Last updated: July 17. 2013 5:52PM - 143 Views

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Dear Editor:

Last week, Sen. Jay Rockefeller cast a vote that helped defeat SJR 37, a piece of legislation also known as the Inhofe Resolution. The resolution would have helped end the on-going and very real war being waged by the EPA against America’s coal mining families. In a vote this afternoon, the resolution failed on a vote of 56-43.

While we are disappointed with Rockefeller’s vote, we are appalled by comments made by Rockefeller on the Senate floor prior to casting the vote.

In a speech to the Senate shortly before the vote, Rockefeller outlined his reasons for opposing the bill. Rockefeller made the unbelievable claim that the EPA’s war on coal is not real. He said it is just the creation of the industry’s public relations machine and that the EPA’s actions are actually to the benefit of the state.

Quite frankly, we don’t know where Rockefeller is getting his information, but more than 2,000 unemployed West Virginia coal miners and their families can tell him the EPA’s war on coal is not only real but is killing jobs and destroying lives here in West Virginia and across the region every day.

Perhaps Sen. Rockefeller should spend a little more time here in West Virginia actually listening to the people of our state rather than his friends in the Administration and at the EPA. If he did he would quickly understand that our fears are very, very real.

The numbers are there for anyone willing to look. The administration has also been clear in its intent to “bankrupt the coal industry.” The EPA has also clearly outlined its intent to bring an end to the use of coal.

The Obama Administration won’t end its war on coal, that much is obvious. Neither will the EPA, so it is up to Congress and more specifically the Senate to take the steps needed to bring this anti-coal assault to an end. The House of Representatives has done its job, passing an entire portfolio of legislation that would end job-killing assault. However each piece of legislation has sat in the Senate without action. Sen. Manchin has expressed his determination to end the EPA’s reign of terror. Sen. Rockefeller has sat silent until today.

Rockefeller now says he “stands with the coal miner” in casting his vote against the Inhofe Resolution. Well we have stood with thousands of coal miners and their families over the past three years, at meeting after meeting, at rallies and at hearings. Sen. Rockefeller was nowhere to be seen.

Every morning we wake up wondering if we will have a job by the end of the day. We see the impact of the war on coal every day in the form of harsh new regulations, in the ongoing permit strangulation that threatens every single mining operation in the state, in the veto of the Spruce Mine permit three years after it was approved by the same EPA, and in the quite clear language coming from the EPA and the Obama Administration. The administration has also been clear in its intent to “bankrupt the coal industry.” The EPA has also clearly outlined its intent to bring an end to the use of coal. The evidence is there for anyone willing to look.

Through it all Rockefeller remained silent, our calls for help apparently falling on deaf ears.

Just yesterday 47 working coal miners and their families traveled to Washington to meet with Sen. Rockefeller and to ask him to help us today. We traveled for hours by bus because we know what is at stake, yet Rockefeller refused to even meet with us. It is now clear to us that he cares more about his friends in the Obama White House and at the EPA than our working coal miners.

Sen. Rockefeller could have voted today to end the nightmare our coal miners have endured. The Inhofe Resolution failed by only four votes. Rockefeller’s opposition, in my opinion gave cover for Sen. Casey of Pennsylvania and Sen. Brown of Ohio and Sen. Baucus of Montana – all Senators from coal producing states – to also vote against the measure. In other words, had Rockefeller simply voted for the bill, we could today be much closer to bringing an end to the nightmare.

We counted on him to stand with us and listen to the voices of the thousands of West Virginians who have pleaded simply for a chance to work, to earn a living and take care of their families. We were looking to Sen. Rockefeller to protect us.

We simply do not understand why Rockefeller chose to vote as he did, leaving thousands of West Virginia families to fend for themselves.

We would like to thank our members of the House of Representatives. Reps. Capito, McKinley and Rahall for their efforts to end the war on coal. We would also like to thank Sen. Manchin, Sen. Inhofe and the 41 other members of the U.S. Senate who stood up for the coal miners and their families and cast their votes for the Inhofe Resolution.

Today was a setback for our state and its mining families, but we will continue to fight the good fight and we will continue our efforts to bring the War on Coal to an end.

Citizens for Coal President Roger Horton

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