"We lost 25,000 manufacturing jobs in West Virginia in the last year and a half," he said.
Rockefeller believes our national intelligence and communications networks must be improved to guarantee communications between every police officer and public safety official in the nation.
"We are the only industrialized country in the world that does not have a digitized ground-based communications infrastructure. Even Mongolia has it," Rockefeller said.
Rockefeller reiterated his long-time support for coal miners and their industry.
"I always try to take care of the coal miners. It takes so many people to die before they [members of Congress] do anything at all. We may not get anything done this year in Congress."
Rockefeller is also a "big fan of whistleblowers," especially in the coal industry. He backs strong legislation to protect them.
"Look at the Toyota plant in Buffalo," Rockefeller said. "If one worker on one [manufacturing] line thinks there is a problem, he can stop work in that area immediately. A manager will immediately come over and work on the problem.
"The whole concept of safety is important to Toyota. But in the coal mines, workers are afraid they will be fired if they complain."
Rockefeller said, "I worry about the future of coal."
He continues to back legislation to restrict efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to deny new coal mining permits during the next two years.
"Clean coal is real. We can do it. I need time. That is all I ever wanted."
Under the current environment, Rockefeller said, "I don't think there will be any new coal-fired plants built in West Virginia. They will all go to natural gas."
Rockefeller expressed concern about the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing of underground rocks to release natural gas from deposits like the huge Marcellus Shale reserves under most of West Virginia and in surrounding states.
Many critics fear the millions of gallons of chemically treated water needed to develop each new well, typically between 5,000 and 9,000 feet below the surface, will pollute streams and groundwater.
Rockefeller also worries about methane released during the fracking process.
"Methane lasts 20 times as long, and is more potent and destructive than carbon dioxide" released by coal-burning power plants when it comes to global warming, Rockefeller said.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.