August 24, 2011

Manchin Invites Congressman Conyers to Discuss Statements Degrading West Virginia

At EPA speech, Michigan Congressman says coal is ‘all they’ve got there,’ suggests West Virginians should find other jobs and says coal mining is ‘one of the sorriest reports you’ll ever see’

Washington, D.C. – After Congressman John Conyers criticized West Virginia’s coal mining history and suggested that miners find new jobs, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sent the Congressman a letter inviting him to learn more about hardworking West Virginia and the importance of its coal mining past and future. A copy of the letter, as well as Congressman Conyers’ statements, are below. 

Dear Congressman Conyers: 

As a U.S. Senator, I would never degrade another state or the people of that state because it takes 50 great states to make this great county. I am very troubled to hear about your recent negative comments about our beautiful state of West Virginia, and the important role coal plays not only in our state, but in our country. Respectfully, I would like to invite you to meet with me so that I can show you the valuable contributions West Virginians have already made to this nation and will continue to make.

As a Congressman with nearly 50 years of service to our country, I am hopeful that I can help you gain a better understanding of the vital role West Virginians have played in building this great nation. Without a reliable and affordable resource like coal, America wouldn’t be where we are – whether it’s the steel forged by West Virginia’s coal that then was used to build our great skyscrapers and military, or whether it’s the electricity from coal that today powers nearly half this country. Looking to our future, without coal, we won’t be able to get where we want to go – namely, to be independent of the foreign oil that has caused this country so much pain and hardship. 

As we all strive together to make our country energy independent, we must rely on all our domestic resources – whether it is coal, natural gas, biomass, solar, nuclear or geothermal power. Coal is a vital resource today and will be long into the future. I believe that we must use coal better and in cleaner ways, and the technology already exists to accomplish this important goal. I would be very happy to discuss those opportunities with you. 

At this time of massive federal deficits, I also invite you to learn more about West Virginia’s strong finances. Our great state is one of the few states in this country that is financially solvent. During the recession, West Virginia had a surplus every year, cut tax rates and raised its credit rating – for three straight years. We believe that the federal government could learn a lot from West Virginia’s commonsense approach. 

Congressman Conyers, I sincerely hope that I can come to a better understanding with you. The people of West Virginia are the hardest working people in the country, and they give of themselves and will continue to give to make this nation great. I hope that you accept our offer to learn more about what makes West Virginia great.  

With warm regards, 

Senator Joe Manchin III 


Congressman Conyers (D-Mich.) is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. According to news reports, he spoke at the EPA’s 2011 Environmental Justice Conference in place of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. 

Conyers’ statements at the speech include: 

  • The Congressman suggested that coal miners should find new jobs. “We've got to work out a situation in one state of the union, there may be others, in which we come up with alternative ways of creating full employment without just putting everybody out of work.”

  • He added that the history of coal mining in West Virginia "is one of the sorriest reports you'll ever see.”

  • He said coal is the only thing West Virginia has. “There's a big campaign going on about how you clean coal and we want to examine that as critically and fairly as we can, but here's the problem: I've been to West Virginia, and that's about all they've got there.” 

  • He said clean coal doesn’t exist. “From my limited understanding, there is no such thing as clean coal.”