Coal workers, their families and a handful of lawmakers gathered Tuesday near the U.S. Capitol to protest Washington’s so-called “war on coal.”
Surrounded by signs protesting government overreach and shouting over fiery speeches from lawmakers representing coal country, TheBlaze asked attendees what they’d say if they were given a chance to speak face-to-face to Washington’s leaders.
The responses, though varied, had a common theme: Get off our back.
9. Stop Messing With American Businesses
“I was in health care for almost 18 years,” rally attendee Shane told TheBlaze. “But I left after the government decided it wanted to f--- with that. So I got into coal. There was money.”
“But now the government is f---ing with that,” he added, smiling broadly.
8. Leave Coal Alone
Two miners from West Virginia were a little more tempered in their responses.
“Seriously, leave coal alone,” Frank Ward said. “Things are tough enough already. We don’t need government stepping in and shutting us down and putting us all out of jobs. How about we keep some Americans working?”
7. Washington Is Anti-Coal!
Ward’s son, Frank Ward III, chimed in: “It’s a war on our way of life.”
“They’re good jobs. These are jobs we like. We just feel like Washington has it in for us,” Ward III said.
6. Coal Affects a Lot of People
One attendee from Pennsylvania raised a separate set of concerns.
“I don’t think (lawmakers) understand that by hurting the coal industry, they’re going to hurt a lot of other industries,” Susan Leap told TheBlaze. “Coal is energy and we provide for a lot of other industries. Think about the cost of business for people like truckers.”
5. The EPA Needs to Get Off Our Backs
Bob Harker of Pennsylvania was more fired up when TheBlaze asked what message he had for U.S. lawmakers.
“People complain that coal is dirty and that we’re hurting the planet. Funny thing is, things like the (Environmental Protection Agency) won’t let us clean up. We want to be cleaner and greener. They’re not interested. They’re interested in shutting us down,” Harker said.
“I’ve been in this business for 39 years and I’ve never been laid off. I think that’s great,” he added. “But with some of these new rules, they’re going to get me fired. Just leave coal alone.”
4. And Now For Ohio
An Ohio attendee had similar sentiments.
“Just let us do our jobs,” said Ohio resident Kevin Hines. “Let us produce. Let us do our thing. We just want to work.”
3. All We're Asking Is to Be Left Alone
“Washington needs to end this war on coal,” said Sean Steed of Ohio American Energy Corp. “We’re not asking for anything but for them to let us work. We’re not asking for handouts.”
“Washington is disproportionally against coal. But these are jobs that we worked for. They killing off jobs everywhere and they want to attack us?” Steed laughed.
2. Create Jobs, Don't Destroy Them
Carl Honeywell of the Ohio Valley Coal Company agreed and added to Steed’s thought.
“Washington should support the coal industry. Let us build. Let us expand,” Honeywell told TheBlaze. “More coal means more jobs. More jobs means less people depending on welfare handouts. Biggest problem we have in this country is good jobs like ours are being destroyed, not created.”
“We should be building out and making jobs so people can start working, taking care of their families,” Honeywell said. “People should be self-sufficient and handle themselves. Not depending on welfare.”
As Honeywell finished his thought, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on another part of the Capitol Building lawn finished speaking to the rally, vowing his support for the coal industry. He was followed by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who, like the senator who spoke before him, vowed to support the United States' coal workers.
1. Washington: Clean Up Your Act
That type of honesty is okay with Pennsylvanian coal veteran Ronald Stimpson.
“For me, Washington needs to pass a law that punishes people who lie to get elected. Kick them out. All of them,” Stimpson, who has spent most of his life in the coal industry, told TheBlaze. “Also, I’d say the EPA needs to back off and leave American workers alone.”
“The Democrats need to wake up and smell the roses,” he added.
The Rally for American Energy Jobs, which was hosted by Count on Coal, began around 11 a.m. ET and went until about 1:30 p.m.
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Featured image: Becket Adams