Today, we’ll be liveblogging an important debate between Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Massey Energy CEO and Don Blankenship. Organized and hosted by the University of Charleston, its organizers promise that the event will “advance the national discussion about U.S. energy policy and its impact on jobs, the environment, the economy, and national security.”
We imagine that Blankenship has his hands full prepping his arguments against climate change research and in defense of coal, but hopefully he had a chance to catch up on this morning’s news that 3 activists are now sitting in trees on a Massey mountaintop removal mine site. Meet those folks here. In Charleston, activists have also hung a large banner from a downtown bridge.
The debate starts at 6:30 EST. You can follow our liveblog throughout the afternoon, and try catching the debate online through the following sites: www.wowktv.com, www.wboy.com, www.wtrf.com, www.wvnstv.com, and www.wsaz.com
You can also submit questions here: http://www.ucwv.edu/events/energy_forum_question.aspx
Background on Massey and Blankenship
By revenues, Massey Energy is the fourth largest producer of coal in the country and is one of the Appalachian region’s leading practitioners of mountaintop removal mining (MTR). The most comprehensive review yet of the consequences of MTR was recently published in the journal Science, with its authors describing the evidence of environmental and human impacts as “severe and irrefutable.”
Aside from the paper’s success in outlining the effects of MTR (the burial of streams, the downstream effects on water quality and toxicity, deforestation, the failure of mitigation and reclamation efforts, and the evidence of health impacts), Chris Mooney says the attention surrounding the paper was also a PR win, and this week it’s lead author even got the Colbert treatment. All of which is to say that one could forgive Blankenship if he felt slightly outmatched heading into the debate, but to do so would surely underestimate the extraordinary audacity of this leading friend of coal.
Blankenship is widely known in West Virginia for his purchase of a state Supreme Court judge, his company’s payment of a record $20 million fine for continued violations of the Clean Water Act, and recently for filing civil suits against activists involved in protests at Massey sites. He is also a significant voice against climate change legislation at the national level through his position on the board of the incredible shrinking US Chamber of Commerce. Blankenship maintains a lively twitter feed, recently posting: “You Lie! Should be shouted in Copenhagen. The world’s average temp has not changed this century.”
Blankenship and Massey are encouraging supporters to attend a “Stand Up for Jobs” rally at 5:30PM before the debate. These types of rallies have become commonplace in West Virginia, and are often organized through two Massey-supported organizations, Friends of America and Faces of Coal. At a rally this summer, Blankenship was introduced by Ted Nugent and reminded the crowd that you can recognize environmentalists as the “people hanging out of your trees,” and as people who just want to take away American jobs.