35 West Virginia voters and supporters attempted to deliver a letter to Governor Tomblin this morning at the Governor’s Mansion in Charleston. The letter brings attention to the dying coal industry and calls for economic diversification in the coalfields. As residents spoke with police officers at the door, supporters witnessed the Governor escaping public dialogue by driving out his back driveway. Residents and supporters proceeded to the Governor’s office, where the letter was signed and delivered to Tomblin’s Director of Constituent Services.
The text of the letter is below:
You have refused to prioritize the long term health and economic stability of working class voters from the southern coalfields in your first year of governorship. We know that you now find yourself in a difficult situation. You are in the pocket of a dying industry that has money to donate to your campaign, but has no long term solutions to the immediate health, environmental, and jobs crises that affect not just West Virginia, but the entire nation. You will face a clear fork in the road if you are to win a new term as Governor of this state. Do you continue to bow to the demands of a ruthless industry in decline, or do you enact solutions that address the coming dire economic reality of the people that live in the southern coalfields? Coalfield citizens know that to choose the former is to resign to obsolescence, while enacting a plan towards the latter is a step towards a bright future for West Virginia.
When it comes to addressing the real issues in the WV coalfields, our gubernatorial race has been a joke – with the Democratic and Republican candidates simply competing to see who can stir up more pro-coal industry furor in order to hide the truth about coal’s decline. Every independent industry analyst, from the Energy Information Agency to Stagg Resource Consultants, has been saying for years that Central Appalachian coal production is in a steep and permanent decline. According to the same analysts, these reasons have little to do with government regulation. In reality, we are running out of coal to mine and other coal basins and cheap natural gas are simply outcompeting Central Appalachian coal. Even Bill Raney has admitted, “There’s not any surprise in this. You’re talking about a declining reserve anyway. We mined the low-hanging fruit a long time ago.”
Governor Tomblin, you know as well as we do that your War on Coal is a dirty lie. West Virginians are tired, misled, and divided by our political leaders. Governor, you are asking us for another 4 years. We are asking you, ‘What’s your plan?’ because we haven’t heard one that addresses the economic and health crisis in our communities. Study after study has shown that we have a devastating health crisis in communities where mountaintop removal is happening. We have rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and birth defects that far exceed national averages. We have seen the future of communities where coal companies pull out without a plan for transition. You only need to visit Welch to understand what the future looks like if we don’t act. Patriot Coal’s betrayal of hard working miners may be the canary in the coal mines. The industry wants to continue operating, squeezing out the last drops of profit, while abandoning their obligations to retired miners that have given their lives to an unsustainable industry.
Instead of confronting the very serious issues facing southern West Virginia, you have cynically exploited layoffs in the coal industry to boost your election chances. By fanning the flames of this supposed “war on coal,” not only have you lied to coal miners about the real reasons they are losing their jobs and created false hopes, you have increased divisions in our communities and helped incite violence against anti-MTR activists.
Governor, as a Logan County native, we believe that you know the reality of the coal industry’s influence on local residents. Coal has poisoned our communities for hundreds of years. When it is gone, all it will leave behind is poverty and cancer. What is your plan for healthy communities and economic stability for West Virginians? We need more than token solutions. During your inaugural address, you said, “My door will be open to all … and I know that the best solutions come from frank and honest discussions and I look forward to having those.” We are asking you to make good on that promise.
As a first step, we are asking you to meet with impacted residents to have a serious conversation about these issues as soon as possible. West Virginians need an economy free from the boom and bust cycles of fossil fuel production. We need an economy that keeps our best and brightest young people right here in West Virginia. We need immediate assistance to re-train and re-employ our coal miners. We need to take immediate steps to protect the health and safety of our mountain communities from an industry scraping the bottom of the barrel. We believe West Virginians are smart and creative enough to find solutions that work for everybody. We urge you to create a nonpartisan Citizens Advisory Council on Economic Diversification to advise your administration. We have called many times for you to meet with us. We have come today to deliver this request in person. We pray you will do your job as our representative and hear us – for the future of us all.