Front Porch Blog

FARCES of Coal: World 2 – Luke Popovich 0

The FArCES of Coal are here for YOU, Candlestick Makers of America

One of my favorite people to see quoted in the news is the ever-dour NMA mouthpiece Luke Popovich. This guy has a simple job description which reads “Say whatever the coal industry tells you to say.” They even make up the numbers and statistics for him. Easy as pie! However, while we expect that Popovich will happily put on his blinders, collect his check in DC, and spout the nonsense of the day about Appalachia, the incredible thing his how he continually manages to screw up his message. Popovich would be hilarious if he wasn’t using his words to support something as reckless and deadly as mountaintop removal.

As you’ll remember, Popovich was the one who accused President Obama of “parking tanks on our front lawns.” Of course, Popovich’s “lawn” is in Washington DC, and for those who know the area I’d wager that his house is nowhere near the armory.

Right now two actual coalfield residents from Kentucky and West Virginia – both directly impacted by mountaintop removal – have traveled all the way to Maine to share their story with the good people of the northeast. The story is here on MPBN, and I hope you’ll listen to it. The reporter does a good job, and in an attempt to cover “the other side of mountaintop removal,” calls Popovich in his Washington office. He manages to get a quote in, and says:

“The effect [of passing the Appalachia Restoration Act] would be fairly devastating because you would see the loss of up to 17,000 jobs…And with those jobs, of course, would be a terrific impact on the communities that coal supports: the candlestick makers, the dry cleaners who all depend on the coal payroll. Then you would have a corresponding impact on the state and local budgets.”

The candlestick makers? WHAT?!! Luke, you silly guy. How does Luke Popovich know that candlestick makers will be affected by stopping valleyfills? How many exactly? What cost will be levied upon the candle stick makers of Appalachia if we don’t continue dumping toxic waste into the streams in their communities? I called the National Candle Association (seriously) and they have no data on how many people are employed making candles or candlesticks. If you google “candlestick maker employment,” all you get are nursery rhymes. I don’t doubt that there are some wonderful candlestick makers in Appalachia, but I doubt they have a vested interest in an entirely reckless and unregulated coal industry rampaging through their mountains and communities.

The bottom line is that Popovich has no idea how many jobs would be impacted by any of the bills or policies that are being considered. And he doesn’t care. He happily leaves aside the fact that the communities where there is mountaintop removal have higher unemployment than anywhere else. He happily ignores the fact that mountaintop removal leaves Appalachian communities not only in poverty, but with some of the shortest life expectancies in the United States. We know he leaves out the fact that mountaintop removal has been one of the chief reasons that more than 80% of the coal industry workforce has been eliminated by the very coal barons he is getting paid to protect.

So, Popovich embarrasses himself. That happens to all of us, right? You have to get up and dust off your shoulders and keep at it. So he has one more chance this morning, in EENews [subscription required]. This time, he is speaking about a “show” bill, which a bunch of legislators beholden to the coal industry introduced to try and reassure Don Blankenship that they care about his approval more than their constituents’ health.

Popovich says:

[EPA’s guidance] circumvents established, long-held procedures for involving the public in rules that will affect wide swaths of the economy…EPA’s standards go far beyond what is necessary to protect water quality.

Luke, you forgot the candlestick makers! But seriously, the last time I looked EPA is still permitting both underground and surface mines, even the ones that permanently destroy up to 3 miles of streams. No offense, Mr. Popovich, but maybe you should get out of DC and go see what actually runs out of the bottom of a valleyfill. Its deadly stuff. I hope you won’t be too surprised when you find that Appalachian people are upset finding that same toxic waste running out of their kitchen sink.

Its obvious that Luke Popvich doesn’t have a clue. Whats sad is that he doesn’t want to have a clue. Whats dangerous is that his job depends on you not having a clue either.

Hit back against Popovich’s willfull ignorance and call your Congressman. Tell them that you oppose mountaintop removal and want to see them pass the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1310.) If they ask, let them know that you also care deeply about the candlestick makers.

Raised on the banks of the Tennessee River, JW's work to create progress in his home state and throughout Appalachia has been featured on the Rachel Maddow Show, The Daily Kos and Grist. He served first as Appalachian Voices’ Legislative Associate and then Tennessee director until leaving to pursue a career in medicine in 2012.


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