Why am I not surprised that Rep. Capito and Rep. Rahall jumped on the president for appointing Gina McCarthy to head the EPA. Both claim he is creating a bad job climate for the coal industry, as if that industry is clamoring to create more jobs for removing coal from our mountains. The coal industry is not interested in creating jobs. It is interested in making money. If it could buy a machine to replace people recovering the coal it would do so in the blink of an eye.
My dad and several of his brothers, uncles and cousins were coal miners or had jobs that depended on the coal industry in Southern West Virginia. When Dad quit the mines and moved us to St. Albans in the early 1940s, the Kanawha River was so polluted it was largely unused for anything but tow barge traffic. Fishing and swimming was not to be had. We went to Coal River for that.
There were public beaches at Lower Falls and Upper Falls. Many people of Charleston and St. Albans had camps from St. Albans to Madison on the Little Coal and Whitesville on Big Coal. In the late 40s, every time the river flooded winter and summer, it ran black from coal washing. One of the summers in the early 1950s the Coal ran black all summer long. A group of people from Upper Falls began to follow both rivers to their headwaters to find which mines were polluting the rivers with fines and sludge from washing the coal. When they reported the mines that were polluting the rivers they began to correct the problem.
West Virginia Water had to put so much chlorine into the water they sold from the Kanawha River that it was almost undrinkable. A firm named Tyler Mountain Water delivered water to homes that needed or wanted better water to drink and cook with.
When the problem was pointed out that "dilution of chemical waste was not the solution to pollution," Carbide and other chemical plants created water pollution laboratories, and by the early 1970s Kanawha River was back in use for all river sports as well as tow business.
Towns and communities along Kanawha and Coal Rivers began to build water treatment plants to take care of human waste. Jobs were created.
If the coal industry is interested in creating jobs they can accept the EPA recommendations and do the same thing that the chemical industry did on the Kanawha River.
At a meeting in Charleston before the governor was elected, he and Sen. Manchin were present. I posed the question to both of them. The governor walked off, and the senator had some choice words for the EPA and walked off. Jobs are lost to coal industry profits and the salaries of CEOs who keep Gov. Tomblin, Sen. Manchin, Rep. Capito, and Rep. Rahall in office. No jobs for miners who are replaced by machinery.
McGraw lives in St. Albans.