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Last Night’s Coal Debate

January 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Robert Kennedy Jr. came out swinging in last night’s much-anticipated debate over coal, saying that coal companies were “liquidating the Unknownstate for cash.”

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship responded with the claim that his industry offers badly needed jobs, provides cheap electricity and supports the communities in which they operate.

There was little common ground for the two as they faced off in Charleston, WV, last night. Kennedy disputed Blankenship’s arguments, saying that in fact the coal companies were eliminating tens of thousands of jobs by using mountaintop removal techniques to get at coal seams with explosives, saying that actually eliminates jobs and destroys the environment, which together work to impoverish communities.

When Blankenship said his company’s mining operations “don’t have any meaningful pollution,” Kennedy pressed him.

“The Clean Water Act has not been changed since 1970,” Kennedy said. “And… your own records show that your record of Clean Water Act Compliance is not improving. It’s getting worse — 12,900 violations in a single year, according to your records. My question to you, and I know you’re an honest person, I want to ask you this question: Is it possible to do mountaintop removal mining without violating the law?”

Blankenship replied, “I doubt it’s possible without having a single violation at a single time.”

But Blankenship blames the EPA, not his operations, saying that he thinks the regulations are too strict.

When the subject of climate change came up, Blankenship, a longtime denier, brought up the so-called “Climategate” leaked emails as evidence that climate change is a manufactured phenomenon.

Kennedy suggested that one point he and Blankenship would probably agree on was that carbon sequestration is “a joke.” (Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that CCS could contribute between 10% and 55% of the cumulative worldwide carbon mitigation effort over the next 90 years.)

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