Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

News and Editorials:

Denise Giardina: Who are the 'Friends of Coal'?

Bob Miller: Coal's friends have been few

FOCer Bowl

September 2, 2006
Photos by Bobby Mitchell
Students Counter Coal PR at University Football Games

Football fans have waited years for West Virginia University and Marshall University, the state's largest two schools, to play each other.

Fans were elated to find out the two teams would finally face off, but many were ticked off to learn the game would be called the Friends of Coal (FOC) Bowl.  FOC is the fake-grassroots arm of the coal industry; the FOCers had paid to have its name stamped on the game. It seems no other entity had a chance to bid on the naming rights, even though these teams are both ostensibly publicly owned because both are public universities that use state funds.

Public sentiment about the FOCer's moves is reflected in this  letter to the editor by the Rev. Ward Cornett III, published Sept. 3 in the Charleston Gazette:

One of my fondest memories growing up in Beckley was listening to radio broadcasts with my dad of the WVU Mountaineers games. As a 1974 graduate of Marshall University, Im an avid fan of the Thundering Herds exploits. I approached the game between my two favorite schools with ambivalence.

But my major ambivalence was not over which team to support, but about the grabbing of naming rights by the coal industry to try to improve its image. Given coals history in Appalachia, it is difficult to think of anyone being Friends of Coal other than those who have a vested interest in dominant coal companies.

The history of the coal industry is the exercise of raw power and political clout, usually at the expense of West Virginia. There are many people who arent Friends of Coal. If you prefer mountaintops and lush forests to mountaintop removal, you are not a friend of coal. If you favor enforcement of mine health and safety laws and protection of workers rights, you are not a friend of coal. If you favor the enforcement of the Clean Air Act on coal-burning power plants, you are not a friend of coal. Anyone who takes global warming seriously is not a friend of coal.

So the FOCers wouldn't get off scott-free with their PR maneuverings, OVEC hired a small plane to circle the football stadium with a banner reading, "Stop Mountaintop Removal Now!" And, WVU and Marshall students greeted football fans with signs. See the pictures below.


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