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This news story originally provided by AP through The  Charleston Daily Mail

10/1/03

Enforcement of new weight limits delayed
By MARTHA BRYSON HODEL
Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- It will be impossible for the state to enforce new coal truck weight limits beginning Wednesday, even though the law takes effect on that day, state Transportation Secretary Fred VanKirk said Tuesday.

"It's kind of impractical to expect the startup of enforcement on Day One,'' VanKirk said. "I don't see how we can...

"We still have to put up the signs and (the state Public Service Commission) still has to issue the permits,'' he said.

The new law contains contradictions, including a directive that the Public Service Commission begin enforcement on Oct. 1, while the Division of Highways isn't required to finish designating the network of haul roads until January.

The law, adopted by the Legislature earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Bob Wise, directs the DOH to designate highways in 15 counties where coal haulers can carry loads of up to 120,000 pounds with a permit from the PSC.

Weight limits for all other vehicles in all other counties cap at 60,000 pounds on some smaller roads, 80,000 pounds on others. The federal government enforces an 80,000 pound limit on all federal interstate highways.

Although the bill was promoted by coal industry lobbyists, some shippers objected to the new law, arguing that it has the effect of reducing weight limits. The coal haulers say they often carried illegal loads of up to 180,000 pounds and more with impunity.

Bob Teets, a spokesman for the PSC, said two weeks ago that his agency was "ahead of schedule'' in training enforcement staff for their new jobs and would be prepared to begin enforcement of speed, safety and weight laws on Oct. 1.

Teets backpedaled on Monday, saying there was still a great deal of training to be done.

Initially, enforcement officers will have to work in teams of two, Teets said.

"Weight enforcement officers don't know much about making safety checks, and everybody has to be trained in weapons handling,'' Teets said.

VanKirk said the DOH and the PSC will hold a joint news conference at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to identify the roads that will be included in the Coal Resource Transportation Network and detail enforcement plans.


This news story originally provided by The Sunday Gazette-Mail

10/05/03

Legislative candidates given $6 million, research shows

By Paul J. Nyden
STAFF WRITER

Corporate donations continue to play a major role in financing legislative campaigns, according to a new report by the West Virginia Peoples Election Reform Coalition.

PERC researchers have analyzed donations to state political candidates for the 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002 election cycles.

Julie Archer, a research analyst for PERC, said $6 million went to all legislative candidates last year. About $4 million went to winners and $2 million to losers, she said.

Candidates running for the state Senate and House of Delegates raised more money from health-care providers than from any other special interest group.

Physicians, hospital executives and other health-care providers contributed $475,650 to legislative races more than twice as much as they donated in 2000. Their contributions made up 14 percent of all legislative contributions that PERC identified.

Personal funds and family contributions remained the largest single largest source of campaign money for winning candidates, accounting for 20 percent of all the money spent.

Sen. Lisa Smith, R-Putnam, skewed this percentage single-handedly, by loaning her campaign $258,000 in a successful race against incumbent Senate Finance Chairman Oshel Craigo, D-Putnam. Smith accounted for 38 percent of all personal money spent on winning 2002 campaigns.

Craigo lost the race even though he set a record for candidates running for the Legislature.

Craigo raised $408,587 in 2002, beating the previous record by more than $80,000. Craigo set that record during his successful Senate re-election campaign in 1988. Smith raised the next best amount of money of any Senate candidate, with $296,091, during the 2002 election cycle.

In most legislative races, the candidate who was able to raise and spent the most money won, although there were some notable exceptions in 2002, the PERC report states.

Two incumbent senators Judiciary Chairman Bill Wooton, D-Raleigh, and Sen. John Mitchell, D-Kanawha also lost races despite raising more money than their opponents. So did House Health and Human Resources Chairwoman Mary Pearl Compton, D-Monroe, who raised $211,364, more than double what her opponent collected.

Other major donors to 2002 legislative races included: lawyers, who donated 10 percent; labor unions, 8 percent; coal executives, 7 percent; real estate and construction, 5 percent; gambling interests, 4 percent; banking and finance executives, 4 percent.

Another 19 percent of identifiable donations came from a variety of other business interests, including: pharmaceuticals, railroads, timber, oil and gas, tobacco, chemicals, beverage distributors and electric utilities.

The average amount each winning legislative candidate raised rose dramatically between 1996 and 2002, PERC found:

--The typical Senate winners contributions increased by 86 percent, from $51,159 to $95,372, between 1986 and 2002.

--The average House of Delegates winner raised 46 percent more last year than six years earlier, up from $17,486 in 1996 to $25,589 in 2002.

Last year, the top two political action committees were the Laborers District Council PAC, which contributed $59,600, and the West Virginia Law PAC (representing trial lawyers), which contributed $58,600.

Three other PACs contributed more than $50,000: the West Virginia Bankers PAC, Hospital Association PAC and West Virginia Federation of Teachers.

The 10 top individual contributors included: five gambling executives, two coal operators, two trial lawyers and one business lobbyist. The top four were:

--Ted Arneault, chief executive officer of Mountaineer Race Track in Chester, who gave $33,350 to 73 candidates.

--Jeremy Jacobs, an owner of Delaware North Companies that owns the Wheeling Downs racetrack, who gave $26,000 to 61 candidates.

--William Bright, a Nicholas County coal executive and business leader, who gave $20,950 to 54 candidates.

--Herbert Tyner, an owner of Tri-State Race Track and Gaming Center in Cross Lanes, who gave $17,450 to 35 candidates.

House of Delegates candidates who raised the most in 2002 were: House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, $182,460; and Delegates Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, $131,954; Carrie Webster, D-Kanawha, $90,297; Sally Susman, D-Raleigh, $75,640; and Barbara Fleischauer, $65,685.

Delegate Bonnie Brown, D-Kanawha, received 20 percent of her contributions from donors who gave $100 or less more than any other House of Delegates candidate.

Three others received 17 percent of their contributions from small donors: Fleischauer; Greg Howard, R-Cabell; and John Overington, R-Berkeley.

Delegates receiving the highest percentages of contributions that were $500 or more were: Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, 100 percent; Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, 87 percent; Susman, 76 percent; Lidella Hrutkay, D-Logan, 74 percent; and Joe C. Ferrell, D-Logan, 73 percent.

Winning senators receiving the highest percentage of large donations were: Smith, 96 percent; Tracy Dempsey, D-Lincoln, 78 percent; Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, 72 percent; John Unger, D-Berkeley, 57 percent; Russell Weeks, R-Raleigh, 55 percent.

The five state Senate candidates who received the most from health-care providers included two winners: Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, and Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia. Health-care interests were also generous with three Senate losers: Tom Scott, R-Cabell, along with Craigo and Wooton.

(Jenkins, former president of the West Virginia Medical Association and House of Delegates member, defeated Scott, a physician.)

The new PERC report also takes a look at recent gubernatorial races.

Before announcing he would not run for re-election, Gov. Bob Wise raised $1.21 million for the 2004 election.

Eighty-eight percent of Wises donations that could be identified came from business leaders or corporate lawyers. (Donors who gave $130,237 could not be identified and classified by PERC researchers. State election laws do not require donors giving less than $250 to identify their occupations.)

PERC research found that the types of donors to Wises re-election campaign during the 2002 election cycle were remarkably similar to donors who financed former Gov. Cecil Underwoods campaign in 2000, which he lost to Wise.

--Coal interests gave 17 percent of all contributions to Underwood in 2000 and 17 percent of all contributions to Wise in 2002. Wise helped lead efforts to pass legislation raising the legal weight limits for coal-hauling trucks.

--Health-care interests gave 11 percent to Underwood and 14 percent to Wise. Wise backed legislation passed this year that limits the amount of money that can be collected by victims of medical malpractice.

--Real estate and construction interests gave 11 percent of all donations to Underwood in 2000 and 13 percent of all donations to Wise in 2002.

--Banking and finance executives accounted for 6 percent of Underwoods donations and 5 percent of Wises contributions.

PERC and the West Virginia Citizen Action Group both support the concept of clean elections.

Archer, of PERC, said, Six states already passed clean election laws that set up systems of public financing for qualified candidates. Those candidates have to show they have public support by collecting a specified number of campaign contributions and signatures from registered voters.

To get public financing, they agree to forgo any private contributions. Once they qualify, they get a set amount of money and dont have to spend time fund-raising, she said.

In 2001, the Maine legislature passed a universal health-care plan. In previous years, supporters of that law were unable to overcome opposition from the insurance industry.

One of the bills sponsors said the clean elections law diminished the influence the insurance industry had over the legislature, so they could get the law passed, Archer said.

To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.


This news story originally provided by Edie.net

10/5/03

EU unlikely to meet renewable energy target

The 15 EU member states are unlikely to meet their targets for the generation of renewable energy, according to a report from the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The report, published in the same month as a legal deadline for national implementation of the EU's renewable energy directive, claims that member states will fall short of the 22% target set in the directive. It fears that the EU will achieve no more than 17% of production from renewable sources.

Italy, UK, Greece and France are likely to be the main culprits, the report says. Germany and Spain, however, are close to meeting their targets, partly due to their adoption of 'feed-in' tariffs.

These tariffs are the most successful way of allowing renewable electricity to compete with other, often subsidised, forms of power, the report says. They guarantee prices for producers of renewable energy and are based on long term contracts of 10 - 15 years.

The WWF believes that the EU could still meet its 22% target through a combination of measures including 'feed-in' tariffs and giving priority access to renewables. It also advocates a system whereby all electricity producers, not just renewables, should have to guarantee the origin of their energy.

It urges the EU to develop a legally binding framework for the implementation of a renewable energy target of 25% for all types of energy (electricity, heating and transport) by 2020.

Stephan Singer, of the WWF, said: "Renewable energy is good for everyone - for climate protection, jobs, clean air and for independence from oil. It is hard to understand why governments keep on being fooled by the coal and nuclear industries."


This news story originally provided by AP through The  Charleston Daily Mail

10/7/03

Court officer alleges Massey subsidiary may have violated probation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A federal magistrate has ordered an investigation into whether a Massey subsidiary has violated probation by discharging blackwater into two Boone County streams.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Stanley asked probation officials to visit the mining complex after U.S. Probation Officer John B. Edgar filed a petition last week alleging that Independence Coal Co. Inc. violated the terms of its five-year probation agreement in August and September.

Independence had a 250,000-gallon spill Aug. 6 on Laurel Creek and a 50,000-gallon spill Sept. 10 on Pond Fork, according to state Department of Environmental Protection records.

In March, Stanley sentenced Independence and Massey subsidiary Omar Mining to each pay maximum fines of $200,000 and serve five years probation for separate releases that polluted Boone County creeks with coal-tainted water.

The sentencing stemmed from a federal plea agreement entered into last December by officers with both companies on misdemeanor water quality charges.

With five years probation, each subsidiary was required to undergo at least four environmental audits.

Jeff Gillenwater, spokesman for Richmond, Va.-based Massey, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday morning.


This news story originally provided by AP through The  Charleston Daily Mail

10/7/03

W.Va. DEP settles with coal company over slurry spill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The state Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday it has settled its lawsuit against a Kentucky-based Massey Energy subsidiary over a massive slurry spill that polluted the Tug Fork and Big Sandy rivers in October 2000.

The settlement with Martin County Coal of Martin County, Ky., reimburses the state Division of Natural Resources and the DEP for the cost of responding to the spill and the loss of aquatic life in the Tug Fork River, said Perry McDaniel, chief of the DEP's office of legal services.

McDaniel declined to release additional details of the settlement.

The state sued Martin County Coal in 2001 alleging that the Oct. 11, 2000, release of 250 million gallons of slurry from the Kentucky impoundment damaged the Tug Fork and Big Sandy rivers and killed fish and other aquatic life. The slurry was released when the bottom of the impoundment collapsed into an abandoned underground mine.

A trial over the claim had been scheduled to start next Tuesday in Wayne County Circuit Court.


This news story originally provided by AP through The Charleston Gazette

10/8/03

State settles with Massey
DEP couldn't win slurry case, chief says
By Ken Ward Jr. STAFF WRITER

State regulators last week settled for $600,000 in a lawsuit over a coal slurry spill, which they hoped could bring far more in penalties from Massey Energy.

On Tuesday, the state Department of Environmental Protection released copies of its Sept. 30 deal over the October 2000 slurry spill at Massey subsidiary Martin County Coal Co.

DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer said that she reluctantly approved the deal on the advice of agency lawyers.

- advertisement- There was no way we could prevail in court, Timmermeyer said Tuesday. It was disappointing that there were legal hurdles that we couldnt overcome.

The trial over the spill was to start Oct. 14 in Wayne.

Officials from Richmond, Va.-based Massey offered no comment on the deal.

The $600,000 payment will cover some, but not all, of what the DEP and the Division of Natural Resources spent to respond to the spill, officials said.

Some of the money also will compensate the state for massive numbers of fish killed by the slurry.

In a series of rulings, Wayne Circuit Judge Darrell Pratt essentially had gutted the DEP lawsuit, said Jay Lazell, the agencys lead lawyer in the case.

The judge had ruled against us, Lazell said. We made the decision to go ahead and settle the case.

DEP officials had hoped the lawsuit would bring hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars in penalties to compensate for damage from the spill and punish Massey for its negligence.

Im not elated with the end result, but under counsels advice, and given the previous rulings, we stood a slim chance of prevailing if we moved on with it, said Mike Zeto, the DEPs enforcement coordinator. So it was time to settle.

In June 2001, DEP lawyers sued Martin County Coal over the spill at the companys Big Branch Impoundment near Inez, Ky. Martin County Coal used the impoundment to store liquid waste from its nearby coal preparation facility.

On Oct. 11, 2000, the floor and side of the impoundment collapsed.

More than 300 million gallons of coal slurry poured into an adjacent underground mine, out into Wolf and Coldwater creeks and into the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. The amount of slurry was 28 times the amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez in Alaskas Prince William Sound in March 1989.

Lawns were buried up to 7 feet deep, thousands of fish were killed, and drinking water supplies were fouled. In all, more than 75 miles of streams in West Virginia and Kentucky were polluted by the spill.

Then-DEP Secretary Michael Callaghan sued Martin County Coal after he could not negotiate a deal with Massey to compensate the state.

In their lawsuit, DEP lawyers alleged that Martin County Coal failed to take preventative steps after a similar spill in 1994.

Martin County Coal knew or should have known of the defective condition of the impoundment which damaged the states natural resources, and created the nuisance, the original complaint stated.

DEP lawyers sought not only money for response costs and damages, but civil fines and punitive damages in an amount sufficient to deter further such conduct.

In November 2002, Pratt ruled that the DEP could not force Martin County Coal to pay civil fines for water pollution that originated in Kentucky.

Those fines alone could have amounted to millions of dollars. The DEP can seek up to $10,000 per day of violation in civil fines.

During a Sept. 22 hearing, Pratt ruled that the DEP could not seek compensation for lost angler days, or fishing opportunities lost during and after the spill, Lazell said Tuesday. The DEP had sought $1.1 million in such compensation, Lazell said.

He said Pratt also had indicated that he might block the DEP from seeking punitive damages.

Perry McDaniel, chief of the DEP Office of Legal Services, said some of his agencys claims were novel and that state officials renewed settlement discussions after Pratts Sept. 22 ruling.

Clearly, the bulk of the money involved would have been for civil penalties and punitive damages, McDaniel said.

McDaniel said company lawyers submitted the agreement to the court Monday, and that a copy signed by Massey was received by the DEP on Tuesday.

DEP officials issued a news release to announce the settlement after Lazell disclosed terms of the deal to the Gazette on Tuesday morning.

In its release, the DEP said, The agencies were able to fully recover the costs of responding to the spill and to reimburse the state for the aquatic life killed by the slurry.

Zeto estimated that the $316,000 in compensation his office will receive is actually $30,000 to $50,000 short of his total costs.

DNR spokesman Hoy Murphy said 385,000 fish of 13 different species, including channel catfish, smallmouth bass and spotted bass, were killed by the spill.

Murphy said the $241,000 in fish-kill compensation his agency would receive is actually $600 short of agency cost estimates.

Under the settlement, the DNR also receives $19,000 to compensate for mussel kills and $24,000 for agency response costs.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.


This news story originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

10/8/03

Massey treated like royalty

Editor:

Massey Energy President Don Blankenship dropped by the Charleston Gazette on Thursday to criticize the news coverage he receives. He said he and other businesses get hurt by unfair state laws, anti-business court rulings and biased enforcement by agencies.

What is he talking about?

Our Legislature, the courts, wimpy governors and the regulating agencies have been treating him like royalty and overlooking the devastation he has wrought on the residents and landscape with his toxic sludge he has dumped on West Virginia and Kentucky. Even Bobby Pruett and Don Nehlen have jumped in his corner as friends of coal. Bobby just got a $250,000 bonus at a time when theres no money to hire teachers. By the way, dont think of criticizing Massey policies if youre a teacher at Marshall. Thats dangerous business.

Don Blankenship and his colleagues remind me of spoiled brats whove been handed everything and throw tantrums when they dont get more. His overweight coal trucks are going to cost us a mint in damaged roads, bridges and lives. I dont think well ever recover from the damage to people and property.

Winnie Fox


This news story originally provided by WV Metro News

10/08/2003
Ky. Coal Company Settles Slurry Case
Staff
Wayne

A pair of West Virginia environmental protection agencies has settled lawsuits against a Kentucky coal company over the massive 2000 slurry spill in Martin County, Kentucky.

The West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection and the Division of Natural Resources have agreed to a $600,000 settlement with Martin County Coal Corporation. The company is a subsidiary of Massey Energy.

The company was responsible for the release of 250-Million gallons of thick coal sludge into the Tug Fork and Big Sandy Rivers in October 2000. The sludge oozed downstream and polluted tributaries of the rivers. Many water systems were damaged and hundreds of homes, yards, and roadways were impacted by the spill. Millions of fish and other aquatic species were killed as a result of the disaster. The spill resulted from the failure of an earthen dam holding back a sediment pond at the company's eastern Kentucky operation. Investigators found the dam and 72-acre impoundment near Inez, Kentucky had been constructed on top of an underground deep mine. The underground operation caused the dam's failure.

The DEP will receive $316,000 for the state's Water Quality Management Fund. The West Virginia DNR will be paid $284,000 for its Aquatic Life Fund. The DEP sought civil penalties through the state's Water Pollution Control Act and monetary damages for lost days of fishing on the rivers. The court ruled the DEP could not collect for those since the operation was not located in West Virginia. The state of Kentucky settled claims against the company for $3.25 Million.

The settlement heads off an October 14th trial date for the case in Wayne County Circuit Court.


This news story originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

10/9/03

DEP may settle suit on small slurry spill
By Ken Ward Jr.
STAFF WRITER

State regulators say they will probably settle a lawsuit against Massey Energy over a second, smaller slurry spill at one of the companys Kentucky operations.

Department of Environmental Protection lawyers are reviewing the case against Sidney Coal Co. following the settlement of a similar suit against Martin County Coal Co.

Both companies are Massey subsidiaries that operate in eastern Kentucky, not far from the West Virginia border.

The agency is currently reviewing the Sidney case to determine how to proceed, DEP spokeswoman Lalena Price said Wednesday.

Perry McDaniel, chief of the DEP Office of Legal Services, had indicated Tuesday that the Sidney case would probably be settled.

McDaniel cited the same legal hurdles that prompted DEP to settle the Martin County lawsuit.

On Tuesday, DEP released copies of its Sept. 30 deal to settle the Martin County Coal suit for $600,000.

In June 2001, agency lawyers sued Martin County Coal over water pollution from the October 2000 failure of the companys Big Branch Impoundment near Inez, Ky.

More than 300 million gallons of slurry spilled from the impoundment, gushed into nearby creeks and then poured into the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River.

DEP had hoped to recover millions of dollars in damages, civil penalties and spill response costs.

But in a series of rulings, Wayne County Circuit Judge Darrell Pratt threw out most of DEPs legal claims.

Pratt said DEP could not recover civil penalties for water pollution from a coal operation in another state. The judge also wouldnt allow DEP to seek more than $1 million in lost angler days compensation.

McDaniel said DEP sought to settle the case after Pratts most recent ruling Sept. 22, concerning lost angler days.

DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer and agency chief enforcement officer Mike Zeto both said they were disappointed with the settlement, but approved it on the advice of agency lawyers.

There was no way we could prevail in court, Timmermeyer said.

DEP sued Sidney Coal in April 2002, following a spill of 135,000 gallons of slurry from the companys preparation plant in Pike County, Ky.

The slurry flowed downstream to the Tug Fork, which forms the border between West Virginia and Kentucky.

At the time, then-DEP Secretary Michael Callaghan issued a news release to blast Massey for not promptly reporting the Sidney spill to regulators.

We found out that they had five to six hours between when the spill occurred and when it was going to hit the Tug Fork River and they failed to call us, Callaghan said at the time. I told company officials that that is inexcusable.

In their lawsuit, DEP officials noted that Sidney Coal had two other spills in December 2001.

On Tuesday, McDaniel said he was confident that his office put adequate resources into litigating the Massey cases.

Timmermeyer, who became the agency secretary in January, said she couldnt comment on that issue.

Thats something I couldnt speak to, she said. Id have to look into that.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.


This news story originally provided by AP through The  Charleston Daily Mail

10/9/03

Web site publicizes coal impoundment emergency plans
By JENNIFER BUNDY
Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A new Coal Impoundment Location and Warning System Web site has evacuation plans and emergency numbers for 25 of the most dangerous impoundments in West Virginia, but some of the information is inaccurate.

Coal impoundments hold slurry, the water and waste produced during the mining process. Information on the Web site, www.coalimpoundment.com, is gleaned from reports coal companies file with the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Companies "are under the obligation to keep this information current. If it's not current, there's nothing we can do about it,'' said Davitt McAteer, director of the Web site project sponsored by the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center at Wheeling Jesuit University.

"We have noted in a number of instances the information is out of date,'' McAteer said Thursday. "I think part of the problem is, these are filed and forgotten.''

For example, if the Brushy Fork impoundment in Raleigh County fails, Marsh Fork High School is designated as an evacuation site and emergency command post. One problem: The school closed at the end of the 2002-2003 school year.

A custodian at a nearby school has a key and in the case of emergency, the building could be used, Superintendent Charlotte Hutchens said.

The building's future is unclear. The deed says that if it is not used for education purposes for two years, ownership reverts to the landowner, Rowland Management Corp. in Charleston. A call to the company was not immediately returned Thursday.

The Brushy Fork impoundment is owned by Marfork Coal Co., a subsidiary of Massey Energy. Calls to Marfork's chief engineer and safety director were not immediately returned Thursday.

Publicizing emergency information may lead companies to make sure it is current, said McAteer, a former assistant secretary of labor for MSHA.

The Web site will have information on all impoundments in the state within three years, McAteer said.

The project, which began in June, is funded through a $3 million contract with MSHA. The contract also is to develop a set of best practices for building, maintaining, and upgrading coal waste impoundments and to find alternatives to impoundments.

Federal laws governing the construction of impoundments were adopted after 125 people were killed when one gave way in February 1972 in Buffalo Creek, Logan County.

There have been nine other major spills in the Appalachian coalfields since then. The largest occurred in October 2000, when a Martin County, Ky., impoundment collapsed into an abandoned underground mine. That sent about 300 millions gallons of gooey, black slurry into tributaries of the Big Sandy River.

"The number of impoundment problems appears, at least on its face, to be increasing. As we increase the size of these impoundments, and as they age, we have to increase our diligence about maintaining them,'' McAteer said.

He said those most affected by impoundments, people who live downstream, are unaware of escape routes, emergency plans, or basic information about the impoundments themselves.

The Web site has that information, including each impoundment's height, maximum capacity, average capacity, normal volume, how often it is inspected and its MSHA risk level.

Since everyone does not have access to a computer, McAteer's staff is working with volunteer fire departments and other community groups to circulate the information.

The initial 25 sites were selected by asking MSHA and DEP which impoundments they considered the most hazardous. The goal is to list sites in several counties, some abandoned, some active and some inactive.

The next step will be to post information on 115 active sites, then move on to 300-500 sites that are either inactive or abandoned, McAteer said.

Other project participants include Wheeling Jesuit University, West Virginia University, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, MSHA, DEP, the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training and the federal Office of Surface Mining.


This news story originally provided by The Sunday Gazette-Mail

10/12/03

Massey avoids major financial hit for spill
Most damage claims covered by insurance
By Ken Ward Jr.
STAFF WRITER

When West Virginia regulators sued Massey Energy for a huge slurry spill in Martin County, Ky., their goals were clear.

First, they wanted to reimburse state agencies for the time and money spent responding to and cleaning up the spill, which polluted West Virginia streams along the border with Kentucky.

Second, lawyers for the state Department of Environmental Protection wanted to punish Massey. DEP sought civil penalties for water pollution violations. In their June 2001 lawsuit, they also asked for punitive damages in an amount sufficient to deter in the future similar actions by the company. Trial had been scheduled to start Tuesday.

Last week, DEP announced that it had settled the case for $600,000. The money is enough to reimburse most of the agencys costs, but it is also far, far less than the millions DEP officials had hoped for.

The state got no civil penalties and no punitive damages.

Wayne Circuit Judge Darrell Pratt blocked the state from seeking civil penalties. He said West Virginia regulators could not fine a company for a spill that started in Kentucky. DEP lawyers say the judge also hinted that he would not let them seek punitive damages if the case went to trial.

Will paying the $600,000 in state expenses be enough to deter Massey from further impoundment failures, slurry spills and water pollution?

Youd probably have to ask the company if it would deter them, said Perry McDaniel, chief of the DEP Office of Legal Services. I would hope that it would.

Jeff Gillenwater, Masseys Charleston-based press spokesman, hasnt returned repeated phone calls seeking comment on the settlement.

Katharine Kenny, the Richmond, Va.-based companys director of investor relations, declined to discuss the settlement.

Im unable to comment, Kenny said. Its not a financial matter, so its not me.

In its disclosures to stockholders, Massey has said that none of the spill costs including a new criminal probe are expected to have a material effect on the companys finances.

At the same time, federal probation officers alleged that Massey subsidiary Independence Coal Co. has violated the terms of its supervised release by causing more blackwater spills in Boone County streams. The company pleaded guilty to criminal Clean Water Act violations for previous spills.

The Martin County spill occurred on Oct. 11, 2000, at Massey subsidiary Martin County Coal Corp.s Big Branch Impoundment near Inez, Ky.

Slurry, a mix of coal waste, water and treatment chemicals, broke through the impoundment wall into an adjacent underground mine.

An estimated 306 million gallons of the black, gooey sludge drained from the impoundment. Thats 28 times the amount of oil spilled into Alaskas Prince William Sound in March 1989 by the Exxon Valdez.

About 245 million gallons of slurry poured out of the underground mine into two nearby streams. The rest stayed in the mine.

Near the spill site, lawns were buried by up to 7 feet of sludge. Eventually, the slurry made its way into the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River and the Ohio River. More than 75 miles of streams were damaged, according to federal reports.

Investigators from the federal Office of Surface Mining found that Massey greatly overestimated the amount of rock barrier between the impoundment and the underground mine.

In a March 2002 report, OSM said that the breakthrough occurred when water and slurry seeped through the barrier at the southwest corner of a 50-foot-long, dead-end underground mine entry on the northwestern end of the impoundment.

OSM and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration agreed that Massey ignored warnings signs of the breakthrough and did not take proper steps to avoid a repeat of a smaller breakthrough in 1994. In an internal review, MSHA also found that its own staff ignored warning signs and did not take proper steps to avoid the disaster.

In Kentucky, Massey did agree to pay $3.25 million in fines and damages, an amount state officials say was a record for coal-related environmental penalties.

Massey and the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet agreed to $1.75 million in civil penalties, $1 million for environmental damages, and $500,000 in response costs. In a separate deal, Massey paid $225,000 in damages to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Service.

On the federal level, the EPA has taken no enforcement action against Massey for pollution of the nations waters.

I think we deferred to the state, said Carl Terry, a spokesman for EPAs regional office in Atlanta.

OSM also deferred to Kentucky, which has primary authority to police strip mining within its borders.

MSHA cited Massey for two serious mine safety violations, and fined the company $110,000.

But in August, a federal administrative law judge threw out one of those two citations. MSHA has not indicated whether it will appeal.

Earlier this year, Massey disclosed to its stockholders that a federal prosecutor in Eastern Kentucky has launched a criminal investigation of the spill. Prosecutors have refused to comment.

In March 2001, EPA reached an agreement with Massey that required the company to pay to clean up the spill damage.

Through June 30, 2003, Massey reported that it had paid $58.8 million of cleanup costs related to the spill, according to financial disclosures filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Of that, about $52.5 million has been paid directly or reimbursed by insurance companies.

Massey has also settled with one of its insurers a claim for $21 million in coverage for profits lost while the Martin County operation was closed after the spill.

Massey also announced in February that it had settled civil cases covering nearly all of the remaining plaintiffs who sued the company for damages caused by the spill.

It is another important and positive step towards final resolution of all the matters related to the Martin County slurry spill, Massey CEO Don Blankenship said at the time.

In SEC filings, Massey assured stockholders that lawsuit costs are also being covered by insurance policies.

Most of the claims, fines, penalties and lawsuits from the impoundment failure have been satisfied or settled, the company said.

Massey continues to seek insurance reimbursement of any and all covered costs.

In the West Virginia case, Massey will write two checks.

One will reimburse the state Division of Natural Resources for all but $600 of its response costs and aquatic life damages. The other will pay DEP for all but $30,000 to $50,000 of its response costs.

In all, DEP will get $316,000 and DNR $284,000 of the settlement.

DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer said she doesnt know if those payments will deter future Massey environmental violations.

Thats something that the company needs to answer, Timmermeyer said. Were charged with regulating this industry and bringing appropriate enforcement actions, and were prepared to do that.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.


This news story originally provided by WV Metro News

10/13/2003

Coal Truck Wreck Closes Busy Highway
Staff
Fort Gay

Emergency crews in Wayne County are working to clear busy U.S. Route-52 of damaged coal trucks after a big wreck this morning.

Police say four coal trucks were involved in the crash and there were several injuries.

The drivers were taken to local hospitals. Authorities say it will likely take most of the day to clear the highway. The wreck happened in the town of Fort Gay.


This news story originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

10/14/03

Water use
Plan now or suffer later

Big industry interests were uncooperative at a recent meeting with lawmakers and others working on water-use plans for the state.

State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, thought he had the makings of an agreement. He wants nonfarm businesses that use more than 100,000 gallons of water a day to report the amounts they use to the state. They would pay a fee to cover the cost of collecting the data. The state could analyze the data and use it for future planning, and possibly regulation.

Some business representatives were unfriendly to the idea.

Tom Boggs, speaking for the state Chamber of Commerce, said a registration process would be an undue burden on small businesses. However, small businesses would be exempt under Ungers proposal.

It is difficult to believe such a registry would be burdensome for large businesses either. They already comply with similar requirements in other states.

Arch Coal lobbyist John Snider, former director of the state Development Office, was even more direct.

Its our water, Snider said. Thus, his argument goes, Arch or any other company should be able to do as it wishes with water on its own property without even reporting it for the common good.

If Arch Coal existed in a vacuum, with no neighbors and no one else who is harmed or helped by the companys actions, that would be true. But then, who would buy the coal and electricity that Arch helps to create?

After the meeting, some representatives softened their comments.

Karen Price, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, said her group does not oppose the states collecting water-use data. But manufacturers would not want the state to issue permits or assess taxes for water use because it would add to the cost of doing business.

Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said his group is not currently supporting a process to report water use, but is open to discussion.

Its too bad the Chamber cant embrace even the idea of revealing water consumption. West Virginia is one of the few states without a water-use law and no mechanism to track how much water is pumped out of the states rivers, streams, lakes or ground.

This is a chance for the states business community to demonstrate that it is not shortsighted. Everyone has an interest in the states water resources. The effects of any one persons or companys actions do not necessarily stop at property boundaries.

If West Virginia ever acquires the kind of diversified economy and neighborhoods full of growing young families that its leaders say they want, the state will need a plan to sustain its water supply and its economic development. What is wrong with that?

Agricultural businesses that use more than 100,000 gallons a day should be included as well.

Its no coincidence that Unger, who comes from one of the states few growing counties with big-time suburban problems, recognizes this issue.

Its time for the rest of the state to pay attention.


This news story originally provided by WV Metro News

10/14/2003

Drivers Prepare to Haul Heavy -- Legally
Staff
Logan

Coal truck drivers from all over the southern part of West Virginia and the northern part of Virginia are buying permits from the state Public Service Commission so they can haul heavier loads in 15 southern counties.

The PSC is selling the permits at Chief Logan State Park Conference Center Monday and Tuesday. Weight Enforcement officials will be in Raleigh County later this week.

PSC Weight Enforcement official Jeff Davis says come November 1, coal truck drivers need a special permit to haul up to 120,000 on the designated roads in the 15 counties. Davis says the permits $600. He says money will go back into the state coffers to pay for road and bridge repair caused by the extra weight.

Truckers from as far away as northern Virginia showed up at Chief Logan just to fill out their paperwork and hand over their $600 check. Drivers Danny Stacy and Mickey Matney both haul coal in Mingo County. Neither is pleased about having to shell out that kind of money. But they say in order to haul over the current 80,000 limit; they have to make some concessions.

Matney says the thing he worries most about now is keeping insurance on his coal truck. He says its becoming more and more difficult in West Virginia to obtain insurance.

PSC workers will move their mobile office to Raleigh County later this week for two days. They say it's their way of trying to reach out to the public and make it easier for coal truck drivers to get a permit. Drivers who can't make it to either the Logan or Raleigh location can still apply and buy their permit at the PSC's Charleston office.

Davis says if a driver is caught carrying over the 80,000-pound limit without a permit, they face a fine. But if drivers have a permit and are caught hauling more than 120,000 PSC officials say they are looking at steeper fines.

The new coal haul route system doesn't go into effect until January 1st, but the PSC says they wanted to get drivers now.


This news story originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

10/15/03

West Virginian among Bush's "most influential'' campaign donors
By MARTHA BRYSON HODEL
Associated Press Writer

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia coal and timber baron James H. "Buck'' Harless is among 14 political contributors to President Bush cited in a Common Cause report about how the donors' influence has swayed public policy.

Harless, 83, "campaigned and fundraised and changed the odds for George W. Bush in West Virginia'' during the 2000 election, the report said.

He raised at least $250,000 for Bush from other donors, and personally contributed $5,000 to the Bush recount fund in Florida and $100,000 to the Bush-Cheney inauguration, for a total of $355,000, according to the report prepared by James Benton, a research analyst for Common Cause in Washington, D.C.

The report was prepared as part of a Common Cause initiative to push for public financing of national political campaigns, Benton said.

"The presidential public financing system needs to be strengthened so that everyday folks can have an opportunity to give without worrying that the guy who raises the most money is automatically going to win,'' Benton said.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan public interest lobby financed by more than 200,000 members. It neither accepts foundation or government grants nor solicits contributions from labor unions or corporations, its Web site says.

"We are not making a partisan statement or attacking Bush, per se,'' Benton said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

"If there are Democrats that start bypassing public financing in favor of private contributions, we will be looking at them as well.''

The report focuses on 14 so-called "Pioneers,'' Bush supporters who raised at least $100,000 for the president.

Harless was not available to respond to questions Monday and Tuesday, according to a woman who answered the telephone in his Gilbert office.

In most cases, the Common Cause report does not cite evidence that the Pioneers themselves intervened in public policy. The report focuses on the contributors' business interests and policy changes by the Bush Administration that affected those businesses.

Harless is the founder and chairman of International Industries in Gilbert, a closely held private company that deals in timber and coal with revenues of about $180 million a year, according to Common Cause.

Although Harless's timber operations now exceed his coal interests, he is still active in the mining industry. He was elected to the West Virginia "Coal Hall of Fame'' in 1998, and he sits on the board of directors of Massey Energy of Richmond, Va.

West Virginia's largest coal producer and the nation's seventh-largest, Massey has had a spotty environmental record in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. It was responsible for the spill of 250 million gallons of coal sludge into the Ohio River basin in October 2000; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency labeled the episode the worst environmental disaster ever to strike the southeastern United States.

Harless first met Bush in 1999 "and soon began enlisting mining industry colleagues to give to the Bush campaign,'' the Common Cause report says.

To the Wall Street Journal, Harless said, "We were looking for friends, and we found one in George W. Bush.'' Democratic candidate Al Gore was "against coal'' and "too much of an environmentalist for me,'' he told the newspaper.

In the end, West Virginians voted for Bush over Gore. It was the first time in more than 70 years that the state had voted for a Republican president, and Harless was among the electors who cast the state's five electoral votes for Bush.

According to the Common Cause report, Bush cemented his coal industry ties by inviting Harless and other coal supporters to the White House to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney.

The invitation was extended shortly after Bush announced energy spending proposals that included $150 million more in 2002 for research into cleaner burning coal. Bush also proposed spending an additional $2 billion on clean coal technology over the next 10 years.

In 2002, the Bush administration began tinkering with federal rules promulgated under the Clean Water Act, making it easier for mining companies to dispose of their waste.

Besides Harless, Bush contributors cited in the report include Kenneth Lay, the former chairman of the failed Enron Corp.

The report said Lay between 1999 and 2002 raised $524,900 for Bush, including $307,910 in so-called "soft money'' donations -- contributions to the party rather than to the individual candidate, who can receive only $1,000 per contributor each election cycle.


This news story originally provided by The State Journal

10/16/03

Value of Impoundment Web Site Questioned

Technical Experts Not Involved in Project, Coal Industry Officials Say
By JULIET A. TERRY
jterry@statejournal.com
 

A new online warning system for residents living near coal impoundments in West Virginia has raised some questions in the coal industry.

The Coal Impoundment Location and Warning System was launched last week at Wheeling Jesuit University. The Web site is a pilot project designed to identify coal impoundments massive stores of water and coal byproducts near mining operations and give residents needed information about what to do in the event of emergencies.

WebLinks

The Coal Impoundment Location and Warning System can be accessed at www.coalimpoundment.org

J. Davitt McAteer, project director, said the Web site is the first of three project phases that ultimately seek to find alternatives to impounding coal byproducts in the West Virginia landscape. He said. U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. secured $3 million in the U.S. Department of Labor budget to begin the project.

"Step one was getting the impoundment Web site up and running. We worked with a variety of groups, including the coal industry and citizens groups, in this process," McAteer said.

Project partners listed on the site include coal companies such as CONSOL Energy, Arch Coal Inc., Massey Energy Co. and Peabody Energy.

But the West Virginia Coal Association is hearing a different story from the coal industry.

"I have perused the site personally, as have a lot of my colleagues in the industry. And upon talking with these highly technically trained individuals, it's apparent that very few if any in the industry, particularly engineers, were contacted in the development of the Web site," said Chris Hamilton, senior vice president of the coal association.

"This raises concern and brings into question the reliability and integrity of the data," he said.

The idea for an online impoundment warning system does have merit, Hamilton added.

"Conceptually, it probably has some utility as a means for mine operators and interested parties to verify the data obtained by different mine permitting and regulatory agencies," he said.

But the project earned federal funding for a Web site that "basically represents a duplication of the data and information already collected by mining regulators and government agencies," Hamilton said, stressing that the public already had access to that information.

McAteer said the site is targeting the average citizen who may not be aware of the risks associated with living near coal impoundments. He cited an October 2000 disaster in Kentucky that occurred when an improperly placed impoundment breached into an old mine beneath it, causing flooding in a valley.

"Over 300 million gallons of coal waste went into the ground underneath the impoundment and devastated 110 miles of streams. That's an area 30 times larger than the (Exxon) Valdez oil spill," McAteer said.

"The theory behind the Web site is that impoundments are inspected (regularly), and we have made all those materials available," he continued. "Local fire departments, 911 centers and libraries have hard copies for people who don't have access to the Web."


This news story originally provided by The State Journal

10/16/03

Liquid Assets

Lawmakers Want to Regulate West Virginia Water Supply

By DANNY FORINASH
dforinash@statejournal.com

Who owns the water flowing through West Virginia? The state is one of only a few still operating under common law, which basically means West Virginia has no water law.

Users can take the resource on a first-come, first-serve basis the rule of capture. But as water's value rises on the East Coast, as well as in the rest of the world, lawmakers and advocates are proposing legislation to protect the state's water from both outside and inside entities.

"Although West Virginia has not been ground zero of the water wars, it likely will be in the future," said Adam Snyder, assistant attorney general for the Department of the Environment in Maryland, which is currently in a battle over the Potomac River with Virginia. "Now is the time to be thinking about these issues."

"What has driven the interest in water law reform?" Dan Tarlock, a nationally recognized water use expert and University of Chicago-Kent College of Law professor, asked two weeks ago at a West Virginia University Law School symposium, "Water Issues in the Appalachian Region." "It's simple. Water is the essence of life."

And with many eastern states forecasting regional shortages, West Virginia and its abundance of water could become very attractive in the near future.

"We certainly think the permit issue and the right to withdraw drinking water is a number one priority," Victor Wilford, director of the Environmental Engineering Division of the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health, said. "It's of utmost importance."

Western states, Tarlock said, have always dealt with limited resources and, therefore, have strict water laws.

Eastern states, including West Virginia, will have to do the same, especially with emerging environmental concerns, growing populations, higher use and a shrinking federal government, which is encouraging local governments to make more decisions. The two strategies are mitigation and adaptation. Most policies focus on adaptation, Tarlock said.

"Water use could never be a matter of individual choice," he said. "Questions of alternatives are beginning to emerge."

General ideas include using water more efficiently, allowing new technology to develop new sources and placing an emphasis on resurrecting old water resources. The narrow issue is developing a permit system. More and more governments are determining that "water entitlement is not quite property," Tarlock said.

"Water typically doesn't get attention before a crisis," Chris Jarrett, president of the West Virginia-American Water Co., said. "West Virginia is ahead of the curve in that respect."

But, Jarrett cautioned, lawmakers must enter the issue cautiously.

"It can become quite venomous," he said. "I don't think it's a crisis now, but it's a good time to start studying it."

First Attempt

Reform is both difficult and easy, Tarlock said. It's difficult because riparianism, or common law, becomes engrained over time. Users are accustomed to thinking of water as property, and any change brings political opposition.

It's easy because the state lacks firm policies, allowing discretion to mold strong water laws.

Delegate John Amores, D-Kanawha, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said forming water legislation has been "a healthy kind of schizophrenia."

"We do need to allow these policy discussions," he said. "It's uniquely and beautifully political."

A bill defining the state's ownership of West Virginia's water passed the House earlier this year but died after a change in the Senate. A major issue was the state's right to tax water use, and the final version contained language restricting new fees. Amores expects the issue to be more pressing during the next session.

"We are dead serious about legislation," he said.

States either can reform water law by going along with a gold standard, which could be a detached statute; create strong regulations according to the needs of the state; or form an information system from which stronger polices can come, which is what West Virginia is doing, Tarlock said. In the short-term, a program such as drought management is possible, and the state can regulate basin by basin to build a consensus.

"We're not going to be able to have one set of rules for the whole state," Jarrett said. "It's too different. Let's do what's right for the state of West Virginia before we reduce it to regulation."

Taxes and Restrictions

The state has five basic water sources, said Robert Behling, professor of geology at WVU. Surface water, the most plentiful, comes mostly from the state's rivers and 36 watersheds. Reservoirs were built for flood control and aren't really considered a supply source. The state's springs are modest in size the Eastern Panhandle's are "spectacular but small," Behling said. Lakes are "few and far between." And, finally, groundwater circulates through aquifers, which are underground formations, such as coal and limestone, containing sufficiently saturated material that can yield significant quantities of water.

"If you take too much water, it'll reverse (the) flow," Behling said. "Rivers will try to recharge the groundwater system, and water quality is going to be compromised."

Aquifers have become a central focus. If a coal company can lay claim to the coal on its property, for instance, should it also call the water nurtured by that coal its own? Some coal industry lobbyists have strongly suggested the water does belong to them.

Robert McLusky, legal counsel to the West Virginia Coal Association, wasn't as sure.

"I don't know if (coal companies) actually own the resource," he said at the symposium. However, he still questioned strict regulations. After all, the coal industry already faces tough oversight.

"There does appear to be a risk of shortage," he said. "The question is how the legislation is geared to solve the problem before the water is sucked out. But we don't seem to have huge new consumption in-state."

After all, the state's population is decreasing. Wouldn't restricting outside entities be good enough? Steve Roberts, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce president, thinks so.

The Chamber recently announced its opposition to a water-use law being pushed by Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, saying it was against both permitting and usage reports.

"Are we looking for a problem that doesn't exist?" Roberts asked. "Employers don't need another level of bureaucracy for a problem that doesn't exist. Why not limit the legislation to those who would take the water out of state?"

Roberts sees the legislation as the first step toward implementing a water tax, but some lawmakers say they are concerned only about protection.

The Legislature's special Water Issues Committee meets next week, and co-chair Nancy Houston, D-Monongalia, said something must be done to bring business, labor, environmental and public interests to consensus.

"It's a rare resource," she said. "We're sitting pretty right now. I don't think we should tax the water, but we need to protect it from out-of-state interests."

Other business groups and government agencies have expressed a variety of concerns, including which consumers would have first dibs on the water. They agree the primary use is drinking. But what comes next? Industry? Agriculture?

"Water is lifeblood for us," Karen Price, West Virginia Manufacturers Association president, said. The manufacturing industry uses water for cooling. "Companies tend to be located around streams and rivers."

"I do see problems down the road," Steve Hannah, deputy commissioner with the Department of Agriculture, said. "If manufacturers have priority before agriculture, I see a huge conflict there."

Many of the involved parties seem to agree with being careful, at least.

"I'm not looking forward to the process," Hannah said. "I think, whatever happens, we need to proceed with extreme caution. Water rights are something we don't think about. If we're going to do anything, getting a handle on usage is the first step."

But if in-state entities aren't consuming too much water, there shouldn't be a conflict if riparian law is modified, Jarrett said.

"There should be an adequate supply," he said.

Liquid Gold

"It's nice to go slow, and we've gone slow for over 100 years," Rick Eades, a West Virginia contract hydrologist, said. "I think we can be smarter than other states, and I think we can go much faster without being reckless."

Eades points to the state's 60 springs producing thousands of gallons of water day. And while the bulk of the state's water is surface, Eades sees a goldmine springing forth from groundwater. Marketing these millions of gallons could mean millions of dollars.

Taking all the spring water to sell as bottled water, for example, would, of course, adversely impact users. But taking advantage of the quantity and quality of the state's water could be a boon to the tourism industry, as it could positively affect the state's perception.

"One interesting possibility has the eastern United States recognizing growing problems with its water quality," Eades said. "If we have high-quality water in a high-quality environment, there's virtually no one else who could compete with us."

The day economic drivers are attracted to West Virginia because of its water might be a couple decades away, Eades said, but the time to protect the water from outside removal is now.

"Many people believe this is a resource not at risk and we have sufficient quality and quantity," Eades said. "But science has proven that to be an unfounded belief. The value of our headwaters is going to skyrocket because sources of clean water are fewer and fewer every day."

West Virginia should be prosperous considering it had the chance to take advantage of coal, timber and oil, Eades said. Now all it has is gambling.

"Many of the entities against water law now I think will advocate it eventually," he said. "We are truly sitting on a gold mine, and they will be coming for this water soon. Lawmakers have gradually come to understand this is for real."

Tragedy of Commons

"The amount of water available is fixed," even as consumption continues to increase, Joseph Dellapena, Villanova University School of Law professor and author of two model water codes, said. "With global change, it may be diminishing. And it's safe to predict demand will continue to increase."

Dellapena believes in sound water laws, which view water as a public good that must be conjunctively managed and subject to economic incentives.

In the same way the blue sky is for everyone, he explained, water is indivisible and should theoretically be shared freely amongst the relative population. But without management, the "tragedy of the commons" occurs the first people to get there take what they want, and little is left for the rest. The most powerful pump will "bleed aquifers dry."

Riparian rights are based on the presumption there will always be enough water, which just isn't so, Dellapena said. That's why half of the eastern states have amended riparian rights systems.

Riparian systems come with "inherent instability." What is reasonable use today might not be reasonable tomorrow. It favors larger users and provides scant protection in terms of public value. In addition, it cannot cope with system-wide emergencies.

A market system wouldn't work either. If anyone is allowed to sell any amount, Dellapena said, others downstream lose the "return flow" without any compensation. When the Coors beer bottling company began using Colorado's water to the detriment of area farmers, state courts restricted the company's rights.

Regulated riparianism, in contrast, restricts water withdrawals by requiring time-limited permits. Reasonableness remains important, but a public entity decides in advance of use who can take and how much can be taken. Data systems containing information on current usage, as well as emergency plans, would be required, as management isn't possible without measurement. Fines and penalties would go to environmental needs.

Challenges to stricter systems have failed time after time, Dellapena said.

"It's a regulation of property," he said.

Substantial financial costs would come with regulation, he added, and authority defers to bureaucracy, which has traditionally been prone to replicating errors.

"But what are the alternatives?" Dellapena asked. "First in time, first in right" will cease working when hefty consumers take as much as they want, leaving everyone else with a limited resource.

At the symposium, College of Law Dean John Fisher summed up the issue by saying, "Conflict is inevitable. But a unifying principle is that water will continue to be an important resource to us."


This story originally provided by The Ashland Daily Independent

10/16/03

A Costly Prison: Construction project prime case for not building on strip mines

It's unfortunate that the new $200 million United States Penitentiary at Big Sandy has earned the dubious title of "most expensive federal prison ever built."

The price tag - $60 million more than originally bid - conjures up an image of a plush, country club prison where inmates endure their time behind bars with most of the amenities of the outside world.

But the high-security prison off Ky. 3 near Inez will hardly provide inmates with plush quarters when it opens in December. Instead, the 960 inmates who will be housed behind its walls will have some of the toughest restrictions in the federal system, far more than the inmates at the low-security Federal Correctional Institute at Summit.

It is not the prison itself but its location that has made the Big Sandy prison so costly, and that's unfortunate. What was originally hoped to be a positive example of how land leveled by surface mining can be used to promote economic development in Eastern Kentucky has done just the opposite. Other would-be developers will look at the problems encountered during the prison's construction and think long and hard before ever opting to build on old strip-mine sites. So much for the supposed economic advantages of mountaintop removal.

At the time U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-5th, used the clout that comes with seniority to convince federal prison officials to build the prison on the reclaimed strip mine near the Big Sandy Regional Airport, it seemed like a great deal. After all, the land for the prison had been donated.

However, the problems began soon after ground was broken for the prison on June 30, 1998. Site work - originally projected to cost $2 million - cost more than 20 times that and delayed construction by more than a year. Even after construction began, unstable ground continued to cause problems, including a tower that leaned like the famed one in Pisa, Italy.

However, with the construction problems now a part of the past, the prison will be a huge economic shot in the arm for Martin and surrounding counties. It will employ more than 400. In addition to the inmates living behind the walls, a work camp will house 128 inmates. It began accepting inmates Wednesday.

Unfortunately, many of those good-paying jobs will not go to residents of Martin County. That's because many lack the education level necessary to qualify for them. The same problem has occurred at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in West Liberty. Despite the hundreds of jobs created by the state prison, Morgan County still has one of the state's highest unemployment rates. The same thing could happen with the new state prison being built near Sandy Hook in Elliott County.

All this points to a major economic development problem in this region - one that can only be solved by the people who live here. To qualify for the good-paying prison jobs coming to their counties, those who live there must raise their overall level of education. Otherwise, the good jobs will go to outsiders. And without an educated workforce, other would-be employers will not locate here.

With 400 employees earning an average of more than $30,000 a year, the new federal prison is going to have a huge impact on the Big Sandy region. Here's hoping most of those working there also will live in the community.


This news story originally provided by AP and The Charleston Gazette

10/23/03

Coal trucks hauling lighter loads, PSC says
By MARTHA BRYSON HODEL
Associated Press Writer

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Coal truck weights across southern West Virginia appear to be dropping in the first weeks the state Public Service Commission has been applying new safety and weight standards, the PSC's director of enforcement said.

The state has issued 380 permits for trucks to haul as much as 120,000 pounds in 15 southern West Virginia counties, up from the old limits of 60,000 to 80,000 pounds, said Jeff Davis, director of weight enforcement for the PSC.

The amount of truck traffic "appears to be about the same,'' Davis said, adding that haulers who previously shipped up to 140,000 pounds in each truck have reduced their loads to the new limits.

Some coal haulers and the head of a lobbying group representing haulers have a different take on the first weeks of the new laws.

Carl Kirk, the owner of Kirk Trucking based in Lenore in Mingo County, said business for coal haulers is as bad as he has seen it in the last four years.

"We're so slow, we're hardly moving,'' Kirk said. "The mines we normally haul for just aren't shipping.''

Ted Berry, director of a lobbying organization called the West Virginia Natural Resource Transporters Association, said his members agree that business is down. A hauling business that was operating a fleet of 28 trucks out of Boone County to the Kanawha River has cut his operation down to 10, Berry said.

"The new laws mean a reduction of at least 20 tons from what we were allowed to carry in the past,'' Berry said. "That may be affecting some marginal operations to where they can't afford to haul any more.''

According to Davis, the new requirements for weighing shipments electronically at the starting point as well as the receiving end may be slowing some production.

"Some mine sites are having difficulty with installation, but I think that is something that will resolve itself soon,'' Davis said.

Davis said it isn't surprising that some haulers believe the PSC has a heavier enforcement presence than before. PSC truck safety crews have effectively been doubled with the addition of officers that formerly enforced weights for the state Division of Highways.

It takes at least two officers to weigh a vehicle, Davis said.

"We're working in teams, and drivers might be seeing two or three officers where they used to see just one,'' he said.

Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 17, the PSC cited six companies for shipping overweight in the 15 counties.

In the same time, 130 violations were written statewide for coal trucks that were overweight or oversize or had license violations, said PSC spokesman Bob Teets.

The agency has conducted 27 safety inspections on coal trucks statewide, and seven vehicles were taken out of service, Teets said. Twelve drivers were cited for violations involving log books or their commercial driver's licenses, and two drivers were suspended.

Since the PSC began enforcing speed limits on July 1, it has issued an average of seven speeding citations a month to coal trucks.

Coal production statistics are not current enough to determine whether mining has dropped off since the law took effect. While the U.S. Energy Information Administration keeps statistics week by week, those numbers are based on rail car loadings and do not include coal shipped by truck.

In 2002, West Virginia shipped an estimated 32 million tons of coal by truck, or about 20 percent of 153.5 million tons total production.

The majority, 93 million tons, was shipped by rail. Fourteen million tons were shipped by river, 12.5 million tons were stockpiled and the remainder was shipped by conveyor belt, according to statistics compiled by the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training.


This news story originally provided by NewsandSentinel.com

10/28/03

League of Women Voters makes clean election presentation
By ROGER ADKINS

VIENNA - Imagine what it would be like if the money some political candidates spend on their campaigns did not come from private funding and support from special interest donors.

That's what Janet Fout, coordinator of Citizens for Clean Elections, asked a group of citizens and political officeholders to do Monday during a presentation on clean elections sponsored by the Wood County League of Women Voters.

The 7 p.m. presentation was held at the Vienna Public Library.

Fout was there to garner support of a proposed Clean Elections Act that is in an interim session in a joint subcommittee of the state House and Senate Judiciary committees for additional study.

The Clean Elections Act is a comprehensive approach to campaign finance reform that could fundamentally improve the democratic electoral process, Fout said.

In the proposed bill, candidates qualify for public funding by agreeing to limit their spending and reject all private donations. To qualify for the funds, they must demonstrate public support by collecting a certain number of signatures along with $5 contributions from registered voters in their districts.

Individuals choose to run as "clean" candidates and adhere to the requirements, Fout said.

Fout said the bill, if passed in the next session, would level the playing field for candidates. Under the current system, candidates usually aren't successful unless they are independently wealthy or take donations from special interest groups, she said.

Under the Clean Election Act, any committed person can run for a political office and have resources at their disposal comparable to candidates who use privately donated funds and their own money to campaign, Fout said.

Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood, attended the presentation and said he is a supporter of the Clean Elections Act. He said if the program were available in West Virginia, he would choose to run as a "clean" candidate.

In fact, through the program, he could receive more money than he did from private donations to his last campaign.

"I like the grassroots concept," Ellem said. "I would support it."

Rick Modesitt, county commissioner, said he likes the concept of the Clean Elections Act, but he feels it would be difficult to get West Virginians to agree to funding such a program.

Fout said clean election concepts have worked in states such as Maine and Arizona. She said the concept is proven to:

 - Increase the number of candidates who run, giving voters more choices.

 - Increase the number of minority candidates.

 - Increase voter participation.

 - Allow candidates to spend more time talking to their constituents about important issues rather than "dialing for dollars."

 - Allow candidates to run on support from the public rather than support from special interest groups that may want political favors in return for campaign donations.

"One of the underlying problems in this state is there is too much influence in the Legislature," Fout said.

For example, more than $400,000 worth of private donations from "big healthcare" sources went to funding state legislators' campaigns in the last election, Fout said. The result she said was, "they got a cap put on medical malpractice."


This news story originally provided by AP through The  Charleston Daily Mail

10/28/03

AEP executive talks about future of coal and the environment

By MARTHA BRYSON HODEL 
Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A top executive of the country's largest coal-burning utility sees a future in which coal use is sharply curtailed, a future close enough at hand to convince his company never to build another conventional coal-fired plant.

"We believe we will live in a carbon-constrained future,'' said Dale Heydlauff, a senior vice president of American Electric Power.

"AEP leadership has no intention of building another pulverized coal plant ... The risk exposure is just too great,'' he said during Tuesday's meeting of the West Virginia Conference on the Environment in Charleston.

"This is a global challenge, and it requires a global solution,'' Heydlauff said. "The answer is in technology.''

Without dramatic developments in emissions control, he said, "coal will be largely squeezed out of the marketplace by 2030 to 2040.''

AEP is the largest consumer of coal in the Western Hemisphere, Heydlauff said, and as a result, the company believes it has a responsibility to help develop a new generation of coal-fired electrical generating plants as well as work in other areas to minimize the effects of burning fossil fuels.

It has worked to protect South American rain forests and is working at replanting forests that have been over-harvested, focusing on the role of forests in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen.

In addition to using trees to absorb carbon dioxide, the company is exploring the prospect for disposing of carbon dioxide in certain geologic formations underground.

AEP is now engaged in a $1 billion, 10-year demonstration project in which it hopes to prove that it can capture 90 percent of emissions and dispose of them underground, a process called geologic sequestration.

Carbon dioxide can be stored in very deep, unminable coal seams, or saline formations, he said.

"If we don't develop geologic sequestration, the future of the coal industry is bleak,'' Heydlauff said. "But we are convinced coal is going to stay part of the energy picture.''

Other speakers at Tuesday's sessions included Rafe Pomerance, founder and chairman of a group known as Americans for Equitable Climate Solutions. Pomerance was a lead U.S. participant in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations.


This news story originally provided by AP and The Charleston Gazette

10/31/03

Analysis counts 2002 races as W.Va.'s costliest
By LAWRENCE MESSINA
Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- As candidates across the state gear up for next year's elections, a study released Thursday concludes that the 2002 campaigns for the Legislature were the most expensive in West Virginia's history.

Even though the ballot featured no statewide, nonfederal offices, candidates managed to amass more than $6 million, research by the Peoples Election Reform Coalition found.

"West Virginia is becoming a domain where only those who are independently wealthy or have access to special interest money can run for office,'' Julie Archer, a PERC member with West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said at a Capitol news conference.

PERC traced all but 15 percent of the money given candidates during the election cycle to particular special interests.

With medical malpractice a major issue that year, the study found that doctors, hospital executives and others in health care contributed 14 percent of all campaign cash. Labor officials and union Political Action Committees followed with 8 percent. Coal interests, meanwhile, contributed 7 percent of the total.

PERC member Janet Fout, from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, noted that business interests have outspent labor 8-to-1 in campaigns since 1998.

The study also identifies the most generous individual contributors. Ted Arneault, chief executive of MTR Gaming, owner of Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort in Chester, gave $33,350 to 73 candidates. Another gambling-related figure, Wheeling Island Racetrack & Gaming Center owner Jeremy Jacobs, spread $26,000 among 61 candidates.

The 2002 contributions also reveal possible future legislative issues, CAG Executive Director and PERC member Norm Steenstra said. For the first time in West Virginia, officials from "pay day'' quickie loan outfits gave money to leading lawmakers, Steenstra said. Billboard and outdoor advertising interests were another group of first-time donors, he said.

Among PERC's other findings: the wealthiest campaign was also one of the most significant losses. Then-Senate Finance Chairman Oshel Craigo, D-Putnam, raised more than $408,000 in his failed effort against Republican Lisa Smith. PERC found that Craigo had raised more money than any other legislative candidate since the group began analyzing campaign finance reports in 1996.

House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, collected the most among candidates for that chamber. He raised $72,000, but also relied on nearly $110,000 more from prior campaigns.

Kiss still has nearly $81,000 and is one of five lawmakers with a campaign surplus exceeding $25,000, PERC's study shows. Kiss, a Beckley lawyer, has not said whether he will run to keep his House seat. He explored a Supreme Court bid earlier this year but has opted not to vie for his party's nomination.

Craigo was not the only incumbent who outspent a victorious opponent. Then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Bill Wooton, D-Raleigh, Sen. John Mitchell, D-Kanawha, and Delegate Mary Pearl Compton, D-Monroe, also fell. Compton ran for the Senate that year.

"While these examples show that money doesn't always determine the outcome of the race, they are exceptions rather than the rule,'' the report said. "Candidates who raised the most money in their district won 76 percent of all contested seats in the Legislature.''

Craigo's foe also reflected another trend, the study said. Smith lent her campaign $258,000. One-fifth of the money raised in 2002 came from the candidates themselves or their families, the study said.

PERC advocates the public financing of elections, among other reforms, and has analyzed West Virginia campaigns since 1996. PERC officials said they are donating all of their research to date to the state archives.


This news story originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

10/31/03

Election contributions up, report says

By Paul J. Nyden
STAFF WRITER

Political contributions continue to rise in state elections, according to a report released Thursday by the West Virginia Peoples Election Reform Coalition.

Contributions to winning candidates in state legislative elections increased by 60 percent since 1996, the first election cycle when PERC analyzed campaign contributions.

Contributions to all legislative candidates rose from $3.4 million in 1998 and $3.8 million in 2000 to $6.2 million in 2002. Last year, more than $1 million came from candidates themselves.

Julie Archer, who coordinates PERC research and data analysis, praised former Secretary of State Ken Hechler and current Secretary of State Joe Manchin for making campaign contribution lists available over the Internet.

However, PERC is the only statewide organization that has an entire database in which contributors are identified by special interest affiliation. With PERCs analysis of the 2002 election complete, comparison of four election cycles is possible, Archer said.

The PERC database also identifies most contributors by industry, occupation or special interest group.

Norm Steenstra, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said PERC databases now include more than 100,000 individual campaign contributions made since 1996.

The database shows that campaign contributions from special interest groups increase dramatically, Steenstra said, whenever those groups get concerned about specific legislation that affects issues such as mountaintop removal mining, expansion of racetrack slot machines, coal truck weights, or tort reform that restricts financial awards in medical malpractice suits.

Steenstra predicted political contributions from payday lending company executives will increase in the immediate future. At least two companies hope to legalize short-term loans in West Virginia to allow them to charge high rates of interest for short-term loans to borrowers who need cash immediately.

In 2002, 67 percent of all contributions to legislators went to winning candidates. But some losing incumbent candidates also raised and spent considerable sums.

Former Sen. Oshel Craigo, D-Putnam, received $408,587 in contributions for his losing race against Sen. Lisa Smith, R-Putnam. Smith raised $296,091, of which $258,000 was her own money.

Delegate Mary Pearl Compton, D-Monroe, spent $211,364 in her unsuccessful campaign for a Senate seat.

The special interest groups that contributed most to legislative candidates in 2002 were:

-- Hospital executives, physicians, chiropractors and other health-care professionals, who gave $475,650 (14 percent of the total).

-- Labor leaders and political action committees, who gave $285,558 (8 percent).

-- Coal operators, who gave $223,576 (7 percent).

-- Consumer lawyers, who gave $171,897 (5 percent).

-- Real estate agents, who gave $160,650 (5 percent).

Janet Fout, of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said contributions from environmental leaders ranged from $8,550 to $9,300 between 1998 and 2002, while contributions from racetrack executives and other gambling interests ranged from $180,000 to $240,000 during those years.

Fout also noted that while campaign contributions rise, voter participation rates drop. In 1968, 71 percent of eligible voters went to the polls in West Virginia. In 2000, just 46 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

After Thursdays press conference, PERC leaders visited the West Virginia State Archives to donate copies of all PERC studies and computer databases for use by researchers, students and scholars.

Doris Granny D Haddock, who walks across the nation urging election reform laws, attended Thursdays PERC press conference at the state Capitol.

By examining the corrosive effects of money on your political system, dollar by dollar, she said, you can move toward elections where anyone can run for office. We need to clean out the money changers from the halls of our democracy.

Many candidates already are working to raise money for next years gubernatorial, legislative and judicial races. But no candidate is required to report any of the money they raise until April, just weeks before the primary elections.

To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.


This news story originally provided by The Daily Mail

10/31/03
Special interests donate most when their issues come up
Study also shows campaigns getting more money now
Deanna Wrenn
Daily Mail Capitol reporter
Friday October 31, 2003; 10:30 AM

Special interest groups often contribute more money to politicians right before a big issue they are fighting for comes up, a new study shows, and more money than ever is being poured into campaign funds.

More than $6 million was given to people running for the Legislature in 2002, according to a report released Thursday from the People's Election Reform Coalition.

Norm Steenstra, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said the study shows peaks in donations when a hot topic comes up in the Legislature.

"It's a radar screen," he said.

Of the 10 special interest groups who donated the most money to lawmakers in 2002, four were fighting major issues in the 2003 legislative session.

Heath care lobbyists were the top donors, giving $475,000 to lawmakers, according to the study. Those groups were fighting for medical malpractice changes. Coal lobbies, which were fighting for higher weight limits for coal trucks in 2003, gave $223,000 to legislators in the 2002 election cycle. Labor groups gave $285,000 in 2002 and were debating major workers' compensation issues in 2003. Trial lawyers, who gave $171,000 in 2002, were dealing with tort reforms in 2003.

If campaign contributions are any indication, payday lending could be the next big fight in the Legislature, Steenstra said.

One company has already donated $8,000 to various campaigns, Steenstra said, and another payday lending company that has never given to politicians in West Virginia just started donating this year.

Steenstra said the companies are giving money to members of committees dealing with banking and insurance.

"I bet my bottom dollar there'll be a huge increase (in contributions from payday lenders)," Steenstra said.

Another group donating larger amounts than usual was a billboard company. Steenstra said he still hasn't figured out why it would start donating to politicians, but that he wouldn't be surprised if an issue came up during the next session dealing with outdoor advertising.

"We catch some of these things, but how many are we totally ignorant of?" Steenstra said.

The People's Election Reform Coalition is pushing for a "clean elections" bill that would use taxpayer money to help fund politicians' campaigns. Supporters of the bill say it would help take the influence of special interest contributions out of politics.

The study shows that while campaign contributions are on the rise, politicians still get the majority of their contributions from themselves or family members. Legislators contributed more than $680,000 to their own campaigns in 2002, the study shows.

Janet Fout, with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, says that means most people running for office have to be either independently wealthy or take campaign contributions from special interests.

She also said when special interests contribute so much money, fewer people vote because they feel it's a waste of time.

"That's the sad part," Fout said.

Writer Deanna Wrenn can be reached at 348-1796.

 

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