Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A recent letter to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph indicated that “environmentalist are going too far.” The letter proceeded to make a tenuous attack on President Obama and the EPA over mining, natural gas drilling, and attempted to associate the president with some rather bizarre environmental concepts.
Frankly, I think much of the attacks on President Obama and the EPA are fueled by misinformation and paranoia contrived by extractive industries. Mr. Obama and most environmentally-minded people understand that coal and natural gas extraction are going to be withus for a while as we develop new energies to replace our finite deposits of natural resources. Mr. Obama said so himself during his speech at the Democratic Convention, echoing the same message he’s given for the last four years. Look it up, if you don’t believe me.
For some reason, though, when the term “clean coal” is used West Virginians interpret it as a call to war against the extractive industries in our state. Responsible extraction of resources is more costly to the largely out-of-state coal and gas barons that reap massive profits by exploiting our resources. As a result, any such measure to protect the environment from irresponsible extractive practices is labeled an “attack on jobs". This should not be the case.
West Virginia is a state rich in coal, oil, natural gas, timber, and water. We have a true fortune in natural resources, and many West Virginians depend on these resources for jobs. It is our responsibility as a state to ensure that these resources are utilized safely for the benefit of West Virginia, and that our environment is protected for future generations. The immediate benefit that you get from your job and the profits generated for business owners does not justify engaging in unnecessarily harmful practices that pollute our air and water. Your paycheck does not justify devastating the landscape of our beautiful state. Long after today’s miners and other extractive workers are dead, people will be living in this state. It is up to us to decide what kind of legacy we leave for future generations.
I argue that it is our duty to our children and their children to protect West Virginia. We can do this while maintaining jobs in our extractive industries, but must always be willing to embrace measures that make burning coal a “cleaner” process. We must insist that fracking practices be thoroughly studied to ensure that we are not poisoning the water that our progeny will drink. We need to stop destroying our mountains so that out-of-state interests can reap greater profits, and safeguard our budding tourism industry, which will long outlive the coal industry. As for miners and other extractive workers, why not try pointing the finger at your boss instead of environmentalists like myself for a change?
John M. McCormick