The lawn of the nation’s capitol was filled with thousands of coal supporters from all over the country, including southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, some who boarded buses very early Tuesday morning, Oct. 29, 2013, to make it to the “Count on Coal” rally for American jobs.
One of the coal miners who attended was Joe Daniel, who works for Cliffs Natural Resources in Logan County. Daniel has spent 38 years mining coal and was chosen to offer a prayer before the rally began.
“I ask you Lord that our leaders come to that knowledge, to know that coal is not done, but we’re only beginning,” prayed Daniel.
W.Va. Coal Association President Billy Raney said, “I’m so proud to be here and look out over this crowd. This is a crowd of the best coal miners in the world. We want everybody in this city to know that you helped build this city and what a contribution you have made to this country, and you continue to make.” Raney went on to lead the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Raney introduced the Chair of the Congressional Coal Caucus and W.Va. Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, who launched directly into her rally for coal.
“Coal creates, coal powers and coal is America. Coal jobs are threatened. Over a hundred mines in the state of West Virginia have been closed. Over 3,500 miners have been laid off or furloughed taking $719,000,000 from the West Virginia economy. Who knows what that is nationwide. It’s enormous. When coal suffers, it’s not just the miners who suffer, it’s many in this audience. It’s the truck driver. It’s the waiter. It’s the teacher. It’s our railroads. It’s many, many more. Make no mistake about it, this is a war on coal. One thing I don’t understand is we are exporting a lot of our coal. We are exporting a lot of our coal to China. It’s good enough for China. It’s good enough for India. It’s good enough for Germany. Why can’t we burn it here in America. Because the Administration says no. No to American energy, no to American energy jobs and no to affordable energy jobs. I, for one, want to keep American energy in America. I’m working to try and change that with a lot of people we are going to hear today.”
Capito encouraged everyone to stand together regardless of political party or location, then introduced a stream of more than 30 speakers who added their comments of support.
Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers was first up and said, “Eastern Kentucky has had more than 7,000 miners laid off in the past 18 months. Everyone’s utility bills are going to go sky high because we can’t burn reasonably priced coal. They must realize coal is going to be around here for a long time. We are not going to go away. The Administration needs to realize coal keeps America going. Coal is our best strategic energy resource. Coal keeps food on the table. Coal keeps small businesses and communities going across the country. Mr. President: Coal keeps the lights on.”
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was next to speak.
“I come from southern West Virginia, right in the heart of coal country in West Virginia. West Virginia is the second largest producer of coal and the third largest exporter of power of any state in the union. That means that 60 percent of the power we are generating in the state of West Virginia, is going all up and down the east coast to supply homes and businesses, government and people don’t realize when they go in a room and flip on a light, or they click on their TV or computer, that somebody is responsible for making that electricity and that’s a coal miner. Coal miners are out there every day producing low-cost electricity for our country. The EPA is trying to stop that, trying to diversify. Diversification is fine, but at the same time it is coal that keeps the lights on in our country and it’s going to continue to do that. When decisions are made that affect coal and coal mining, the production of electricity without thinking of the effect it has on our states, that’s sad, because with every ton of coal, there’s human sweat. My message today is work with us as states, work with the mine operators, work with the coal miners and let us get back to doing what we do, which is making this country great.”
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin encouraged miners to not back down and told the crowd he would not quit fighting for coal.
“There shouldn’t be a man, woman or child in America that doesn’t say a prayer every night for a coal miner. They gave them the life they have today. If it wasn’t for the energy they produced, we wouldn’t have the greatest nation. We wouldn’t be a super power. Coal miners are the backbone of America. Coal is the most reliable, dependable and most affordable energy resource we have. Forty percent of the people in America depend on what you produce every day.”
“Coal keeps the lights on. Without coal, America would be in the dark, and we’re not gonna let that happen,” U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, said.
Congressman Nick Joe Rahall said, “The EPA won’t come to us, we will keep on doing just what we are doing today. We will keep bringing the fight to them. We didn’t pick this fight, but we are in it. And we are in it to win it.”
Speakers from Illinois, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Montana, all stood united in their message to remember coal as a viable energy resource and the people who depend on coal. Several of the speakers and attendees went on to testify at congressional hearings held Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 29.