William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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WHEN YOU'VE GOT ZILLIONS – AT 8:52 A.M. ET:  I guess Jay Rockefeller doesn't have to worry about keeping his job in the Senate.  He's not personally underfinanced.  Neither is his wife, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, daughter of the late, not-great Charles Percy, who parlayed the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee into a post-Senate career fronting for Arab interests in the U.S.

Now it appears that Jay is getting ready to say good-bye by making a politically suicidal speech in the Senate.  This would open his Senate seat in 2014, and provide a great opportunity for a Republican or a conservative Democrat.  Rockefeller's state of West Virginia, which he has visited, doesn't today elect many liberals.  From The Politico:

Now we know the first open Senate race of 2014: Jay Rockefeller’s West Virginia seat.

Already the subject of speculation that he will not run for a sixth term in two years when he will be 77, Rockefeller’s stunning coal-industry-needs-to-face-reality speech Wednesday seemed to confirm the rumors.

By taking to the Senate floor to oppose an effort to block an Obama administration rule targeting mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, Rockefeller managed to buck his colleagues in the state delegation, stick it to West Virginia’s vital industry and signal his political intentions all in one fateful act.

The coal industry’s reaction to the jeremiad suggested the state’s senior senator dropped his bomb without warning in a place where politics have been roiled by talk of a “war on coal” by the Obama administration.

In its A-1, above-the-fold story in today’s paper, The Charleston Daily Mail captured some of the shocked reaction.

West Virginia Coal Association Vice President Jason Bostic said he thought it was clear the Obama administration was not a friend to coal mining, particularly Appalachian mining. He said it didn't make sense to accuse the industry of fear mongering because the mineworkers union also opposed the EPA rule.

"How dare a U.S. senator accuse organizations as broad as the United Mine Workers and the Coal Association of fear mongering," Bostic said. "If it's real, how can it be fear mongering?"

COMMENT:  Coal is not only vital to West Virginia, it is vital to the United States.  Coal production certainly  has its environmental issues, but new technology is mitigating them.  At a time of economic crisis, it makes no sense to go after a vital industry for some minor environmental gain.  The loss, which would include shattered communities and families, would be far worse.

So we have Rockefeller, representing a coal state, going after the home industry, which will no doubt make him a hero to the tofu crowd after he leaves office.  What happens to the miners and their families doesn't seem to him of great importance. 

June 22,  2012