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Thu Oct 16, 2014, 07:43 AM

Appalachian transition: Why coalfield residents need to help themselves diversify their economy

Another excellent piece by one of the very best journalists covering Appalachian issues. I hope everyone will take a few minutes to read it. Cross posted from Appalachia Group.

http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2014/10/15/appalachian-transition-why-coalfield-residents-need-to-help-themselves-diversify-their-economy/
The Charleston Gazette
Appalachian transition: Why coalfield residents need to help themselves diversify their economy
October 15, 2014 by Ken Ward Jr.

It’s been about 15 years ago now. I was at an environmental journalism conference, attending a lunch session about climate change that included representatives of some of the big national and international environmental groups, along with a few industry people and some scientists. The environmental groups were, of course, rightly making their case — as they continue to today – that urgent action was needed to deal with carbon dioxide emissions

This was a long time ago and I was younger and probably even dumber than I am now. But I tried several times to engage these folks about what they thought a national climate policy should include in the way of economic, educational, or other help for coalfield communities where any mandated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would almost certainly mean a significant decrease in about the only kind of good-paying jobs around.

Well, you would have thought I was from Mars. I mean, some folks were reasonably arguing that they were environmental groups. It was their job to work to protect the environment, public health and all that stuff. Their role in the process wasn’t to develop economic transition policies. They weren’t against those things necessarily. It just wasn’t their passion, and they didn’t think it was their job. But some folks were more hostile to my queries. They lectured me about how evil coal-mining was, and how they just didn’t understand why anyone in West Virginia wouldn’t welcome a complete end to the practice. Those folks had never been here. They certainly hadn’t been to a coal mine. They never came out and said so, but I certainly walked away feeling like they didn’t really care much what happened in places like Logan County, W.Va., as long as they got some sort of climate policy enacted.

I’ve been replaying those discussions a little in my mind this morning, and looking back at a piece that David Roberts wrote for Grist called, Should the feds bail out coal miners? The piece was a follow-up to an earlier post he wrote called Democrats: Coal Country is just not that into you.... MORE at link provided above.

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Reply Appalachian transition: Why coalfield residents need to help themselves diversify their economy (Original post)
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 OP
Ykcutnek Oct 2014 #1
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 #3
Ykcutnek Oct 2014 #6
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 #9
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 #10
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 #11
Brigid Oct 2014 #2
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 #4
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 #5
Ykcutnek Oct 2014 #7
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 #8
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 #12
theHandpuppet Oct 2014 #13

Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 08:14 AM

1. This is so true:

 

"Democrats are proposing crucial environmental protections, without likewise proposing programs to help the communities that would be hurt. And their celebratory response is like kicking someone when they are down."

Appalachia needed a bailout long before the first new regulation even went into effect. No one here is a "Friend of Coal," they're a friend of a paycheck and want good-paying jobs to replace the ones lost by cracking down on dirty energy. Why this wasn't made part of the climate change agenda at the White House doesn't make any sense. It also makes it even more difficult to be a Dem in the region or get people to vote that way. In other words: someone at the top doesn't know what the hell they're doing or just doesn't care. Appalachia has always been a convenient place to kick around and ignore by both parties.

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Response to Ykcutnek (Reply #1)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 09:41 AM

3. Thank you for this post.

A refreshing perspective.

I'll bet a lot of folks here are unaware of this, either....
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-biggers/moving-mountains-tragedy_b_5700980.html
Moving Mountains Tragedy 2014: Stunning Court Denial of Appalachian Health Crisis
Jeff Biggers, Journalist/Historian
08/22/2014

In a breathtaking but largely overlooked ruling this week, a federal judge agreed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may disregard studies on the health impacts of mountaintop removal mining in its permitting process, only two weeks after Goldman Prize Award-winning activist Maria Gunnoe wrote an impassioned plea to President Obama to renew withdrawn funding for US Geological Survey research on strip mining operations and redouble federal action to address the decades-old humanitarian disaster....

I certainly don't need to be reminded why Democrats are losing Appalachia. We've been working hard at it for decades now.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #3)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 09:53 AM

6. Yep. Big Coal's influence is here to stay.

 

And now the fracking companies are moving in with plans to frack underneath the Ohio River.


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Response to Ykcutnek (Reply #6)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 10:12 AM

9. $$$$$ talks.

Yes, the most brilliant idea ever conceived -- let's frack underneath the Ohio, so if there's a spill it can flow all the way to the Mississippi and right down to the Gulf! That's another issue that desperately need to be addressed - these major rivers should be under federal control, not that of the states.

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Response to Ykcutnek (Reply #1)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 10:23 AM

10. Another great article on the subject.

Cross posted from Appalachia Group

Recommended read!

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/24923-helping-people-in-coal-country-as-the-nation-divests-from-carbon.html
Helping People in “Coal Country” as the Nation Divests from Carbon
Written by Rick Cohen
Friday, 03 October 2014

In the wake of increasingly successful divestment actions aimed at carbon-producing industries, coal has turned into the new tobacco. While even natural gas mining has its vocal supporters despite the dangers of fracking, the supporters of coal are shrinking as the “clean coal” touted by candidates of both political parties looks more and more like an oxymoron.

But what about the people who live in coal country? What is happening to them as the institutional investors withdraw their assets from the companies topping the Carbon 200 list? As institutional investors including foundations pull their assets out of coal, are foundations and others dealing with the impacts on the populations of Appalachian communities and other places?

AP writers Adam Beam and John Raby wrote last week about the closing of mines in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, historically one of the poorest regions of the U.S., and the shrinkage of their public school populations. Because school funding typically tracks school populations, the loss of students due to families moving out of coal country means that schools in places like Pike County, Kentucky, and McDowell County, West Virginia are hard pressed to provide quality educational programming or even stay open. Beam and Raby reported on children in these rural communities facing longer and longer bus rides to and from school.

“Except for moving, there’s not a lot that can been done,” they write, and that’s part of the problem. Many people are fleeing coal country because of the lack of jobs and opportunity. As major national philanthropies cut back on or eliminate their rural grantmaking programs, the message, subliminal or otherwise, that some foundations are sending to these rural families is similar: If you want to improve your lives, pack up, get a bus ticket to a big city, and move.... MORE at link provided above.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #10)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 10:33 AM

11. A related article on how this is affecting education in the region

Cross posted from Appalachia Group.

As these schools shutter their doors, there go the educational opportunities, the community hubs and the hope.

http://www.wtvq.com/story/d/story/as-families-flee-coal-country-schools-struggle/53062/zfUa5roVB0GOfexAEngY_Q
As families flee coal country, schools struggle
09/27/2014

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Enrollments in eastern Kentucky public school districts are falling as the region continues its economic struggles amid a declining coal industry.

The issue has a direct impact on school funding. The largest factor determining how much money a public school gets from the state is its average adjusted daily attendance.

Two independent groups, the Council on Better Education and the University of Kentucky's Center for Innovation in Education, are studying the state's Support Education Excellence in Kentucky funding program, also referred to as SEEK.

A draft of the Council on Better Education's study by the consulting firm Piccus Odden & Associates suggested the state could use the greater of a three-year rolling attendance average to give districts more time to adjust to declines in funding while not penalizing districts that are growing.... MORE at link provided above.

A list of declining eastern KY school enrollment, by county, is included with the article.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 09:19 AM

2. I have also heard . . .

That one nasty little trick that Big Coal has managed to pull off is to keep other types of businesses and economic activity away, so that the people do not have other options. And don't forget, Big Coal is also trying to destroy Blair Mountain.

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Response to Brigid (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 09:48 AM

4. If you keep people mired in poverty...

...and discourage educational opportunities, economic diversification, then invest huge sums of money in a fear campaign, what you have is a desperate labor force willing to do anything to keep those few well-paying jobs. You can't expect people to worry about the 20 years from now when they must worry about putting food on the table from day to day. To many of these folks its either the mines or Wal-Mart, WV's biggest employer. As a nation we have failed to provide a safety net to replace those jobs or to invest in economic diversification.

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Response to Brigid (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 09:50 AM

5. I am OUTRAGED over Blair Mountain, too.

About Blair Mountain and the current battle to save this historic site:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/1272518

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Response to Brigid (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 09:55 AM

7. Yes, they have managed that quite well.

 

And have turned coal into somewhat of a cult in recent years.

Everywhere you go: "STOP THE WAR ON COAL," "COAL KEEPS THE LIGHTS ON," "IF YOU DON'T LIKE COAL, DON'T USE ELECTRICITY," "FRIENDS OF COAL," bumper stickers and decals on storefronts, t-shirts galore.

It's kind of creepy. No, not kind of. 100% creepy.

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Response to Ykcutnek (Reply #7)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 10:08 AM

8. Oh yes, and it's very well funded

We as Democrats have failed to counteract that 24/7 propaganda campaign by getting into the trenches with the people, either to address environmental/coal policies or to offer any true alternatives to lost mining-related jobs. Many folks don't realize how many well-paying labor jobs in WV are tied to the mining industry -- the railroads, the river shipping, trucking, etc. What has been the proposal with regards to replacing the only well-paying union jobs in Central Appalachia?

The only time I hear the faithful even talk about Appalachia is during the election cycle when it's once again time to point fingers at the redneck, outhouse-dwellin', toothless, stupid hillibillies and how their ignorant asses will lose the Dems another election. It's as predictable as the sunrise and I'm sick of it.

BTW, did you know the coal industry in KY is even allowed to take their propaganda into the public schools? I had posted an article about it some time ago; I'll see if I can dig it up again.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #8)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 11:18 AM

12. Here's that article to which I referred

http://www.thethoughtfulcoalminer.com/p/coal-companies-in-classroom.html
Coal in the Classroom

(excerpt)
...Though many can agree that corporations often overstep their bounds by funding political campaigns and heavily influencing legislation through lobbying organizations, one must ask whether or not corporate infiltration into the classrooms of impressionable American youth is simply crossing the line.

Tactics, such as these, are not limited to non-profit company organizations. In Eastern Kentucky, public schools have been regularly visited by the Junior Kentucky Coal Academy, an organization within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Their website states,

"Delving even younger than the traditional workforce age, the Kentucky Coal Academy has been making strides to educate high school students and to entice them to make a successful career out of mining. With that intent, the Kentucky Junior Coal Academy was formed to extend coal education at the secondary level and to provide career paths for secondary students."

The work to continue coal dominance in the Appalachian economy does not end there either. In Kentucky, Friends of Coal license plates, of which 60,000 are proudly displayed by Kentucky motorists, each collect $10 to be used for a scholarship program in mining careers as well as educating the public about the benefits of coal. The effectiveness of the the coal industry's public relations campaign to rally coal miners and their families against increasing environmental regulations has certainly been effective, but this newest intrusion into public schools is cause for alarm, not just in Appalachia, but the entire nation.... MORE at link provided above.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 01:43 PM

13. Kicking

If for no other reason than to promote a thread about Appalachia that's more than a DU rave about "ignorant, toothless fucks".

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