On Labor Day, tens of thousands of people will be gathering for the coal-powered “Friends of America Rally” in Holden, WV. The point of the gathering is to rail against the Waxman-Markey clean energy legislation. It will feature right-wing guests such as Sean Hannity and Ted Nugent (who once ranted about killing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton), and is being pushed by mountaintop-removal mining company Massey Energy. Last week, Massey CEO Don Blankenship even recorded a video inviting people to attend the rally, saying they would learn about how “environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your jobs.” Watch it:
The sponsors for the rally are mostly regional oil, gas, and coal companies. However, the list also includes the Science and Public Policy Institute — a fringe climate-denial organization — and Verizon Wireless. CREDO Action recently launched a campaign calling on Verizon to drop its sponsorship. CREDO Political Director Becky Bond contacted Verizon’s Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Gerace to inform him that that CREDO would be launching a campaign against Verizon. Gerace responded by disparaging Bond:
This is how our response is going over with the activists. Becky once lived in a tree for a while. At least now I know where the emails are coming from.
For the record, Bond never lived in a tree. Verizon’s vice president of federal government relations also sits on the board of the global-warming denier National Association of Manufacturers.
Blankenship recently gained attention because the Supreme Court rebuked him for buying West Virginia judges. He has called opponents of his coal “communists,” “atheists,” and “greeniacs” and labeled a cap and trade system a “Ponzi scheme.”
Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Laura Merritt told the Charleston Gazette that Verizon’s decision to sponsor the rally was made “at the local level to support the community.” “It wasn’t an effort to take a position on any particular issue,” she added. However, the pro-coal policies that Verizon is now sponsoring actually hurt communities in West Virginia. As the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has written:
The coal-dominated economy of West Virginia is a troubling example of the cruelty of coalocracy. Despite $118 million in coal-mining annual income, West Virginia has the nation’s lowest median household income, worst educational services, worst social assistance, the highest population with disabilities, and nearly a quarter of West Virginia children in poverty.
Interestingly, Verizon brags that “environmental stewardship is ingrained in Verizon’s heritage, and the company prides itself on having a positive influence on the environment in which it operates.” It has a whole page devoted to its “green initiatives.” Take action here and tell Verizon that if it really wants to be green, it needs to stop sponsoring global warming denial rallies.
Miles Grant points out that the rally is being held “on a previous surface mine,” an area that has been decimated by mountaintop removal.