Sep 42014
"Water for Our Children" by Jude Binder

“Water for Our Children” by Jude Binder

Update: Our registration page is finally live. Click here to register online.

Please plan to join us on October 3–4 for Wellness and Water III. For the third year in a row, people concerned about health issues in communities adversely affected by water pollution will gather to share experiences and knowledge and to explore solutions.

The first year in Morgantown and the second in Buckhannon both focused on impacts from shale gas drilling and mountaintop removal coal mining.

This year, we meet in Charleston and include a third source of pollution: chemical manufacturing and storage, which has been on the minds of many since the MCHM chemical leak in January that contaminated drinking water for some 300,000 people hooked into WV American Water’s water distribution system.

Wellness and Water III will be held at Village Chapel Presbyterian Church, 3818 Venable Ave., Charleston, WV 25304.

On the evening of Friday, October 3, we’ll kick things off with a concert featuring Andrew McKnight and Colleen Anderson & George Castelle. Registration begins at 6 p.m. and the concert runs from 7 – 10 p.m. It will be big fun, plus it will help raise money for conference scholarships. Help spread the word: download, print and post this concert flier in friendly locations. While you are at it, do the same for this flier promoting the entire event.

The Saturday program the program will include lively educational sessions and plenary speakers. Among those presenting will be Dr. Chuck Sommerville, who is performing water research at Marshall University, representatives from Downstream Strategies in Morgantown, WV, and Grant Smith of the Civil Society Institute, who will address the potential of truly renewable energy sources to alleviate health problems and water pollution. We’ll also hear from folks whose lives are negatively affected by water pollution from gas, coal and chemical operations.  Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the program runs 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Join in! Volunteers needed to help with set-up, tear down, promotion. E-mail info@ohvec.orgif you’d like to help out or if you need more info.

You’ll soon be able to register for Wellness and Water III online here. Please do pre-register; it will save you money and we’ll help our planning. If you want to register right away, call the OVEC office at 304-522-0246.

Featured speakers:

  • Dr. Rahul Gupta — Executive Director/Health Officer, Kanawha/Charleston Health Department, central figure in the MCHM discussions and studies.
  • Helen Slottje — 2014 Goldman Prize Winner, helps towns across New York defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking.
  • Maria Gunnoe — 2009 Goldman Prize Winner and OVEC staff member, organizer, educator and leader in the opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining.

We’ll have plenty of “open space / tabling” time where you can meet and ask questions of people and groups working on water-related issues and solutions including: Bill Howley: PSC, solar; Mary Wildfire: sustainable living; Jon Christensen– MountainView Solar and others.

The event sponsors will all have tables so you can learn more about each of these groups.

Event sponsors: OVEC, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, WV Citizen Action Group, WV Surface Owners’ Rights Organization, Doddridge County Watershed Association, People Concerned About Chemical Safety, WV FREE, Sierra Club—WV Chapter, WV Sustainable Business Association.

Pre-registration fees:
Friday night concert only: $15 (reception included)
Saturday events only: $40 (includes lunch)
Fri. & Sat.: $50 (includes reception, lunch)

At-door registration:
Friday night only: $20 (reception not guaranteed)
Saturday events only: $55 (lunch not guaranteed)
Fri. & Sat.: $55, if paid Friday night (Friday reception availability and Saturday lunch not guaranteed)

Limited scholarships available. Contact if you’d like to find out about scholarships or donate to sponsor a scholarship.


Apr 12014

banner-302x202In March, OVEC issue organizer Maria Gunnoe, who is the winner of the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize for North America, the 2012 Wallenberg Medal and assorted other awards, received a message on Facebook from Victor Rodriguez:

Muchas gracias por aceptarme como amigo, todo un honor de una luchadora contra la minería de carbón a cielo abierto. Nosotros también estamos luchando y hemos conseguido una victoria, aunque con mucho sufrimiento. un fuerte abrazo desde Laciana-León (Región de Castilla y León ) España.

Thank you very much for accepting me as a friend, a great honor of a fighter against coal open-pit mining. We’re also fighting and have achieved a victory, although with much suffering. a big hug from Laciana-León (Castilla y León Region) Spain. (Translated by Bing)

Learn more via this Earth First! Newswire story: Victory: No More Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in Laciana Valley (Spain)

April 5 Update: The Ecologist: Spain – an end to Mountain Top Removal coal in Laciana Valley


Aug 262013

A guest blog by Peter Britton

Coal Ain’t the Culprit, an ebook, is but a chapter in the long and lethal story of coal. The rock that burns has helped shape the world, power countries and now threatens to ruin it. Global warming is, in large part, due to burning coal which creates and releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.  And CO2 is our number one greenhouse gas.

But what a chapter this is. It covers the years of the country’s greatest perceived need for coal; the many visits of G.W. Bush to West Virginia; the renegade coal operators, the robber barons of old, cutting off mountains, putting legitimate coal miners out of work and putting production before safety; the bribes and machinations by the powers that be; the Marsh Fork Elementary School gambit; the rise of the grassroots environmentalist action of Larry Gibson and Judy Bonds and many others; and the travails of one resident living below an encroaching MTR operation.

Maria Gunnoe on Larry Gibson's beloved Kayford Mountain. Photo by Vivian Stockman

Maria Gunnoe on Larry Gibson’s beloved Kayford Mountain. Photo by Vivian Stockman

Maria Gunnoe of Bob White lives down-hollow from a now-defunct mountain top removal (MTR) coal operation.  One blackwater flood too many and one defiant refusal to help pay for the damage it had done to her bridge and Maria’s tipping point was reached. She joined OVEC, worked her tail off, won two major environmental prizes—and today keeps on working.

This ebook is her story and that of the 10-country coal region in the sharp hills of south, south western West Virginia.  The book contains the libretto of the musical I was building for four years (the music for HollowGirl is available at, when I took a forced break as funds grew short. Then the telling event took place, the explosion in the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine.

The end is not yet in sight, as the use of coal continues to grow overseas. And the parties responsible for the UBB disaster still roam the coal seams. 

May 142013

Kerry Albright on Buffalo Creek, Logan County, WV. Photo by Kerry Albright.

On March 23, 2013, OVEC brought Kerry Albright, the Miracle Baby of Buffalo Creek, to the WV Culture Center to tell his story. Here’s Kerry’s story, in his own words.

First I’d like to thank Maria Gunnoe and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition for asking me to come down from New York Ctiy to speak. Maria thought this would be a great idea because she, as well as 5.5 million other readers saw an article in the January edition of Readers’ Digest. The article was of course called “The Miracle Baby of Buffalo Creek.” Now Maria of course knew this story before the article, but millions of others had simply not heard it, or even of The Buffalo Creek Disaster. It happened in a time when we didn’t have the internet or mass media news.

As I got older and started to read all the books, documentaries and reports on the disaster I started to notice that my story was never there. I always found it odd because I was always being reminded about being The Miracle Baby a lot from the community. This disaster is in the minds of everyone on Buffalo Creek to this day. I recently got to speak to some of the women of Buffalo Creek who told me they still have night mares  and very vivid memories of that day.

But because of this recent notoriety in Readers Digest. It made me dwell on my story. Sometimes I feel like I’d told it so many times that I wasn’t for sure if even I was telling it correctly. So I had to go thru articles and ask family members to remind me of the specific details or if i was missing something. I was nine months old after all. I have no actual memories of that day. Thank God.

 All of my life I thought this story was about me. How they found me. How old I was, how I made it thru this. But the more and more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is a story not about me but a story about my father. Robert Albright.

Robert grew up with the definition of humble beginnings. My dad grew up as the son of Coal Miner and he had 11 brothers and sisters. He use to tell me stories about how he and his brother would be so hot in the summer that they would sleep under the house on the dirt simply because it was cooler. He never really seemed to complain about his childhood to me. He just kinda told me that’s the way it was. He was really proud of one moment though. That was the day that he and his brothers saved up all of their money from doing odd jobs around the camp and actually saved up to buy their Mom a refrigerator. Not a new refrigerator but a frig. I was young when he told me that story; I wish I would have asked what they were doing without one. I also had one rule growing up and that was to turn the overhead light off in the living room. This was because they didn’t have any light covers in their home and it was just one bright bulb hanging from the ceiling that hurt his eyes. So only lamps were allowed in the living room.

He went to school and was happy until he reached 6th grade. He told me that it was too embarrassing to go each day because he only had one outfit. He said “I didn’t have no clothes decent to wear anyway.”  After school he’d race home with his brothers because who ever got home first got to wear the one pair of jeans they had for the entire family, of ELEVEN. So for school….he simply quit. Now, I always found this story to be odd because my father always wore the same exact outfit everyday anyway. Seriously, at the end of each day he would take his outfit off and neatly place or hang it up. Then wake up and put it right back on. I guess it’s different when you have that choice.

My dad knew poverty and swore that he would do better for his family when he had one. So he became a coal miner and started off not really knowing anything in 1942 making very little but he worked very hard and became one of their best electricians. By 1972 he was making $42.80 a day and he could work as much overtime as he wanted.

He married a beautiful woman named Sylvia Bailey and they had two sons named Steve and Terry. Steve was a very talented saxophone player who had received a scholarship at a University.  Terry… well, let’s say he was the rebel in the family. To give an example of his rebelliousness I was told by a very special girl in his life that for today I will call Peggy Sparks Browning. Well, Peggy told me that he had an old truck and on the side of it he had put…. “Don’t laugh! Your daughters in here!” So…That was Terry.

Terry was later drafted into The Vietnam War. He did NOT want to go. This rebel was not happy about it. At one point he even wanted to run away to Canada. But a lot of people thought the army was going to be a good thing for this rebel. Because he needed some discipline and The United States army was good for that. Terry kept fighting it though, and threatening CANADA. My dad finally sat him down one day and told him he was going to the army because it was the right thing to do. So finally this rebel bowed down and listened to the words of his father. Even though terry knew in his heart that he wouldn’t return. When I say he knew, several people have told me that he seriously knew this. It wasn’t the fear of going. It was the fear of not coming back.

Terry was murdered in Vietnam by a fellow soldier and rather than recall what I was told I would like to read to you a letter that was sent to me a few years ago by Terry’s best friend in the Army. The man who stood beside him as he was murdered. This is Rudy’s letter to me.

That isn’t quite right, here is what happened.

The platoon was stopped to do some maintenance on our vehicles. Terry and I were working on our tank and decided to go to the road where some Vietnamese girls were selling beer and soda pop and get us something to drink. Terry was in country before I was so I kind of picked him as my teacher to show me the ropes. I was in country for only four months at the time. Anyway we walked to the road and left our rifles at the tank because it was supposed to be fairly secure where we were. We were talking to one of the girls when she gave Terry a bright yellow towel, which we thought was pretty cool being we live in a world of OD GREEN. Shortly after a GI came up to me and Terry and told Terry he wanted the towel. Terry told him no and we went back to talking. The  GI cussed at Terry and Terry told in no again with a few cuss words of his own. The GI then told Terry to give him the towel or he would blow him away. Being that term was used every day we didn’t pay it any mind and told him to get screwed and went back talking to the girl. The GI then selected auto and his M 16 and fired several rounds into Terry. I watched Terry fall and the GI then turned the rifle on me and said “you are his friend you’re next”. I don’t know what I said to the guy but he didn’t shoot me. I don’t know what happened after that, I can’t remember how or who stopped him no matter how much I try. I feel I should have done something to stop it. I am sorry. Terry was a good man and didn’t deserve to die like that.

Rudy G. Morris

The army actually did inform my family of this story. There was no cover up or conspiracy and Terry’s death was listed as a homicide.

Needless to say this devastated my father and he never really got over the fact that it was his demands, as his father, that he went. I remember every year on Terry’s birthday I could see my dad staring blankly at the floor. I could see he was concerned but as a child I didn’t quite understand those emotions just yet. But he’s always pause from his stare and look at me and say…ya know…He wanted to go to Canada.

After Terry’s death it was brought to my Mom and Dad’s attention that a cousin was pregnant and had decided that she was not going to be able to care for the child. Robert and Sylvia had always wanted and third child and this might be a good time for the addition. So I was adopted and Named Kerry, after my brother Terry. My dad told me that they had signed the adoption papers before I was born. He said. So no matter what you came out looking like, I was going to have to take you. Thanks Dad.

As a baby, from what I have heard, I was really cute. I was just this perfect little blonde angel that was sent from the heavens. They were obsessed over me. Even Steve, The 17 year old son would carry me around and take me everywhere and show me off as his baby brother.

Everything was getting better and life was slowly coming back from the shock of Terry’s death. Steve had received a scholarship for his ability to play tenor sax. He was very excited to be attending a concert at the college but unfortunately it had rained so hard the past few days that they decided that it wasn’t safe to go. So, no big deal, they decided to just stay home and have a family night.

Then they heard car horns blowing and people screaming. Steve ran outside to investigate only to find a 20 foot wall of black water coming directly at him. Now, I’d like to stop for a moment and just point something out. Just 5 seconds ago I was talking to you about how my brother was on a scholarship for college, My Mom and Dad were slowly recovering from Terry’s death and they had this wonderful new bundle of joy in their lives, me. Then in the blinking of an eye life changed. It changed because this is what happens when a dam breaks. When a dam breaks and you basically live in its path you don’t get to make a quick call or grab a bag. You do the ONLY thing you can do and that’s RUN.

This is exactly what my mom and brother did. They were running with me to get to higher ground on the mountain side. Some people had already made it and they were screaming for my family to make it too. The beginning of the wave of water had risen above their ankles and they could no longer pick their feet up.  The force of the water itself and the fact that the water was a black sludge created suction and made it difficult to lift their feet. They knew they were not going to make it. There was no time left. So without hesitation in a last moment effort they counted to three and threw me at nine months old as far as they could to the mountainside. Even with every ounce of life they had left it still was not enough to get me to safety and the water took all three us with it. This is how I lost my mother and brother.

After I was separated from them, it was just me, the millions of gallons of black muddy water that carried me and God. I’m nine months old and being drug away by a tsunami of chemicals, debris and negligence. The raging water was so powerful that it would pick up houses and crush them. Some people could be seen literally riding on the tops of their homes as the water took them away.

After the wall of water had passed and the ground could be seen again the people of Buffalo Creek immediately started to look for survivors. But they didn’t expect to find anyone because who could survive a disaster that crushed your home, carried your car away and left an entire community covered in a black chemical based sludge.

But they looked anyway. It was the preacher and his son, the Vanovers. As they were wading thru the filth. The son told his father that he thought he heard a baby cry. They thought that there’s no way a baby could have survived this. It must have been the cry of an animal. But they looked anyway. Then they saw what appeared to be the leg of a baby doll sticking out of the mud. They grabbed the dolls leg and pull it out from underneath thick mud. They didn’t pull out a doll. They pulled out a nine month old baby and they found that baby because they looked anyway.

If there is anyone that has set an example in my life on how to walk in blind faith it was the Vanovers. They walked blindly and yet they were guided. But I’m by no means safe yet. They saw that my mouth was packed with mud so I had no way to breathe. They immediately carried me to Catherine Gent who just happen to be there and just happen to be a nurse. So she immediately took me from their arms and started forcefully clearing my throat. I had the privilege of speaking to Catherine a few months ago at her home and I got hear her tell me the story directly. She was so sweet and so kind at 92 years old but when she got to the part of the story where she took me from their arms a new person emerged. Her voice deepened.

She said, I took you and started getting everything out of your mouth. I had to force my two fingers down your throat and i just kept pulling out what looked like oily seaweed. It was just strings and string of junk. I have no clue what that actually was. After that she had to make a bandage from bed sheets to hold my right leg on. She said the debris had cut it down to the bone and it looked like a piece of butchered meat. Plus she was very worried because thru all of this I never made one sound. I never even cried. I just quietly laid there as she worked on me. She never even knew who I was because I was covered in that black oil and unrecognizable. Even though I was her 1st cousin’s child.

Now my Dad just happened to be working the Hoot Owl shift when all of this took place. he told me he was about a mile down in that hole and was riding a belt out when all of the sudden the power went out. He was confused because he didn’t hear anything that suggested that there was a problem. But he felt he needed to go ahead and crawl the rest of the way out the hole himself.

When he reached the top he saw the confusion and panic from people. He knew what had happened and he knew the rest of his life that he had worked so hard for was most likely gone as well. He had just lost Terry in Vietnam and now he’s lost his entire family. He feels like he’s lost it all but still, he climbed over a mountain to get where his home and family once stood.”

When he finally got there what he saw was nothing. There was nothing there.  But in that nothingness he still asked…Has anyone seen my family? No one had an answer but a neighbor finally said, I think your baby may be alive. But since I was still covered in that thick sludge, no one could identify me. He finally made it over to the small room I was in and saw me in the arms of my Aunt Patty. She said “Robert, I can’t get him to cry and I’m still trying to get this black stuff out of his mouth.” That’s when my dad, without saying a word , leaned over and gently picked me up and softly kissed my cheek. That’s when I started wailing because I knew I was safe in the arms of my Father.

So we got into my Uncle Larry’s truck and he had went ahead and created a road for us to travel on. He got us as far down the holler as he could till I was put into an emergency vehicle that got me to the hospital where they finally could perform surgery to fix my partially severed leg and to clean my body so the sludge chemicals that were already going thru my bloodstream wouldn’t make it worse. I looked like I was in an oil spill. It took them three days to complete the work on me and my father never left my side. Not even for a moment. Not even to change out of his filthy work clothes. He simply chose to wait.

A few days later my dad went to the make-shift morgue at South Man Grade School to identify the bodies of my mother and brother. They were found 800 yards from our home. We moved into a FEMA trailer and lived in Accoville Hollow till I was almost 5. That’s when he decided to take that trailer and place it exactly where our house once stood. He said… I was born and raised here and I will die here.

My father never returned to the mines after that day. He decided that he was going to raise me by himself and he was going to be just fine doing it. He later told me. I had to learn to cook, how to clean, how to sew….I even had to learn how to rock you to sleep at night. So in 1972 my father became a single parent stay at home Dad and he was proud of his new found domestic skills. Later on people started to ask him why he hadn’t re married and he always had a kind answer. Then one day someone asked that question and I guess it rubbed him the wrong way because this new breath had gone into his body that I had not previously seen. He looked her dead in the eye and said, Because I don’t want someone coming into my home that I’ve built and trying to tell me how I should live my life and I definitely don’t want someone coming in here telling Kerry how he should live his. That person never asked that question again. Later on he told me in his soft spoken voice. You can be whoever you want to be and you can do whatever you want to do.



Feb 142013
OVEC’s Maria Gunnoe with Daryl Hannah at the F13 rally. Photo by the Sierra Club’s Mary Anne Hitt

OVEC’s Maria Gunnoe
with Daryl Hannah at the F13 rally.
Photo by the Sierra Club’s Mary Anne Hitt

OVEC's Maria Gunnoe and's Bill McKibben at the F13 rally. Photo by the Sierra Club's Mary Anne Hitt.

OVEC’s Maria Gunnoe
and’s Bill McKibben at the F13 rally.
Photo by the Sierra Club’s Mary Anne Hitt

Several OVEC members and staff are heading to Washington D.C. for the largest climate rally in history, happening this Sunday, February 17. If you can’t join us in person, please join the rally online. Hashtags in use for the rally include #forwardonclimate, #f17. With your tweets please include #(your zip code), so we get a view of the support from our area. OVEC will be trying to tweet from the event. Follow OVEC here and me here.

In a lead-in event to the rally, OVEC organizer Maria Gunnoe was among 48 people arrested outside the White House yesterday. Their focus was on the Keystone tar sands pipeline and what approval of the pipeline will mean for the climate. As a follow up to that action, please call President Obama to tell him to reject Keystone XL.

Like tar sands extraction, mountaintop removal is climate ground zero. Here’s Maria’s statement from yesterday:

President Obama must end mountaintop removal coal mining. Coal kills from the cradle to the grave. It’s a climate catastrophe and a personal one. We in Appalachia know firsthand what it means when the coal industry moves in and takes over your community. Energy companies and government agencies uproot and pollute the land, air and water that sustains all our lives, with energy as their excuse. This simply is not an acceptable plan for our children’s future. We deserve a healthy energy plan. One that ends mountaintop removal coal mining and its deadly impacts on Appalachian people. No one should have to die for electricity in America.

We’ve collected links to many of the news stories generated from yesterday’s action here (look for the tornado and fist icons).

It’s interesting that these arrests were happening the very day that, 100 years ago, Mother Jones was arrested in Charleston, W.Va. Her arrest helped bring national attention to the plight of coal miners’ working conditions.

Meanwhile, on this St. Valentine’s Day, if you aren’t already in Kentucky for I Love Mountains Day, show your love by joining the event online.

Also, show Maria a little love by helping to garner as many signatures as you can ASAP on her petition here. The deadline for the petition is tomorrow.

Aug 312012

Pick up the current (Sept. 10) issue of People magazine. “The Naughty Prince” is the cover story, but make your way to page 71 for a four-page story on OVEC’s work in Twilight, W.Va.

“Time is running out to keep Twilight, W.Va., from being lost to an extreme coal-mining process, but Maria Gunnoe is trying,” writes Kurt Pitzer.


A final aerial view of Lindytown, now gone. We are fighting to keep Twilight from the same fate. Photo by Vivian Stockman, flyover courtesy SouthWings.

Jun 132012

This Joel Pett cartoon appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday, June 10

If you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to read this Sunday, June 10 Lexington Herald-Leader editorial, “EPA should hang tough in coalfields.” The paper also published the Joel Pett cartoon, at right, that day.

The editorial tells the story of what happened to OVEC organizer Maria Gunnoe on Capitol Hill on June 1. And it asks that she receive a public apology, as does the staff at the Goldman Prize, the “Green Nobel,” which Maria won in 2009.

In his home district and beyond, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and his staff on the House Natural Resources Committee have been receiving some bad press about the horrid incident.

The Congressional Record for the June 1 hearing is open for two more days. This is a public record, and according to House rules, the public is free to submit letters, documents, and information for the Congressional record of any hearing.

So here’s your chance to turn your outrage over what happened to Maria — a woman who is trying to save our homeplaces, and protect kids and families here – into action.

Write a letter now to the committee and to Mr. Lamborn for the Congressional Record.  Insist on a public apology to the family of the young child in the photo, the photographer and to Maria Gunnoe, whom the committee outrageously detained for police investigation because she wanted the committee to see the photo of a little girl force to bathe in toxic coal pollution. Make sure to include that you wish for your letter to be entered into the Congressional record of the hearing, otherwise your comments won’t be included in the record.

This statement should do the trick:  I wish to submit the following letter for the public Congressional record of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Oversight Hearing on Friday, June 1, 2012, at 10:00 AM, entitled “The Obama Administration’s Actions Against the Spruce Coal Mine: Canceled Permits, Lawsuits and Lost Jobs.”

Send your letter to:

Let’s hold Mr. Lamborn and his staff accountable for their sorry actions. Let’s tell his committee that we won’t allow them to continue to deny and distort the truth while taking Big Coal’s dirty money, which it makes from destroying communities, blowing up mountains, and harming families and children, like the one in the photo that Mr. Lamborn refuses to look at. Remember you have until 5 p.m. (Eastern-time) this Friday, June 15 to submit your comments.

Please take the time now to write your message to the committee to tell the members how you feel about how they behaved toward award-winning mountain hero Maria Gunnoe.

Update: Maria says Representative Doc Hastings also needs to be issuing apologies. Please include him in your communication. You can also contact him directly here.

Below are some ideas for messages you could send, but your own words are always the best!

To Mr. Lamborn, Mr. Hastings and House Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee staff:

I wish to submit the following letter for the public Congressional record of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Oversight Hearing on Friday, June 1, 2012, at 10:00 AM, entitled “The Obama Administration’s Actions Against the Spruce Coal Mine: Canceled Permits, Lawsuits and Lost Jobs.”

– What is dirty about the photo you refused to allow in the record is the water – and the practice of mountaintop removal that is making people sick and destroying their water. You can deny that reality all you want but that won’t make it go away.

– Mr Lamborn, Mr. Hastings – I hope you saw the editorial of June 10 in the Lexington paper about your committee’s offensive behavior.  I would like to submit it for the hearing record. (if you choose something along these lines, be sure to include the text of the editorial, available at the link up top).

Send a bathtub photo of your own kids if you have one.  If your baby is not bathing in filth, the message could be something like, “This is my son in the tub.  Fortunately for us, he has clean water in which to bath because we do not live downstream from mountaintop removal.  Please enter this photo and my message for the record of the June 1 subcommittee hearing on the Spruce mine.  If you think this photo of my baby is also pornography you can tell the Capitol Police how to find me.” 

– Mr Lamborn, Mr. Hastings – I hope you saw the editorial cartoon of June 10 in the Lexington paper. As they say, a picture can say a thousand words.  Since you denied the right of citizen activist Maria Gunnoe to place the photo of the girl bathing in mining-polluted water in your committee’s hearing record, I ask that you include this editorial cartoon in the hearing record.

Jun 62012

Congressman Doug Lamborn (middle) (R-CO) stares at Maria Gunnoe (hair only visible in foreground, left) during another hearing his committee hosted on Sept. 26, 2011 in Charleston, W.Va. More info here: Photo by Vivian Stockman.

“I accept the judgment of professional staff,” Lamborn said Tuesday. “If it’s inappropriate, I don’t think I should be viewing it. The fewer people who viewed it, the better.”

That from Rep. Lamborn in a Denver Post article this morning titled  “Rep. Lamborn panel blocks bath photo over child-porn concerns.

He also said, “If it’s inappropriate, I don’t think I should be viewing it. The fewer people who viewed it, the better.”

Guess that backfired.

The Colorado Springs Gazette ran a story, too, “Lamborn panel axes photo of child bathing in polluted water,” and it’s among the paper’s “most viewed” stories so far today.

Remember, today is the National End Mountaintop Removal Call-In Day.  Please make the call.

If you tweet, please follow us @OVEC_WV and re-tweet about the call-in day.

Jun 52012

Congressman Doug Lamborn (middle) (R-CO) stares at Maria Gunnoe (hair only visible in foreground, left) during another hearing his committee hosted on Sept. 26, 2011 in Charleston, W.Va. More info here: Photo by Vivian Stockman.

According to a June 1 Politico article titled “Hill Republicans alert cops to activist’s ‘inappropriate’ photo” by Bob King and Erica Martinson:

Committee Republican spokesman Spencer Pederson said subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) “determined that that picture was inappropriate for committee use.” Pederson said full committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) agreed.

“Due to the nature of the photograph, senior committee staff made the decision to contact the U.S. Capitol Police and apprise them of the situation,” Pederson told POLITICO. “Capitol Police asked for a printed copy of the email and photograph, which was provided. As the photograph was inappropriate for a congressional hearing, committee staff notified the witness it would not be publicly displayed.

The Politico article is available to PoliticoPro subscribers here.

This Mother Jones post has an excellent summary of what went down.

Update:  Congressman Lamborn’s staff is telling reporters that they did not request that the photo be barred from Maria’s testimony.  They say that was the recommendation of the Natural Resources Committee staff, who approached the Congressman with their recommendation and he accepted their recommendation without looking at the photo.

Jun 52012

Maria Gunnoe has won numerous awards for her courage in the movement to end mountaintop removal. Photo by Vivian Stockman

Whoever it was on that House subcommittee who had OVEC’s Maria Gunnoe detained and investigated for child pornography for attempting to show this photo during her testimony… whoever that was, he wasn’t thinking too far past his own anger at Maria for daring to speak the truth about what the coal industry gets away with here.

Whoever made that accusation against Maria made it without considering the implications for the child in the photo and her family. If that person professes to be about “family values,” well, he sure doesn’t care about this family or Maria’s family. If the person professes to care about “the American Way,” he sure doesn’t care about freedom of the press or free speech. If the person (or the person’s employer if it was Committee staff) receives campaign contributions from the coal industry, well, there you have it.

When this went down Friday afternoon after Maria’s testimony, we knew if the story got “legs” it would end up coming back to bite whoever perpetrated this injustice. Geez, how many more people are seeing the photo and reading Maria’s comments about mountaintop removal because of all the blogging going on about this outrage? This one blog alone had more than 25,000 hits yesterday morning.

And how many more people are completely disgusted with Congress now?

After a weekend of worry — despite having done nothing wrong at all — and anger for all invovled (i.e. anyone who wants an end to mountaintop removal), word came late Monday afternoon that the Capitol Police’s investigation was over. The outcome? “No criminal activity.” At least on Maria’s part. Wonder if anyone is investigating the person who used his position to harass Maria. Could this at the very least be a case of slander? Maybe a case of thought crime? What is going through the mind of a person who would find that image pornographic?

Maria, the family of the child in the photo and the photographer all deserve a formal, written apology on subcommittee letterhead to clear their names from any association with the vile, false and hurtful accusation.

As blogger Beth Wellington points out “Would be nice is all these eyeballs on the story would actually write Congress and the Obama administration and Romney about their outrage. Sadly, for the photographer, publications are using Tumblr to reuse her copyrighted image without permission or payment.”

Indeed. OVEC contacted the photographer and contracted with her a fee for a one-time use of the photo, projected in a PowerPoint only during this hearing, no hard copies. We also contacted the family for their permission to show the photo.

Ok all you eyeballs out there, please take up Beth’s challenge. If writing letters is just too much to ask as your first step in joining the movemnt to end mountaintop removal, note there’s something really simple you can do tomorow: join in the National Call-In Day to End Mountaintop Removal.

Update: This Mother Jones post says:  Late Monday, a Capitol Police spokesperson said the investigation had so far “discovered no criminal activity;” in a separate phone interview with Mother Jones, Hayden said the case was still open and declined to detail any specifics. “We look at everything, and then the US attorney makes a decision about whether or not to prosecute,” he said.

This post names the names of who deemed the photo ‘inappropriate.’