PARKERSBURG - Congressmen from West Virginia are riled over a representative's comments criticizing coal.
Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, said there was no such thing as clean coal and workers dependent on coal mining in West Virginia should find other work. Conyers, who has been in Congress about 50 years, spoke Wednesday on behalf of Lisa Jackson, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which has attempted to curtail coal usage through administrative rules, at the EPA's 2011 Environmental Justice Conference in Detroit.
"The comments made by Rep. Conyers are very disappointing," Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said. "As lawmakers we should be encouraging job creation and expansion, not fighting to end American industries."
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the comments were personally hurtful to West Virginians.
"With unemployment at or above 8 percent 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," Capito said.
"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," she said.
Capito was a founder of the Congressional Coal Caucus. McKinley is in the caucus and on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wrote a letter to Conyers asking him to come to West Virginia.
"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," he said. "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."
Sen. Joe Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said coal provides nearly half of the nation's electricity and it is one of the best hopes our country has of achieving greater energy security - particularly through clean coal technology.
"Failing to keep coal as a part of our energy future would be irresponsible, and the technology exists to do it in ways that protect the environment and public health," he said.