406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room
James M. Inhofe
So, it seems the Administration and its supporters in the environmental community can’t make up their minds about coal and mountaintop mining. It’s not hard to understand why. Those “local lawmakers” the LA Times refers to, who are concerned about the future of their communities, are Democrats. Coming from Oklahoma, I would say that Democrats in my home state and in places like West Virginia tend to see coal and energy differently than, say, Speaker Pelosi, Henry Waxman, or the Obama Administration. They tend have practical, rather than ideological, views about coal and energy.
As they see it, coal provides jobs and secures livelihoods for families. Coal also is a source of reliable, affordable electricity that powers the economies of West Virginia, Ohio, and much of the nation. Banning coal or sharply curtailing its use makes no sense to people who rely on it every day of their lives. They can’t understand why Democrats in Washington and their friends in the environmental movement think coal is the root of all evil. When they see the likes of the Waxman-Markey global warming bill, which would destroy thousands of good-paying jobs for hard-working people, or comments from the Secretary of Energy that “coal is my worst nightmare,” or from Vice President Biden, who vowed on the campaign trail that there would be “no coal plants here in America,” they scratch their heads and wonder whether such opinions are grounded in reality.
As the Democratic leaders in Washington are preparing for the debate tomorrow on the disastrous Waxman-Markey bill, and as they continue to fight over whether coal should be banned, diminished, or remain central to the nation’s energy policy, the 77,000 hard-working people in Appalachia who work in the mining industry are wondering whether they have job security.
My sincere hope is that the Democrats here in Washington can stop arguing about coal and listen to local officials from the heartland. Those officials—again, many of them Democrats—do not want to abandon the Clean Water Act and the protections it provides to the families who live, work, and play in their communities. They want clean water and they should get it. But at the same time, they want the recognition that their economic livelihoods matter just the same, both for their communities and for the nation.