Friends of Coal
March on State Capital
By: Bill Reid
Over 2000 Friends of Coal gathered in the North Plaza of the State Capital Complex in Charleston, WV to show support for the coal industry.
Bill Raney, President of the WV Coal Association told Coal Leader, “It’s a fabulous day. We’ve got all the supporters here from the coal industry in WV. They are here to say thank you to the leaders of the state who have also come to say thank you to all of the people here for everything that they do and the tremendous contribution that they make everyday. These are absolutely fabulous people: the best coal miners in the world and I think everybody is beginning to recognize that.”
After a stirring rendition of the National Anthem by Christy Day of Charles Ryan Associates, a succession of speakers praised the effort of coal miners and stressed the importance of the industry to the well-being of WV and the country.
Governor Bob Wise addressed the rally referring to the new coal truck bill and improvements in the permitting process. Wise continued, “One of the great privileges I have as Governor of the state is to issue proclamations that recognize special people, special events, special days,” and concluded by reading his proclamation designating March 4 as Friends of Coal Day in WV.
“WHEREAS coal is a vital resource of the great state of West Virginia and it remains an important part of our history, our economy, and our future; and
WHEREAS, the economic viability of the mining industry is of critical importance to the stability of West Virginia and all its citizens; and
WHEREAS, many counties in West Virginia mine coal, all 55 counties benefit from severance taxes and have improved significantly the funds available for schools and important community services; and
WHEREAS, Friends of Coal, a grassroots organization comprised of thousands of proud West Virginians believe a productive coal industry is the best way to secure a strong economic future that will allow our children and grandchildren to remain here at home,
Now therefore be it resolved that I, Bob Wise, Governor of the State of West Virginia do hereby proclaim today March 4, 2004 as Friends of Coal Day in the Mountain State and encourage all citizens to recognize that coal plays a vital role in our society, not only in West Virginia, but throughout the United States and the world. Coal keeps the lights and the computers on. Thank you for everybody who mines coal.”
Each house in the Legislature passed similar resolutions later in the day. House Speaker Bob Kiss appeared on behalf of the legislature and spoke to Coal Leader.
“Thousands of jobs in this state that draw their sustinence from the extraction of coal. About 10% of our budget is derived from coal and coal activities,” said Kiss. “It is critically important even for those that don’t work in the coal industry or have any relationship to it. The monies it draws into our economy and to the state budget, which provide the services and programs that the citizens of this state need, are a function of that economic activity in the extraction of coal.” Chief Justice Spike Maynard also spoke and the crowd heard impromptu remarks from Secretary of State Joe Manchin, who was in the audience.
Jim Bunn, Bill Raney, and Chris Hamilton spoke on behalf of the West Virginia Coal Association and Warren Hylton made a passionate plea for the Friends of Coal. Jim Bunn of Kanawha Eagle, Chairman of the West Virginia Coal Association spoke about the contribution that the coal industry makes to communities. “I speak for the whole coal industry to say that we want to be a good corporate citizen and we just need a chance for everyone to better understand who we are and what we are trying to accomplish by getting involved and working in different communities, by improving roads, providing better water and sewage, and I only hope that we can touch everyone in each community by doing something that is beneficial.”
Spokesman Don Nehlen and Marshall Head Coach Bobby Pruet both gave outstanding speeches in support of the efforts of Friends of Coal. The many supporters of West Virginia coal who came to the rally also donated more than 1,830 pounds of food to the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway.
“Our goal with Friends of Coal Day was to demonstrate the important impact of the coal industry and its supporters in West Virginia,” said Bill Raney. “While we were gathering together at the Capital, we also wanted to lend a hand to our fellow West Virginians in need.”
The Friends of Coal organization, established in 2002, is dedicated to inform and educate West Virginia citizens about the coal industry and its vital role in the state’s future. Bill Bissett, coordinator of Friends of Coal of Charles Ryan Associates, summed it up for Coal Leader. “This has turned out to be a really positive day for Friends of Coal, and I think we are getting the message out. When you see this big crowd turning out and all these people supporting coal and the economic future of WV, it really means a lot and there is a real sense of pride.” cl
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