Come Home to Emmons, Jay Rockefeller

This was a Gazette Op-Ed a few days ago. Emmons was my birthplace and Rockefeller’s political birthplace. It is now being closed in on by mountain top removal strip mining for which Rockefeller has advocated for forty years. This title Come Home to Emmons Jay Rockefeller is mine, not the one the Gazette used.

Come Home to Emmons Jay Rockefeller

Jay Rockefeller began his serious political career by betraying thousands of people who knew strip mining was ruining our mountains. Now, nearing the end of his political career, he has betrayed his co-conspirators in the massive destruction of our mountains.

On June 20, 2012, Rockefeller gave a speech on the Senate floor. He spoke against a resolution that called for lower limits for mercury and other toxins coming from coal-fired power plants. In his speech he accused coal industry leaders of cynical scare tactics, attacking false enemies like the EPA, denying “real problems” like global warming, refusing to compromise, closing themselves off opposing voices, being afraid to “dare to speak out for change — even though it’s been staring them in the face for years.”, and wanting to turn back the clock, ignore the present and block the future.

Rockefeller told coal leaders to listen to what West Virginians are saying about our water, air, our health and our concern for our grandparents and grandchildren who “…are the most susceptible to pollution.”

He used strong words and a tone of disdain for his fellow mountain destroyers in a, July 16, 2012, West Virginia public radio interview. He said he has had it with coal industry leaders’ refusal to entertain any middle ground, and denying even a hint of legitimacy for the views on the other side.

Orwell’s novel, 1984, came to mind hearing Rockefeller say that coal industry leaders are “caught in groupthink, they can’t split off and say something the others don’t approve of, even if it would be helpful.”

Rockefeller told of a meeting with twenty coal executives after a speech concerning cap and trade that they didn’t like. All they did was complain about Obama and EPA for two hours. “Obama hates coal; we hate EPA, for two hours nothing else came up.” He told Beth Voohees of West Virginia Public Radio.

It is refreshing to learn that Rockefeller believes there is a scientific consensus on global warming and a mounting national desire for a cleaner, healthier environment. Rockefeller, unlike Republicans and DINOs Manchin, Tomblin and Rahall, agrees with the research showing that coal pollutants cause debilitating chronic illness. Rockefeller praised EPA for establishing that coal-fired power plant emissions have serious and long term impacts on premature deaths, heart attacks, hospitalizations, pregnant women, babies and children. He declared to the Senate that “Maybe some can shrug off the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics and others but I cannot.”

Among the “others” must be the WVU studies, screamed at by the coal industry, showing elevated major diseases and birth defects in counties where coal is mined and especially so near mountain top removal strip mining. Coal industry lawyers posted on-line that the birth defects could have been caused by in-breeding—those are the kind of folks Rockefeller has been carrying water for since he lost to Arch Moore and took up with the coal industry.

          Make no mistake, Rockefeller isn’t anti-coal, he wants to save the coal industry. He wants them to get smart and honest—a giant task for sure. He says it’s not too late for the coal industry to accept scientific findings and quit trying to scare people. He still shouts out for the oxy-moron “clean coal.”  That way, his baby, mountain top removal strip mining, can continue its destruction, and the coal industry can continue to reap their profits from destroying our mountains.

Rockefeller has not renounced his renunciation of our mountains. There is nothing new from him about the tragedy of strip mining and the debilitating major diseases in areas where mountain top removal and other forms of coal mining take place. The same kind of stats he uses to attack the coal industry on coal-fired power plant emissions apply to the production of coal from beginning to end.

I look forward to Rockefeller coming home to Emmons and, standing on scalped Ashford Ridge, announce that he is once again for the banning of strip mining.



Ashford Ridge Scalped by Andrew Jordan’s coal company.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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