Governor Joe Manchin recently appointed former chief counsel Carte Goodwin to succeed US Senator Robert Byrd. We take a look at what the move means and issues surrounding mountaintop removal in Appalachia with Bob Kincaid, an internet broadcaster with the Head On Radio Network and a progressive voice from the Appalachian coalfields. [includes rush transcript]
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AMY GOODMAN: We want to go from oil to coal. In West Virginia, a ninety-five-year-old former former congressman has announced plans to challenge West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin to fill the Senate seat held by the late Robert Byrd. Ken Hechler admits he doesn’t expect to win, but wants to raise awareness about the destructive nature of mountaintop removal. Hechler said, quote, "A vote for me is not a vote for Ken Hechler; it’s tantamount to a vote against mountaintop removal."
Well, we’re joined also by Bob Kincaid. I met him yesterday at Netroots Nation. He’s an internet broadcaster with HORN — that’s Head On Radio Network, a progressive voice from the Appalachian coalfields.
BOB KINCAID: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s happening in your community?
BOB KINCAID: In Appalachia today, we are attempting to continue to build the momentum and raise awareness, even outside Appalachia, about the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal, not only on our communities, but on the nation at large. We’ve got a mass mobilization scheduled for the 25th to the 27th of September in Washington, DC. It’s called Appalachia Rising. You can go to appalachiarising.org. We’re calling on communities to organize around the — all around the country and come to DC to join with us to demand an end to this toxic, terrifying practice, not just for Appalachia, but for all the people who are impacted by mountaintop removal coal’s pernicious effects.
You know, 24,000 people a year die simply because we insist on continuing to burn filthy coal to provide electricity to the nation. We can eliminate mountaintop removal tomorrow, and the lights won’t even dim, because it’s less than five percent of the total electrical energy produced in this country. It’s only done — these communities in my home state and in my home region are only destroyed for profit. It has nothing to do with jobs, because there are less mountaintop removal workers in West Virginia than there are florists, teachers or nurses. It has nothing to do with anything remotely related to the national security or the energy needs of this nation. It is simply done for profit. Very few people working in it, highly mechanized processes, and the sum total is the — has been the destruction of over 500 mountains and 2,000 streams.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about electoral politics now. We just had, in the last weeks, Joe Manchin, the Governor, announcing the successor to Robert Byrd and then announcing that he will actually run for that seat. Explain.
BOB KINCAID: This is one of the most sorry examples of kabuki theater politics that this country has lately seen. What Joe Manchin did is to appoint a young man who is a former staffer of his named Carte Goodwin, who is from a highly politically connected family in West Virginia, to fill the seat of Robert Byrd, until such time as Joe can run for it himself and get elected, because for Joe to have appointed himself would have simply been — it would have been so sleazy that the people of West Virginia may very well have rebelled against him. So what Carte Goodwin has been appointed to do is to warm the chair for a couple of months, with the understanding that he will not vote for anything in any way inside the Senate that could be deemed unpleasant for the coal industry. Carte Goodwin is a cipher, if you will, and he is there simply to make sure that coal’s will be done in the Senate. And what it amounts to, what Joe Manchin did, and what I hope people understand, is that Joe Manchin just stuck his thumb in the eye of the entirety of this country, because what Carte Goodwin refuses to vote yea on will have an impact not just on Appalachia, but on every soul in this country, as the poisons from mountaintop removal flow downstream.
AMY GOODMAN: Massey CEO Don Blankenship said yesterday on Bloomberg Television, "The feeling of the industry is that we’re regulated too much and not too little. Tragedies lead to more regulation."
BOB KINCAID: Ask the families of the twenty-nine miners who died at Upper Big Branch whether coal is adequately regulated, because we’re finding out more and more that that recent tragedy was a function of an outlaw industry, that even if there are regulations, what there are are routinely ignored. The way that a business like Massey works is as an outlaw industry. They’re scofflaws. And frankly, if anything, the regulation should be made so tight that Don Blankenship can’t sneeze without a mine inspector there with a Kleenex.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. This is again — we’re going to be covering oil and coal for the many years to come. It’s just interesting to get this snapshot of folks that have come here, thousands of people in Las Vegas, on every issue, gathered for Netroots Nation. Bob Kincaid, thanks so much for joining us —-
BOB KINCAID: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: —- of HORN, Head On Radio Network. And thanks to Steve Kretzmann, who is the founder and director of Oil Change International.
STEVE KRETZMANN: Thanks, Amy.