RFK Jr. and Massey’s Blankenship to debate MTR!

This just in:

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR. AND DON BLANKENSHIP WILL PUBLICALLY DEBATE MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MINING

Waterkeeper Alliance President and Massey Energy Chairman/CEO Will Meet at University of Charleston for Coal and Energy Discussion, Moderated by UC President Edwin Welch

Charleston, WV, Friday, November 20, 2009 – Massey Energy Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship and Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., will come together for a public discussion at the University of Charleston on Thursday, January 21, 2010, at 6:30 p.m. The event, Forum on the Future of Energy, will be moderated by UC President Edwin H. Welch.

The forum will take place in Geary Auditorium before an invitation-only audience, but another 2,000 seats will be open to the public for a live remote broadcast in Eddie King Gymnasium.

Both participants are looking forward to the conversation. “American energy policy impacts jobs, the economy, and national security,” said Blankenship. “I’m pleased to have the opportunity to address these important issues with Dr. Welch and Mr. Kennedy and clarify what I believe is the right direction for our country’s future.”

“I am looking forward to meeting Mr. Blankenship in Charleston to finally engage openly in the critical dialogue over the economic, environmental and cultural impacts of mountaintop removal,” stated Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “Mountaintop removal has devastated, corrupted and impoverished West Virginia, but it is not just a local issue. The devastating ripples from these blasts reverberate across the country and around the world, in the form of mercury in all of our watersheds, coal ash poisoning our drinking water, ozone and particulates that sicken our citizens, and escalating global warming. There is no more important issue facing our nation than our energy future. It’s my hope that this debate helps finally put the true facts about mountaintop removal in front of the American public”

Richmond-based Massey Energy is central Appalachia’s largest coal producer, and Blankenship has been a vocal critic of both U.S. trade policy and climate-change legislation. In a recent interview in Forbes, he referred to global warming as “a hoax and a Ponzi scheme,” saying that clean coal and carbon sequestration are “not do-able,” and that “none of it matters because of the Asian use of coal and because there’s really no proof of global warming.” In the same interview, he indicated that coal is the country’s only chance to be energy independent, and the industry could be the source of the wealth needed to develop the next generation of energy.

Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, is president of Waterkeeper Alliance and chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper. He was named a Time Magazine “Hero for the Planet,” and is the best-selling author of Crimes Against Nature. He is also a clinical professor and supervising attorney at Pace University School of Law’s Environmental Litigation Clinic, and co-host of “Ring of Fire” on Air America Radio. Kennedy has referred to mountaintop removal mining as “the worst environmental tragedy in American history,” and an “Appalachian apocalypse.” (Washington Post, July 3, 2009).

UC President Ed Welch sees the forum as an opportunity for the University of Charleston to help flesh out the arguments and issues surrounding the debate over the role of coal in America’s energy future. “We are thrilled to be able to bring together two individuals who are deeply involved in this issue on the national stage,” said Welch. “The future direction of U.S. energy policy is a vital concern to the people of West Virginia, many of whom rely on the coal industry for their livelihood. It is in everyone’s best interest to promote this discussion.”

Waterkeeper’s Director of Advocacy Scott Edwards expressed the view of the organization that the debate’s time has come. “From extraction to transportation to burning and disposal, our continued use of coal is having dire consequences for our environmental and human health,” he said. “The question that needs to be answered is not if we phase out coal use, but when do we do jettison this dirty fossil fuel from our energy portfolio. And I think the answer to that question is clear: as soon as possible.”