Citizens for Coal Hope to Spread Message of Supporting Industry
After brooding, stewing, some begging and prodding, Roger Horton decided to do something.
“What happened was for the longest time we’d been hearing here in the coalfields that there are two sides,” Horton said, “those of the environmentalists and those of the coal industry.
“We’d continue to one day work and the next day fight to continue to work, and for that reason we decided to establish a grassroots organization that would allow the citizens who have a stake in this … to have a venue to express their concerns and also to express the way that they live and how they depend upon the coal industry to help them live.”
Horton, 55, said he started Citizens for Coal to serve as a nonprofit lobbying organization with the mission to educate the public about the importance of coal and all coal-related industries.
“I have friends in the environmental community who I can sit down with and can discuss with and who actually do understand the importance of coal,” Horton said. “They also understand that there are, by careless acts, negative consequences of both mining and the use of coal, and what I wanted to be able to do was stop the madness that’s associated with it.
“That’s my entire intent … to be able to sit down with anybody who has an issue and to find an amicable resolution by virtue of technology or change of work habits or just change of heart.”
Horton said he’s been in the coal mining industry since 1974, and doesn’t want to see coal go.
Horton said the group didn’t set out with the intention of begging for money, but the Logan County Commission gave the group its first donation — $2,500 — Dec. 22 after hearing the group’s pitch.
“Some of the environmental groups have put on some pretty effective commercials and stories about coal,” said Logan County Commission President Art Kirkendoll. “And (Citizens for Coal’s) position was that it’s time everybody that has a future based on a job or just a normal livelihood based on the production of coal needs to get together and try to promote coal as one of the best energy sources America has.”
Horton said based on the commission’s donation, some individual representatives from other groups have stepped forward with contributions.
“Our most immediate goal is to collect the various organizations that already exist within the state of West Virginia … and bring them all together in one frame of mind to work collectively toward one single purpose,” Horton said.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said Citizens for Coal is unique because its members are involved in mining operations.
“This is a complement to what everyone else is doing,” Raney said. “I don’t look at it as any kind of additional organization; I think what it does is focus more attention on how critical coal is to not only the state of West Virginia, but to America.”
Raney said when so much of West Virginia depends on coal for revenue, it makes sense for as many people as possible to rally around the coal industry.
Horton said the group wants to compile a list of all post-mine land use areas in the state.
“We intend to work proactively to put our message out to advertise not only the importance of coal as a resource but also mountaintop mining as a post-mine land alternative,” he said. “Here in the state of West Virginia, we’re not blessed with a lot of usable property.”