GOP platform to tout support for coal
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - About 80 delegates from West Virginia will attend next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and they say their party will have a clear message for voters: The GOP supports West Virginia coal.
"We're going to be fighting for and pushing for a pro-coal, pro-energy independence position," said Chad Holland, executive director for the state GOP.
State GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas is already in Tampa, participating in committee meetings leading up to the convention, which runs Monday through Thursday.
Lucas is a member of the committee that is drafting the official 2012 Republican Party platform, which will be approved by convention delegates next week.
"Once the platform is released, I think the voters in West Virginia are going to be very interested because of the pro-coal and natural gas positions that are in it," Lucas said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Lucas and Holland said the GOP's stance on energy would promote the use of West Virginia's natural resources. That's something they say President Barack Obama has failed to do.
"That's what we want to highlight - the importance of coal, the importance of energy independence, and the need for more jobs in the coal industry in West Virginia," Holland said.
"Under Barack Obama and the Democrats, the coal industry is taking a hit, and they're making it hard for good people to get jobs down there in the coalfields," he said. "We need to change that."
Lucas said the platform features popular party ideas, like reining in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's power and reducing other regulations in the energy industry.
He also said the platform favors more development of coal-to-liquid and coal gasification technologies, along with promoting growth in the local natural gas industry.
"Marcellus shale is one of only two oil and gas formations mentioned by name (in the platform)," Lucas said.
The other is the Bakken shale formation in Montana and North Dakota.
Lucas also offered an amendment during committee meetings this week to include a formal statement opposing Obama's cap-and-trade energy policy.
"I was happy that we got opposition to cap-and-trade reinserted in the platform, which it wasn't in 2008," he said. "It was unanimously approved, which I was excited about."
Lucas said West Virginia would be at the forefront of convention events Monday.
Raleigh County Delegate Rick Snuffer - who is challenging Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., in the Third Congressional District - has been tapped to address the convention Monday evening on the effects of Obama administration policies on southern West Virginia.
"Snuffer's race is something we believe in very strongly and is something that's being featured nationally," Lucas said.
It's not clear yet if Snuffer will deliver his address during prime time or how long he will speak. But Lucas said it's a significant selection.
"Anything in the evening is a coveted spot," he said. "It's an opportunity that's extended in very rare circumstances, so it's a great opportunity for him."
Congressional representatives Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley will be among the more than 80 members of the state delegation at the convention.
Other delegates include Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Maloney; former state Secretary of State Betty Ireland; state Sen. Mike Hall, the party's nominee for state treasurer; Charleston City Councilman Chris Dodrill; and Kanawha County Delegate Eric Nelson.
"This will be a first," Nelson said. "It follows my father going 40 years ago for Ronald Reagan."
His father, former Kanawha County Delegate Eric Nelson Sr., represented the state at the 1972 and 1976 GOP conventions.
The younger Nelson said he was looking forward to more than convention events.
"First and foremost for me is meeting other legislators and the interaction so I can hopefully bring home some interesting pieces of information that can help us in this state," he said.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will officially accept their party's nomination for president and vice-president on Wednesday and Thursday.
Lucas said Romney's selection of Ryan as his running mate has boosted enthusiasm among the state's Republican base.
"After Ryan was announced that Saturday, our voicemail box on Monday was full of people asking for Romney-Ryan signs," Lucas said. "That's really the energy I'm feeling down here from all states, that it was such an exciting pick for the party and the country."
While he said there's a lot of enthusiasm, a potential storm is brewing for next week - literally.
Meteorologists say it's possible that Tropical Storm Isaac, currently churning over the Caribbean, may strengthen into a hurricane and hit the Florida coast early Monday.
"That's the elephant in the room, no pun intended," Lucas said.
He said party officials continue monitoring the weather reports. While they have a backup plan in case the storm hits Tampa head-on, he said that has not been made public.
Meanwhile, Lucas said officials are continuing to move forward with convention events as planned.
Lucas said West Virginians - Democrats and Republicans - should pay attention to the convention next week. He said traditional West Virginia Democrats might find the national platform lines up more closely with their views.
"In terms of platform, I encourage West Virginia voters to look at the Republican Party's stance on coal, as opposed to the Democratic Party's platform, which supports cap-and-trade," he said.
"If West Virginians have any difficulties making up their mind on who to vote for, I suggest they just look at that."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.