CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear West Virginia Coal Association representatives and affiliated elected officials:
We, undersigned faith community members and leaders, call upon you to stop using misleading and incendiary language concerning a "war on coal." The damage caused in our communities from this rhetoric includes: neighbor pitted against neighbor, families divided, coal trucks trying to run people off the road, and threats upon the lives and property of some individuals.
Let's face facts: There is no "war on coal." The coal industry is undergoing an economic downturn due largely to competition from the gas industry. Jobs are being lost due to decades long labor reduction strategies. This "war on coal" war cry has, however, rallied mining employees and their families to a dangerous frenzy. By using this rhetoric, you are following the divisive strategy that the coal industry has used for over a century. It is an archaic and outdated tactic. It is also immoral.
As an example of why the "war on coal rhetoric" is immoral, we would like to encourage Coal Association leader Bill Raney and others, such as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, Rep. Nick Rahall, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller - to hear their Presbyterian Church (USA) faith community brothers and sisters speak on this issue. Many of the undersigned are also church members and leaders. The Presbyterian Church (USA) as a Christian denomination has decried the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining since 2006.
"That the 217th General Assembly (2006) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) urge state and federal agencies that regulate mining practices, as well as coal companies themselves, to abandon the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining and work to meet our nation's energy needs in a manner that is just, sustainable, and consistent with Christian values."
The rationale given for adopting this resolution includes the following:
"... Mountaintop removal coal mining contributes to a cycle of poverty that has created high unemployment, high illiteracy rates, record numbers of school closings, and a lack of opportunity in areas where coal is produced by mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal coal mining destroys both the beauty and productive capacity of the land thus eliminating future or alternative economic opportunities for the families of Appalachia. God instructs us to '... not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell ...' (Num. 35:34). We are instructed in James 4:17 to 'turn away from sin'."
The National Council of Churches has a similar resolution, as do many other mainline denominations and Interfaith partners, such as Unitarian Universalist and Jewish communities. The West Virginia Council of Churches has expressed grave concern over the effects of mountaintop removal on surrounding communities. People of faith - including the undersigned individuals - are noting the injustices of mountaintop removal coal mining, which is the practice that is primarily being propagated by people who are crying "war on coal."