‘Coal Country’ debuts to large, but calm, crowd

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There were two sides to most everything at the world premiere of “Coal Country” at the West Virginia Cultural Center on Saturday night.
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Eddie Morris, of Alum Creek, knew both well.

For the past five years, he’s worked as a coal miner and he’s the younger brother of “Coal Country” producer, Mari-Lynn Evans. She is also the producer of the public television series “The Appalachians.”

A standing-room-only crowd attended the premiere without incident. People who represent sides of the issue of mountaintop-removal mining were well represented, though divided.

Evans commended those who helped her with the film, including former Secretary of State Ken Hechler, an opponent of the practice. At the mention of his name, many of the crowd applauded, but a small part of the audience reacted negatively. It was a tense moment, but there was no serious confrontation between the two sides of the issue of mountain top removal mining.

In the cultural center lobby, coal miners and their families talked among themselves on one side of the room and environmentalists and others on the other side.

Morris and his wife sat on one of the many wooden benches in the lobby, away from most of the crowd.

During production, he helped his sister along, but he never appears onscreen.

“I’m kind of looking forward to seeing how it goes,” he said.

The documentary was originally set to screen at the South Charleston Museum, but after reports of security concerns, the theater was unwilling to host the film.

Evans said she was surprised to hear that people would protest the film. She didn’t expect any sort of protest to happen Saturday night.

Randall Maggard, manager of environmental compliance at Argus Energy, is featured in the film, talking about the coal industry as a miner of 26 years.

“I just hope we can get our point across,” he said. “I think some of the miners feel like they aren’t really appreciated.”

He heard about the possibility of a protest, but felt it was a rumor blown out of proportion.

When he saw the advance screening of the documentary, he called Evans and was upset. But after blowing off some steam, he realized that there was a direction the filmmakers wanted to go.

“You don’t always get a chance to refute every fact in the movie,” he said.

Still, he hoped that he and the other miners attending would be represented well and fairly. Whether the screening or the gathering of everyone under one roof for two hours will stimulate dialogue, he didn’t know.

“It’s a continuing chapter and we’re going to disagree for some time,” he said.

Wilford Hardman of Radnor drives coal trucks for KCT. He decided to come up and give the movie a look. Despite the longstanding differences between the different sides of the issue, he said getting everyone under the same roof is a good thing.

“There’s always room for people to come together. Whether they do or not, I don’t really know,” he said.

Staff writer Douglas Imbrogno / The Charleston Gazette Blog

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One Response to ‘Coal Country’ debuts to large, but calm, crowd

  1. Matthew says:

    I’m not necessarily choosing sides, though as somewhat of an environmentalist I certainly lean toward putting a stop to mountain top mining for sure. However, we must ask ourselves this very important question: “Why is it that mountain top mining even exists?”

    Well, the answer is, “because there is a great demand for it.” Not mining specifically, but for energy. According to the most recent data from US Energy Information Administration, we Americans consume approximately 22.8% of all the electrical power generated in the world. This is a bi-product of being one of the most advanced civilizations. However, we have not taken the responsibility to upon each of us as individuals to do what we can to mitigate our power usage.

    My point here is this. If you wanna help the problem, you have to solve the REAL problem. That is, start a “charity” organization which takes donations and helps to purchase and distribute high-efficiency light bulbs, water heaters, replace baseboard heaters, etc. There are so many things you can do to cut down energy consumption and THAT THAT THAAAAAAAAAAAAT is how each of us can be the most effective to solving our energy woes.

    Say green energy (wind, solar, etc) has a total capacity of 1 exajoule, but we need 4 exajoules. Well then coal needs to produce 3 exajoules, but if we only need 3 exajoules, then coal only needs to produce 2 exajoules, leaving more room for clean energy infrastructure. This is obviously a WAY oversimplified illustration, but it’s just to show how we as consumers can reduce the demand (and thus the market) for coal energy. Any business (which these coal companies are… businesses) would be fool to produce more than there was a demand for.

    By all means, keep lobbying, but at the same time recognize that it is a concerted effort between that and many many other small lifestyle adjustment that we need to make to solve this truly immense energy problem that lies before us. One thing is for sure, there are no quick fixes, and there’s no one single solution to this problem.

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