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Manchin takes U.S. Labor Secretary on West Virginia mine tour

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, left, and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., take questions Wednesday after touring the Golden Ridge Portal of Ohio County Coal Resources Inc. in Dallas, W.Va. (Photo by Joselyn King)

DALLAS, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin says sometimes the coal industry is treated by Washington like a Vietnam War veteran who just returned home.

Manchin, D-W.Va., welcomed U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on Wednesday to the Northern Panhandle, and the pair took a tour underground of the mine at Golden Ridge Portal of Ohio County Coal Resources Inc. in Dallas, W.Va.

“I’ve talked to a lot of miners. And basically, the rhetoric coming out of Washington — because they don’t know who we are or what we do — is that they feel like the returning Vietnam veterans,” Manchin said.

“(Miners think) we’ve done everything you’ve asked of us, and now we’re not good enough. That’s not the case. You cannot replace what they’ve done.”

There could be a time in the future when America and the world transitions from coal, but that time is not now, he said.

“We’ll be using nuclear, all renewables — we know that,” Manchin said. “But you don’t accelerate it to the point that we’re not ready for that day. But that is what we are hearing in Washington.”

Walsh took over the secretary of labor’s job six months ago, and part of his jurisdiction is the Mine Safety Health Administration. The former Boston mayor has a background in construction, but acknowledged he had never been inside a coal mine before.

Manchin said that is why he decided to invite Walsh to West Virginia. The pair took what they termed a “Disney World ride” four miles back into the mine. Walsh said he witnessed the miners at their jobs and gained a different appreciation for what they do.

“I thanked them,” he said. “I asked them how often they get thanked, and one young man told me, ‘Nobody thanks me.'”

About 120 work in the mine, and Walsh said all safety protocols appeared to be in place.

Manchin said the coal industry will be saved “because it has to be.”

“The country can’t operate without it,” he said. “There will be a transition period of time. We don’t know when that will be. But we’re looking at doing it in a systematic way and not just an accelerated way because somebody doesn’t like fossil or coal (energy).”

Most of the world’s coal consumption is in Asia and in India, according to Manchin. He said China presently has 2,900 coal mines in operation, but plans to open another 1,500 in the next two years.

By comparison, America has about 500 coal mines with no new mines planned, according to Manchin. There are 6,600 coal mines world-wide.

“So for the people who believe the U.S. mines are polluting the climate and affecting it, it has no impact compared to the impact of Asia,” Manchin said. “So if you want to clean up the planet, you are going to have to find the technology, be able to capture the carbon and utilize it. We’re the only country that seems to want to do it.”

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