Obama’s war on coal will help him lose Virginia, a Sunday rally promised.
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And then there is the Spruce No. 1 Mine, a surface mining project in West Virginia that was permitted after a decade-long process of environmental review — and, last year, had its permit revoked by EPA. The case, which is viewed by many as a test case for what could happen to the rest of the industry, is now working its way through the court system.
NINETY-ONE-YEAR OLD Emory Altizer, introduced as America’s oldest working coal miner, told the crowd at the rally that when it comes to coal and energy, the nation is at a crossroads. “Of all the presidents and all the administrations I’ve ever seen, this is the first one that’s declared war on coal,” he said. “We have to get rid of that.”
Obama won Virginia four years ago, the first Democrat to carry the state since 1964, but the latest polls indicate the Old Dominion is shifting back toward the GOP. In the past three weeks, Romney has gained 3.7 points in the Real Clear Politics average of Virginia polls — now a 48-48 tie — and led Obama by three points in the most recent Rasmussen survey of Virginia.
The numbers in the Senate race aren’t quite as encouraging for George Allen (Democrat Tim Kaine leads by 2.2 points in the RCP average), whose wife stumped for him at Sunday’s rally. But if the Republicans maintain their current momentum, it could help Allen return to the Senate.
Sunday’s “Rally for American Coal Jobs” was held at Poplar Gap Park, a park with a series of playground pieces, an entertainment stage, and an open area. The park was built on a mountaintop flattened by mining, and sits close to an even larger mountaintop site where housing, roads, and a new business park are under construction. A planned airport expansion project has been stalled for years as local officials battle with federal regulators, a story that appeared recently in the Washington Times.
In Buchanan County, where the mountainous topography has long impeded development, the local government is pinning its economic development hopes on the ability to transform the landscape through mining.
“It’s so steep that people can’t pay [for the site work] to put a house on it,” explained Arlie Collier, the mine superintendent who oversaw the Poplar Gap and Southern Gap projects. “Once it’s mined, it’s usable land.”
Edward Finney, a coal miner from Princeton, W.Va., said the government, if anything, should be standing behind the coal industry and helping to make it better.
“A lot of people that are not from this area and don’t know coal, they don’t understand what all coal does for this country,” said Finney, who brought his wife and children to Sunday’s rally. “Look at your cities, at your skyscrapers, your automobiles. Anything that’s made with steel, coal has been used to make that steel.”
Will Morefield, who represents the area in the Virginia House of Delegates, called on the crowd to vote in November for leaders who will support coal. “I’m here to tell you that Yes We Can,” he said. “Yes We Can correct our mistakes on Election Day.”
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