bare bump.

How long will campaign cash and lobbying might hold the West Virginia delegation hostage to dirty energy?

As the late West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd wrote shortly before his death:

"The monolithic power of industry should never dominate our politics to the detriment of local communities. ... the coal industry has an immensely powerful lobby in Washington and in Charleston. For nearly a hundred years they have come to our presidents, our members of Congress, our legislators, our mayors, and our county commissioners to demand their priorities. It is only right that the people of West Virginia speak up and make the coal industry understand what is expected of it in return."

How about, for starters, the coal industry stop using guns and violent rhetoric to intimidate those who seek to protect the mountains and hollers that Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone once roamed, a rich part of American heritage?