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Successful chamber event in Marion County overshadowed by Sen. Manchin’s passion for coal

Sen. Manchin with friends at Marion Chamber event
Sen. Manchin with friends at Marion Chamber event

By John Dahlia
Editor, Preston County News & Journal

Wednesday night, I had the chance to attend the Marion County Chamber of Commerce annual dinner event in Fairmont. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.) was the keynote speaker.

The program itself was and truly is an outstanding example of how a Chamber of Commerce can be successful. More than 500 people attended the dinner held at the beautiful Falcon Center on the Fairmont State University campus. Sen. Manchin, a native of Marion County, was a huge draw. Not surprisingly, when it came time for him to speak, he got a standing ovation.

He began his speech as he always does; connecting to certain folks in the audience by first name and thanking those who put the event together. Like his late uncle A. James, Joe Manchin truly has a real skill in public speaking.

As his presentation continued, Manchin turned attention to a handful of key issues on the minds of most Americans these days. He spoke about his concerns and thoughts on the Iran nuclear deal. Clearly, he and many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle are truly worried, one way or another, about a long-term agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons and technology. He also spoke at great length about federal highway funding and how the U.S., compared to other parts of the world, spends far too little on its roads and infrastructure. But when he got on the topic of climate and coal his tone changed.

Sen. Manchin has a long history and deep connection to coal mining in West Virginia, going all the way back to 1968 in his hometown of Farmington when a mine disaster at CONSOL No. 9 mine claimed the lives of 78 miners, including Manchin’s Uncle John. So on this particular issue, Sen. Manchin had a lot to say.

By far, Manchin’s most impactful statements on coal mining and climate was the utter frustration that very few, if any, of his colleagues on Capitol Hill, other than the entire West Virginia Congressional Delegation, agreed a war on coal is happening. He gave specific and startling details on what would happen if the United States suddenly stopped using coal.

“Most of New York, the East Coast and Washington would go dark,” Manchin explained. “About 125 million Americans would be affected. People would suffer.”

Manchin questioned why President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency were so consumed with ending the use of coal and coal mining in the U.S. He gave several examples of how Germany and Japan are leading the world in clean-coal technology. Both nations, as well as Canada, have either built and are using commercial coal-fired power plants that capture its carbon dioxide emissions or in the case of Japan, planning to build one they are calling the world’s most efficient coal plant — an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant.

Manchin received applause at one point when he brought up Obama’s plan to provide millions of dollars of funding to areas most affected by the EPAs anti-coal initiative.

“West Virginia doesn’t need a hand out,” Manchin said. “We need jobs.”

No question, Sen. Manchin and every other member of the state’s congressional delegation are battling hard in this war on coal — a war that is more ideological and cultural then a real effort to help the environment. The facts are undeniable. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan would eliminate a fraction of a fraction of the carbon emissions happening around the world. But support for our fossil fuel dug from the Earth does not go very far beyond the Mountain State.

 

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