West Virginia Democrats Just Nominated A Climate Denying Coal Baron Billionaire For Governor

In a Monday, May 11, 2015 file photo, West Virginia billionaire businessman Jim Justice announces that he is running for governor of West Virginia as a Democrat in 2016 in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHRIS TILLEY, FILE


In November, West Virginians will have two choices. A a party-switching, self-funding, brash billionaire who denies climate change and loves coal, and a lawmaker who talks about bringing jobs back to the state.

And that’s just the gubernatorial race.

On Tuesday night, Jim Justice easily won the West Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary and will face off against Republican state Senate President Bill Cole in the general election.

Justice is the richest man in West Virginia — the state’s only billionaire. He made his money as a coal executive and developer in his family’s businesses, and became a household name in the state after buying the state’s Greenbriar resort and making it profitable.

He also told West Virginians that he will make sure the state “mines more coal … than has ever been mined before.”

He denies the scientific consensus on climate change, telling the Register-Herald editorial board that he welcomes the discussion but just doesn’t know:

Until we have really accurate data to prove (that humans contribute) I don’t think we need to blow our legs off on a concept. I welcome the scientific approach to it and the knowledge. I would not sit here and say, “absolutely now, there’s no such thing” or I would no way on Earth say there is such a thing. I believe there’s an awful lot of scientists that say, “no, no, no, this is just smoke and mirrors.” I welcome the discussion, but I don’t know, I just don’t know.

Justice beat former U.S. district attorney Booth Goodwin and state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, netting 51 percent of the Democratic vote, boasting a seven-fold monetary advantage largely due to his own funds. Kessler raised the least in campaign donations, and made a name for himself speaking forcefully about the need to take climate change seriously. He supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, who won the state and suggesting that firm commitment to climate action was not a disqualifying trait for West Virginia voters. Booth, endorsed by former Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), made a name for himself prosecuting former Massey Energy mine owner Don Blankenship for willfully conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine, where 29 people died in the worst mining disaster in almost a half-century.

Local activists have targeted Justice for safety violations at his mines, and for failing to pay mining fines. The state GOP is even hitting him for not paying environmental fines and ignoring mine safety rules. They have also attacked him for supporting Democrats; he has supported both parties in the past. Justice was a Republican until 2015, and received Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) endorsement.

The Sierra Club’s West Virginia chapter declined to endorse any candidates at the statewide level for the primary election, though it will look at gubernatorial candidates for the general.

“Both Justice and Cole are poor choices at this point,” Jim Sconyers, chairman of the West Virginia Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress. Industry groups were split: the United Mine Workers endorsed Justice while the West Virginia Coal Association supports Cole.

Cole has promised to boycott the administration’s carbon regulations, which are required under the Clean Air Act after a Supreme Court decision that found the EPA had to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The Wall Street Journal said Justice is “the most optimistic candidate about coal bouncing back, despite contrary economic forecasts.”

Justice’s plan for the state centers on coal: convincing the EPA to use a “cumulative, weighted limit for carbon emissions, instead of an individual limit for each power plant.” The EPA’s carbon rule does regulate by power plant for new plants but the Clean Power Plan targets existing power production via statewide targets. It’s not clear what Justice’s cumulative, weighted limit would be. The second phase calls for using only West Virginia coal in state power plants, and he would build four more coal plants — at $1 billion apiece. The third phase is to convince utilities to drop rates 10 percent for West Virginians in a bid to get businesses to move to the state.

He has promised not to “give up on coal” and one strategy he will try is to convince the EPA that chlorine is a pollutant worth prioritizing. He speculates that Appalachian coal is lower in chlorine than Illinois coal.

West Virginia coal has a relatively high sulfur content, making it harder for plants to burn it without producing emissions that cause acid rain. All coal produces carbon emissions which cause climate change.

Justice has an early six-point lead on Cole, while Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 27 points among West Virginia voters in the same PPP poll. During a speech in the state last week, Trump donned a miner’s cap, pouted his lips, and pantomimed shoveling. He promised to get coal miners back to work and stop China from “taking our coal” — two things that are not true. Clinton received flak in the state after she talked about coal mines going out of business and investing in renewable energy businesses.


West Virginia Governor On Safety Of Water Supply: ‘It’s Your Decision… I’m Not A Scientist’


I certainly wouldn’t want to be a resident of the affected areas in West Virginia.  Apparently for their governor, corporate (coal) interests come before the safety of the citizens of that state.  I sure hope the Feds step in ASAP…

Think Progress

Amid growing concerns over whether or not the water is actually safe for 300,000 West Virginians following a massive chemical spill into the water supply, the state’s governor said it was up to each of them to decide whether they use it.

“It’s your decision,” Gov. Tomblin told reporters at a press conference on Monday. “If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking with this water then use bottled water.”

“I’m not going to say absolutely, 100 percent that everything is safe,” Tomblin continued. “But what I can say is if you do not feel comfortable, don’t use it.”

On Saturday, the last of the ‘do not use’ bans were lifted, meaning all of West Virginia American Water’s customers were given the green light to use and drink their water. While state officials have maintained that a level of the coal-cleaning chemical mixture, known as crude MCHM, below 1 part per million is safe, the justification for that threshold has been called into question.

Of primary concern is the fact that it is still unclear what exactly spilled and whether or not the proper tests have been conducted. Crude MCHM is a mixture of six chemicals but only the pure form of the main ingredient, 4-MCHM, has been studied. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set the 1 part per million threshold based on one study of 4-MCHM conducted by Eastman Chemical Company in 1991.

“If crude MCHM is truly what leaked, it’s possible that we don’t even know which of this ‘cocktail’ is most harmful,” Evan Hansen, environmental consultant with the Morgantown-based Downstream Strategies said in an earlier interview with Climate Progress. “We could have set a threshold based on the wrong one. We may be testing the wrong one.”

Of the Eastman study used by the CDC to set its guidelines, Wired science writer Deborah Blum notes, “there is no human toxicity data. These are studies in species ranging from fathead minnows to rabbits.” The Eastman studies told the company’s scientists that “this was not one of the worst compounds out there — but not one of the benign ones either.” And the lack of mutagenic effects they found would be more assuring, Blum writes, “if that finding had been verified by, say, anyone else, if someone, besides the company that manufactures the compound, could vouch for its safety.”

After a significant portion of the more than 300,000 affected residents were told their water was safe, the CDC released guidance warning pregnant women to drink bottled water until there were no detectable levels of crude MCHM. Health care professionals and state officials have also recommended that small children not drink the water and that schools only use bottled water.

West Virginia American Water president Jeff McIntyre reiterated on Monday that the water was safe, underscoring his point by drinking tap water in front of reporters. And McIntyre disputed a recommendation from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, reported in the Charleston Gazette, that residents flush their home water systems until no odor is detected.

“Really, it’s not the best recommendation … This is an aesthetic issue below 1 part per million. It’s not a health-based issue,” McIntyre told the Charleston Daily Mail.

At Monday’s press conference, Tomblin also emphasized the 1 ppm safety standard. “We’ve been in this thing for 11 days. It’s a very complicated issue. I’m not a scientist, you know. I have to rely on the best information that I have,” Tomblin said.

“My major concern for the last 11 days has been the health and safety of our residents.”

Both Tomblin and McIntyre said the state will continue to test the water until no amount of the chemical is detected. After criticism that the spill exposed a history of lax oversight of the fossil fuel and chemical industries, on Monday Tomblin announced a “plan for a new regulatory program for above-ground storage tanks,” the Charleston Gazette reported.

When asked by Al Jazeera America’s Robert Ray whether he was drinking the water, Tomblinresponded, “I drink it occasionally.”

5 important political stories to watch in 2014

Would Boehner lead another shutdown? | Photo: (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Week – Taegan Goodard

1. Will Republicans win back control of the Senate?Most political forecasters give Democrats a minuscule chance of taking back the House of Representatives, so most attention will be on the six seats Republicans need to have the majority in the upper chamber.

The seven most vulnerable seats all belong to Democrats right now: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

2. Will Congress pass immigration reform? A bill has passed the Senate but House leaders refuse to bring it up. Considering the inability of this Congress to pass almost anything, it’s hard to give much hope to immigration reform — particularly in an election year.

However, two things could force the issue. First, national Republicans know they must improve the party’s standing with Hispanic voters and immigration reform is a key issue for this increasingly important voting bloc. Second, Speaker John Boehner has given signs he may move pieces of the Senate bill independently.

3. Will there be another fiscal showdown? Despite a bipartisan budget deal earlier this month, another major battle could be coming in the New Year over the debt ceiling. The federal government is expected to exhaust its borrowing authority by the end of February.

Though many Republicans want to use the event as leverage over the Obama administration to cut spending or tie it to legislation the White House opposes, the politics are brutal for the GOP. The self-inflicted wounds of the government shutdown on the Republican party are still raw and could act to prevent a major battle.

4. Will ObamaCare be a big issue for the midterm elections? Republicans will do everything in their power to tie the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act to Democrats like they did in the 2010 midterms. It helped them retake control of the House.

But the White House is throwing every resource at their disposal to get the law implemented and move beyond the problems that crippled the health care exchange website. If millions of people are getting health insurance they otherwise could not afford by summer, it could end up being a non-issue or even a positive for Democrats.

5. Who knows? Politics is amazingly unpredictable except one thing is almost certain: There is usually a big political story we cannot predict.

Thursday Blog Round-up – 4-4-2013

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Wednesday Blog Round Up


President Challenges GOP To Put Entire Jobs Bill Up For Vote   

GOP’s stunt in Senate today, still refusing to have a vote on Jobs act

Democrat Wins In West Virginia Special Gubernatorial Election 

Amanda Knox Returns Home

Congressional Priorities! Triple DOMA Defense Funds While Defunding NPR, Again 

Obama Sends Bush Trade Agreements to the Do-Less-Than-Nothing Congress 

Michele Bachmann: “Obama Caused the Arab Spring”  

Not Just Politicians… And Media… And Academics… 

Congressional Approval At All-Time Low 

Ron Paul: Obama Could Be Impeached For Killing American-Born Cleric

Millions Of Voters Impacted By New GOP Photo I.D., Citizenship And Registration Laws

If the GOP were not afraid of those disenfranchised voters, they wouldn’t be doing this.  The whole idea is to impact the election in their favor.  This is absolutely un-American…

The Huffington Post

According to a new report, over five million voters could be denied the right to vote under new laws adopted in a dozen states.

The study released Sunday night by the Brennan Center for Justice in New York said that new laws regarding photo identification requirements for voting, eliminating same day voter registration in several states, requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, changing requirements for voter registration drives, reducing early voting days and restoring the right to vote for convicted felons will make voting harder for the five million people in the 2012 election.

The Brennan Center wrote that there has been a partisan divide in terms of the new laws, noting that the laws had mainly been generated from Republican-controlled state legislatures and signed by Republican governors. The exceptions are laws passed by Democratic-controlled legislatures in Rhode Island and West Virginia, signed by an independent governor in Rhode Island and West Virginia’s Democratic acting governor.

The report also projects that the new laws will have an impact on minority voters. According to the Brennan Center, African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to register to vote during voter registration drives in Florida, and new photo I.D. requirements in Texas do not include forms of identification heavily used by minorities. The report points to new laws requiring photo identification to vote in Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin that would limit voting to up to 3.2 million citizens who do not have government-issued photo I.D. The report did not include Rhode Island’s new photo identification law, which allows for non-governmental photo I.D.s to be used for voting, saying that the state’s law does not have the same requirements as measures elsewhere. Prior to 2011, only Indiana and Georgia had photo I.D. laws on the books.

All of the states allow for driver’s licenses, government-issued photo I.D. cards, passports and military I.D.s to vote. Alabama, Kansas and Rhode Island laws will all allow for student I.D. cards from state universities to vote. Kansas, Texas, Rhode Island, Alabama and Tennessee all allow concealed handgun licenses to vote.

Continue reading…


Watch Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach introduce the election law bill in January:

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Democrat Joe Manchin’s Republican TV Commercial


The advertising imagery is unsubtle and so archetypically right-wing you might think it was a parody: a candidate taking target practice while declaring his or her allegiance to gun rights and small government. Arizona state legislator Pamela Gorman cut one such ad earlier this cycle that became a YouTube sensation (but was not enough to best Ben Quayle in Arizona’s 3rd congressional district). What’s newsworthy about another commercial delivering typical Republican talking points—pro-gun, anti-Obamacare, and anti-cap and trade? Well, this time they are being delivered by a Democrat.

In West Virginia, Joe Manchin, the popular governor who is running for an open seat in the Senate, is facing a surprisingly tough fight from heretofore politically unsuccessful Republican businessman John Raese. (The latest Public Policy poll has Manchin, who once held a large lead, up by only 3 points.) It’s a tough political environment for Democrats everywhere this year, and the rugged hills of West Virginia are a particularly difficult terrain. The electorate is “moderate to conservative on fiscal policies,” according to Marybeth Beller, chair of Political Science at Marshall University in Huntington, W.V. Even Democrats in West Virginia, Beller notes, are mostly “moderate to conservative on social issues.” West Virginia is also one of very few states that favored John McCain in 2008 by a bigger margin than it did George W. Bush in 2004.   Continue reading…
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Bill Clinton vs. Sarah Palin in West Virginia


WASHINGTON — Former President Bill Clinton and ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin are lining up on opposite sides in West Virginia’s Senate race, a key contest that could determine control of the Senate in the November election.

Clinton spent Monday in West Virginia, hoping to boost Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin’s campaign as it struggles against wealthy Republican businessman John Raese. Meanwhile, former vice presidential candidate Palin announced she was backing Raese on her Facebook page, hoping to again demonstrate her political clout.

Manchin appears with Clinton, shies from Obama

“He did every single thing you want Washington to do,” Clinton said of Manchin during an event in Morgantown. If it weren’t for the nation’s economic struggles, Clinton said, Manchin would “be ahead by 30 points, and you know it.”  Continue reading…

Oops! How Much Research Did Megyn Kelly Do Before Going On The Air With Incorrect Obama Casting Call Story?

News Hounds

Megyn Kelly and Fox News were so eager to malign an upcoming MTV Town Hall with President Obama that they didn’t bother to investigate the facts behind a Backstage.com notice for audience members. Kelly wrongly gave the impression that Obama’s audience was to be selected like a Democratic casting call – i.e. for good-looking actors playing town hall attendees – when, in fact, the Backstage notice was just one of several places where invitations for submissions were posted. Furthermore, though Kelly noted the “casting call” did not come from the White House, she allowed the suggestion to stand that there was a connection. In fact, Mediaite debunked the “casting call controversy” last week. Now, Mediaite has discovered that Backstage placed the notice on their own, without any connection to Obama or MTV or the town hall. We’ll be watching for a correction tomorrow.

Mediaite gave credit to Megyn Kelly for referencing another, bigger casting call controversy, namely a call for a “‘hicky’ Blue Collar look’ of West Virginia truckers in an ad for Senate candidate John Raese. But the WV ad got little more than a mention in a segment that was primarily about Obama’s town hall.

Three cheers to Democratic Dick Harpootlian for getting in this little dig at Fox. “If the president’s trying to reach that (MTV) demographic of young kids are open on a lot of issues, that’s the way to do it… If the president were trying to reach bitter white men over the age of 40, what network would you think he’d want to go to?”
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GOP ad casting call: ‘hicky’ W.Va. look

Well, it seems they got caught this time trying to present a “populous view”, which in reality is strictly corporate run, bought and sold…H/T to Mike Allen over at Politico.


A Republican ad that shows a couple of regular-looking guys commiserating in a diner about West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) turns out to have been shot with actors, from a script, in Philadelphia.

But not just any actors: “We are going for a ‘Hicky’ Blue Collar look,” read the casting call for the ad, being aired by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks.”

“Clothing Suggestions” included jeans, work boots, flannel shirt, denim shirt, “Dickie’s type jacket with t-shirt underneath,” down-filled vest, “John Deer [sic] hats (not brand new, preferably beat up),” “trucker hats (not brand new, preferably beat up).”

The NRSC began airing the ad this week in the West Virginia Senate race, in which Manchin is facing a sudden scare from Republican businessman John Raese (pronounced “racy”) in the contest to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

The casting material was provided to POLITICO by Democrats. It’s not unusual for political ads to use “fake” actors to stand in for real people — but a Democratic official said the wardrobe advice played right into the case against Manchin’s opponent. “Our whole frame on Raese is that he doesn’t understand working people,” this official said.
Continue reading…

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