MRCTV’s New Documentary Shows Casualties of the Left’s ‘War on Coal’

Amy Furr | November 17, 2016 | 5:59pm EST
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Laid-off West Virginia coal miner Kyle Hurley. (MRCTV)


( -- MRCTV’s new documentary, Collateral Damage: Forgotten Casualties of the Left’s War on Coal, addresses the struggles West Virginia coal miners and their families are facing largely due to regulations implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Between September 2014 and May 2016, the U.S. lost about 191,000 jobs in the mining industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to data presented in the documentary, coal production in West Virginia alone has declined by 28 percent, and more than 9,000 coal-mining jobs have been lost as a result of government regulations.

“You don’t come into an industry that makes up the support system for so many thousands of people and bankrupt it when it’s already struggling with the [economic] downturn,” executive producer Brittany Hughes said at the documentary’s premiere, which was held at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. D.C. Wednesday.

“This is not just an attack on coal. Coal is the first one. It’s the first one. But this is an attack on fossil fuels and this country. At least with the technology we have right now, we can’t run off of windmills and solar panels unless everybody just wants to cover the entire country in them, and even then I’m not sure that it would be effective enough,” Hughes added.

In 2015, an MRCTV camera crew went to the southern counties of West Virginia to expose and document the devastating impact EPA regulations were having on coal mining families and their communities.

Jeremy Abraham, a West Virginia coal miner who was laid off from his job after months of worrying whether EPA regulations would impact the mine where he was employed, told the MRCTV crew that because of the severe economic struggles facing his family, he was forced to sell his house and now has to decide whether or not to relocate his family.

I’ve already sold my house. I’m probably going to have to move my family. I mean I’ve got two young babies at home. I’ve got a boy that turned three in August and a little girl that just turned 20 months old,” Abraham said. “And I really don’t want to pack them up and move them away from their grandparents.”

But “our community is dying, everything around us is dying. There’s no jobs, there’s no future for them,” he added.

 In his August 2015 response to the adoption of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said: “This latest iteration of the EPA’s regulatory assault against coal-fired power generation is being presented as addressing the concerns of industry, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“Yes, the final regulation tacks on a couple of years to the compliance timeline, but all this accomplishes is to perpetuate uncertainty and provide more time for the rule to do more damage – irreversible damage – to the nation’s industry and electric grid,” Raney said. 

However, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy defended the plan, stating that “by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels. Because carbon pollution comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants, our plan protects public health, preventing thousands of premature deaths, asthma attacks, and missed work and school days.

“Our plan will grow and strengthen our economy by sending longer term market signals that will drive innovation and investment. It will keep energy affordable and reliable. It will steer us towards where the world is going, not looking back at where it's been,” McCarthy said.

But the documentary shows West Virginia’ coal-mining towns slowly drying up, their businesses unable to keep their doors open because of the economic downturn forced upon them by the EPA regulations.

Families are struggling to put food on the table because of job loss, and many residents are contemplating whether or not to leave the places they grew up in in search of work.

During the Wednesday premiere, Hughes said that state officials had invited federal regulators and lawmakers to visit the areas hit hardest by the government regulations, but received no response.

West Virginians in the labor force, Jan. 2006 to Jan. 2016. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)


“One of the things we heard most often was that they had invited federal regulators and federal lawmakers to come and see, and that at the time they had not gotten any takers,” Hughes said. “We were the only ones who came down and tried to tell their story in any way possible.

One thing that we heard over and over and over again was that people just felt forgotten. People felt like nobody was listening, and that this isn’t just a little hiccup like, ‘Well, I can’t go buy the car that I want next year’. This is ‘I’m losing my home, and my neighbor’s losing their home and the people down the street are losing their homes'," she said.

Although the coal mining community in West Virginia is accustomed to the ups and downs of the coal industry, Hughes continued, the latest government regulations won’t allow them to recover from hard times.

“Their problem is not so much that coal got hit, because they’ve been through that before. I mean these are people that have weathered some pretty rough stuff in that state’s history. They’re sick and tired of being kicked when they’re down.

“And I think that that would be my response to somebody that says, ‘Well, coal was already gonna have a tough time.’ Alright, [but] if you’ve got a person that’s struggling to pay their bills, do you go and take the little bit of money that they do have?”

Hughes said that by filming a documentary that puts a face on the struggling coal mining communities, viewers and federal lawmakers will be challenged to consider their role and take action to help revitalize the affected communities.

“One thing the Left is very, very good at is humanizing their policy issues. Those of us on the Right, we might have the best data and the best science and the best information and the best facts, but if we don’t put a face on it they’re going to win on that every time.

“And so we feel like this really adds a human face to it and can help start to drive that debate,” she said.

The Media Research Center has joined with several organizations, including Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Cornwall Alliance, Energy & Environment Legal Institute, and The Heartland Institute, to give viewers of the documentary a look at the consequences of the Left’s environmental agenda and to expose the mainstream media’s refusal to cover it.

MRC is the parent organization of MRCTV and CNSNews.

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