Sunday, September 23, 2012

The War On Coal... Miners


You may have read Kate Sheppard's story in Mother Jones last week about a wealthy coal exec who dressed up like a coal miner to help right-wing Republican Andy Barr beat right-wing Blue Dog Ben Chandler (KY-06). The only preference I have in this race is that they both lose. I don't have any idea why Chandler calls himself a Democrat. In the current session he voted with the Republicans on 67.42% of the crucial, substantive roll calls, more often than Republicans Ron Paul (R-TX) and Walter Jones (R-NC) and almost exactly tied with Tim Johnson (R-IL). The only Democrats with voting records to the right of his were 9 other Blue Dogs several of whom are transitioning into lobbying next year. As far as specific coal votes, he's been with the GOP two-thirds of the time on subsidies for coal, with the Republicans almost half the time on the environment (career-long) and, also career-long, with the GOP more than half the time on air pollution. 

Thursday Robert Semple penned an editorial for the NY Times you may have missed, 'Stop the War on Coal' Act, almost a public policy obituary for Republican conservationist Russell Train who died last week, age 92. Train was Nixon's first chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and later was "administrator of the fledgling Environmental Protection Agency-- helping shape landmark statutes like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. His death serves as a reminder of the G.O.P.’s historic tradition of environmental stewardship, a tradition stretching as far back as Teddy Roosevelt, which the party has now repudiated." Completely and utterly repudiated... and with a vengeance.
Within hours of Mr. Train’s  death, Republican leaders in the House brought to the floor a bill called “Stop the War on Coal Act, “ which seeks to weaken and in some cases overturn laws and rules protecting the very things that Mr. Train stood for-- clean air, clean water, a stable climate and fair effective regulation of the big polluters, including but not exclusively the fossil fuel industry.

The bill (which the senate will certainly strike down) contains no new ideas.  According to a database compiled by Representative  Henry Waxman and the Democratic staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Republicans have voted an astonishing  302 times this year to hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency, weaken clean water and air rules, undermine protections for public lands  and coastal areas, and block action to address global warming – all while seeking to make the regulatory climate as favorable as possible for the oil, gas and coal industries. The  virtue of the latest bill (I use the word virtue loosely here) is that it contains just about all of those bad ideas in one place-- one-stop shopping as it were, for those who haven’t been keeping up with the Tea Party wrecking crew in the 112th Congress.

In recent years, much to his surprise as an old Republican loyalist, but perfectly in keeping with his values, Mr. Train found himself working behind the scenes to defend the Obama administration and especially its embattled E.P.A. chief, Lisa Jackson, in her efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change. He was also a strong supporter of President Obama’s most important environmental achievement so far, the agreement with Detroit to double automobile efficiency and greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by 2025.

One suspects, however, that his final years would have been much happier had he been spared the sight of his own party trashing much of what he worked for.

The bill passed 233-175, 13 Republicans voting against it and 19 Democrats, including Chandler, of course, voting for it. All but 3 of the Democrats who voted with the GOP were Blue Dogs and New Dems and the other 3 almost always voted with the Blue Dogs anyway. One of the co-sponsors of the bill was West Virginia corporate whore (and crooked multimillionaire) David McKinley. McKinely is always on the side of the mine owners and always against the miners... always. His opponent this year is an advocate for miner families, Sue Thorn. I can't imagine she would ever have voted for this unserious legislation. Thorn:
Being a "Friend of Coal" isn’t enough, especially when regulations concern worker safety. In the recent draft 2013 budget, House Republicans added language that would prevent the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) from implementing new limits on coal dust. An amendment by Congressman David McKinley will make it tougher to control combustible coal ash or unsafe air quality in mines, even though there is a surge in black lung cases. Black lung is now striking coal miners at younger ages and with less time in mines. This is no time to prevent the enforcement of these life-saving regulations.
When elected officials receive campaign contributions from coal barons they seem to ignore the needs of coal miners. I will always be a "Friend of Coal Miners."
The DCCC is spending approximately $2 million to try to save Ben Chandler's seat in Kentucky this cycle-- so he can be around in 2013 to vote with the GOP two-thirds of the time again. But in Sue Thorn's very winnable race? The DCCC is spending not even two cents. They're perfectly happy to have McKinely sitting in a traditionally Democratic seat until 2014 when they can run some awful Blue Dog again-- like the one McKinley beat in 2010. We're not and we're trying to help Sue win her race. It's an uphill struggle. The working families she appeals to don't have money for campaign contributions and she can really use some help in getting her message out. Here's where you can help if you'd like to.

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