Skinner By Trade–Rockefeller Op-Ed

Skinner By Trade

The Charleston Gazette

April 27, 2011

By Julian Martin


Guess who said, “ I will fight for the abolition of strip mining completely and forever…We know that strip mining is not a good economic future for West Virginia. And we know that, whatever advantage it has now, the damage that it leaves is a permanent damage… Strip-mining must be abolished…”

And more recently in a Gazette op-ed, the same politician made similar declarations saying he will always fight for our miners, our jobs and our economic future. This time he was trying to justify a two year time out on EPA regulations and enforcement. Those regulations and enforcements are in line with what he once said he believed—to protect our land, water, wildlife and people from such ravages as strip mining.

In the Gazette op-ed he mentioned jobs four times and not once did he mention coal company profit—the Coal Association public relations hacks spin it the same way. In his political tenure the number of coal miner jobs have decreased dramatically. Much of that decrease was because of the mountain top removal strip mining that he has enthusiastically promoted since changing his mind about the meaning of forever.

Five years after promising to fight for the abolition of strip mining completely and forever, guess who told a U.S. Senate committee that mountain top removal strip mining should certainly be encouraged, if not specifically dictated?

By now you recognize Jay Rockefeller’s flip-flop political rhetoric.

He used the oxy-moronic “clean coal” and “cleaner coal” in his op-ed. From birth to death coal is dirty. To see the first stage of the dirt, Rockefeller just needs to visit our common starting point in the Emmons/Ashford/Costa area of Big Coal River and witness the destruction of the area he once worked to save from poverty.

My  ancestor saved our family farm in Emmons by telling a mister Skinner who wanted to buy mineral rights, “You are Skinner by name and skinner by trade but you won’t skin old Isaac Barker.”

Rockefeller got his start in Emmons as a successful and popular community organizer. The first time he ran for governor in 1972, I was raising organic vegetables on our Emmons home place. I put his campaign sticker on my pick up truck—I believed him when he said he would forever fight for the abolition of strip mining.

Rockefeller identified as a West Virginian and sounded good old boy tough as he groveled for coal’s approval. As a fighter for the coal companies he claims to stand “ shoulder to shoulder and on the front lines of some pretty tough fights.” He just doesn’t fit the image of a fighter–he qualifies more as a rich opportunist and out of state environmental extremist. What could be more environmentally extreme than blowing up the mountains in the mountain state? And what could be less West Virginian than to turn his back on the place that gave him his political birth? That place is now being, and some has already been, blown apart by mountain top removal strip mining.

Rockefeller said he will always fight for miners. Miners better watch out because the last time he used words like always and forever he was a skinner by trade.

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.
This entry was posted in Jay rockefeller and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s