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Mine disaster highlights politics of coal in W.Va.

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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-10-10 05:57 PM
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Mine disaster highlights politics of coal in W.Va.

http://apnews.excite.com/article/20100410/D9F0160G1.html

By TOM BREEN

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - In southern West Virginia, coal has been king for more than a century. The politicians in these hardscrabble mining towns tread a fine line, trying to balance support for an industry worth billions of dollars and thousands of jobs while also trying to protect workers from its lapses and excesses.

No one feels that tension more these days than U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, who rushed to the scene after Monday's explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 miners in the heart of his native Raleigh County.

The 17-term Democrat has been criticized for more than a year by people in both parties for what they say is insufficient support of the coal industry, and he faces a challenge in this year's election from a prominent, newly minted Republican who says the incumbent is part of a left-wing "war on coal miners."

That challenger - former state Supreme Court Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard - has a long-standing friendship with Don Blankenship, the chief executive of mine owner Massey Energy Co., which faces intense scrutiny and criticism for a history of safety violations at Upper Big Branch.


U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall D-WV, listens during a press conference Thursday, April 8, 2010 at Marsh Fork Elementary in Montcoal, W.Va. On Monday 25 miners were killed in an explosion at nearby Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in Montcoal, W.Va. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)


Maynard, in a primary to face Rahall in the general election, could find his political future affected by his close ties to Blankenship as authorities, the media and workers dissect how and why the explosion happened.

Coal occupies a dominant position in the politics and culture of West Virginia, even as mechanization and less labor-intensive types of mining have reduced the number of workers to roughly a tenth of what there were in the 1950s. Back then, company towns were common and the United Mine Workers of America's annual Labor Day picnic at Racine was a must-attend event for any politician hoping to be elected.

FULL story at link.

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elleng Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-10-10 06:03 PM
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1. Thanks for the article.
Edited on Sat Apr-10-10 06:05 PM by elleng
WV is LITERALLY between a rock and a hard place, has been, and will probably remain so.

Coal is dirty; burning coal is dirty.

We need coal for energy.

Coal mining kills.

West Virginians need coal-mining jobs.
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