As citizens from around the nation jam the congressional phone lines for 72 hours, calling for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, US Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has emerged as one of the most critical votes for a clean energy future.
Webb’s state of Virginia stands on the frontlines of the clean energy and climate debate–and Webb, born fighting for progressive causes in Appalachia and America, now must decide whether he will come to the forefront of the battle for clean energy and an end to deadly coal mining and burning, or quietly watch the fate of his state decided by outside interests.
Every Virginian–and American–needs to call Sen. Webb today to not only support desperately needed clean energy and climate legislation, but to sign on as a co-sponsor with Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of the Appalachian Restoration Act to end mountaintop removal at Virginia’s climate ground zero.
And then, everyone needs to make an instant vote for clean energy now in the Virginia coalfields by voting for the Wise Energy and Sustainable Economic Diversification and Development Project (WE SEDD), a citizen led effort to diversify the coal dependent mono-economy of Wise County, Va by promoting economic and environmental sustainability, local and worker ownership, community-owned renewable energy systems and local economic skills.
The state of Virginia loves to pimp its gorgeous Blue Ridge for tourism–here’s a recent google ad that has appeared lately:
Sen. Webb understands this. In his bestselling book, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, he wrote:
The every hungry industrialists have discovered that West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia sat atop one huge vein of coal. And so the rape began. The people from the outside showed up with complicated contracts that the small-scale cattle raisers and tobacco farmers could not fully understand, asking for “rights” to mineral deposits they could not see, and soon they were treated to a sundering of their own earth as the mining companies ripped apart their way of life, so that after a time the only option was to go down into the hole and bring the Man his coal, or starve. The Man got his coal, and the profits it brought when he shipped it out. They got their wages, black lung, and the desecration of their land.
In fact, coal mining jobs amount to only about 2 percent of employment in the central Appalachian region; the percentage is only slightly higher if you consider related employment. It does not account for anything approaching most of the employment. In Wise County, where The Post’s story was set, there were 2,537 coal miners, or about 11 percent of total county employment, in 2004. That’s fewer workers than hold jobs in retail trade (3,118).