Aug 24, 2011- The Conyers Controversy

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

A Michigan congressman made some controversial remarks about coal recently that has the industry and coal supporters lashing out.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is taking a lot of heat over controversial remarks he made this week about coal industry workers and the business as a whole.

Greenwire reports that during a speech at the EPA's 2011 Environmental Justice Conference, he stated clean coal does not exist and said West Virginia's coal mining history "is one of the sorriest reports you'll ever see."

Not surprisingly, he's facing a firestorm of criticism from political leaders in our area.

But before I get to that, I'd urge you take a look at this video from the Onion, the satirical news publication.

At any rate, here's what Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) had to say in response to Conyers' statements:

“With unemployment at or above 8% for over 20 consecutive months, shutting down a thriving industry which provides thousands of good-paying jobs across America does not make economic sense.  Mr. Conyers’ comments were out-of-touch and personally hurtful to West Virginians, many of whom depend on the coal industry to put food on the table,” stated Capito, co-founder of the Congressional Coal Caucus.  “Coal is our nation’s cheapest, most abundant natural resource.  I welcome Congressman Conyers to visit the Mountain State to learn more about new technologies to burn coal cleaner and more efficiently, as well as how these advancements hold tremendous opportunities for job creation.” 

Cecil Roberts, president of the UMWA, added:

"I was extremely disappointed to read Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) statements at an event yesterday in which he said the coal industry should be shut down. It's mystifying how someone who has historically been on the side of American working people can take such a narrow and short-sighted approach regarding the jobs of millions of American workers."

Sen. Joe Manchin (D) wrote a letter to Conyers offering a chance to educate him about coal's role in the country:


Dear Congressman Conyers:

As a U.S. Senator, I would never degrade another state or the people of that state because it takes 50 great states to make this great county. I am very troubled to hear about your recent negative comments about our beautiful state of West Virginia, and the important role coal plays not only in our state, but in our country. Respectfully, I would like to invite you to meet with me so that I can show you the valuable contributions West Virginians have already made to this nation and will continue to make.

As a Congressman with nearly 50 years of service to our country, I am hopeful that I can help you gain a better understanding of the vital role West Virginians have played in building this great nation. Without a reliable and affordable resource like coal, America wouldn’t be where we are – whether it’s the steel forged by West Virginia’s coal that then was used to build our great skyscrapers and military, or whether it’s the electricity from coal that today powers nearly half this country. Looking to our future, without coal, we won’t be able to get where we want to go – namely, to be independent of the foreign oil that has caused this country so much pain and hardship.

As we all strive together to make our country energy independent, we must rely on all our domestic resources – whether it is coal, natural gas, biomass, solar, nuclear or geothermal power. Coal is a vital resource today and will be long into the future. I believe that we must use coal better and in cleaner ways, and the technology already exists to accomplish this important goal. I would be very happy to discuss those opportunities with you.

At this time of massive federal deficits, I also invite you to learn more about West Virginia’s strong finances. Our great state is one of the few states in this country that is financially solvent. During the recession, West Virginia had a surplus every year, cut tax rates and raised its credit rating – for three straight years. We believe that the federal government could learn a lot from West Virginia’s commonsense approach.

Congressman Conyers, I sincerely hope that I can come to a better understanding with you. The people of West Virginia are the hardest working people in the country, and they give of themselves and will continue to give to make this nation great. I hope that you accept our offer to learn more about what makes West Virginia great.


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