This news story originally provided by WV Highlands Conservancy
March 15, 2005
by Julian Martin, WV Highlands Conservancy board member
This article appeared in the Highlands Voice, March 2005
A few years ago the Charleston Gazette reported that the coal company's decided to ratchet up their public relations. They were alarmed by industry polls showing 80% of West Virginians opposed to mountain top removal. They came up with such deceptions as the absurd billboard that calls coal a "cleaner, greener" energy and a program that takes their brainwashing into classrooms, even kindergarten classes. West Virginia Power looks like the newest partner in the coal company's public relation scams. West Virginia Power is the new name for the Charleston class A baseball team. The name was inspired by the energy production in West Virginia and the fact that the power of West Virginia government is in Charleston. Their logo is the capitol with POWER written beneath. By all indications the naming of the team is a way of promoting big coal in West Virginia and that means promoting mountain top removal strip mining.
The owners of West Virginia Power must be frustrated that the mountain top removal pending on the edge of Charleston(just 300 feet from Kanawha State Forest) isn't ready for "reclamation". What a coup it would have been to build a baseball park on a decapitated mountain. This would add to the illusion that "reclaimed" mountain top removal sites are loaded with economic development. In reality only 5% of the over 400,000 West Virginia acres, ruined by mountain top removal, has any economic development.
Friends Of Coal(FOC) and the West Virginia Coal Association got into the bidding for the naming rights for the new baseball park. FOC and the Coal Association are essentially the same thing. FOC is a coal company creation disguised as a grassroots organization. What grassroots organization has the money to even consider buying the naming "rights" to a baseball park? FOC even hired Ryan Associates, a public relations firm that is paid to act like they believe something, to speak for them. The same spokesperson from Ryan Associates is also the president of West Virginians Against Law Suit Abuse which helped put Don Blankenship's boy on the supreme court.
FOC is a descendent of the company town with its company store, company union and company preacher. I guess they figured that FOC West Virginia would not be a good name for the new venue. Appalachian Electric Power, a consumer of mountains through their use of mountain top removal coal, is naming the park after themselves for $125,000 a year. The public is putting about $20 million into the team and park but we were not asked to name the team nor the ballpark.
There are plans for a cute little coal train inside our new park to represent, I suppose, the hauling away of our mountains. And how about gagging on your hot dog at the "Coal Car Caf" and "Mine Shaft" concession stands. Won't it be cute if they accept scrip?
Professional baseball in Charleston has always been a marginal operation. To save face the coal companies will have to keep The Power afloat when the inevitable decline in attendance follows the initial novelty. And AEP sure doesn't want The Power turned off so they are probably going to subsidize it even more-heck everyone might get in free to keep The Power on. Now there is a socialist concept! Free baseball!
The Power will no doubt have events like Massey Energy Night and Arch Coal Night. Considering the coal companies history here are some special evenings that would be more appropriate: Buffalo Creek Night in honor of the 125 killed; Black Lung Night with free oxygen hookups; Take a Mountain Home Night, the first one thousand fans would get a miniature baseball bat made of coal from their favorite destroyed mountain.
For the nature lovers there could be The Old Swimming Hole Night or Dead Fish Night in remembrance of the over 1000 miles of streams(longer than the Ohio River) covered with mountain top removal waste. Fisherman's Night would celebrate the fish contaminated with mercury from Appalachian Power's smokestacks.
For the children, struggling to breath and competing with Appalachian Power for air, there could be Asthma Night. Sludge Night would help us keep in mind the Marsh Fork Elementary School children who learn at the base of a huge sludge. A second sludge night would be for the giant Massey sludge pond failure into the Tug River. A follow up could be Sludge Wrestling Night. On Overloaded Coal Truck Night, fans could dodge them as they speed around the parking lots. Flood Night would honor the people killed and homes destroyed by mountain top removal induced floods.
There could be a Scab Night for those who have ever crossed a UMWA picket line. On Workers Comp Night crippled coal miners would pay extra to get in. And during the seventh inning stretch on UMWA Night--Don Blankenship would be stretched in effigy.
The Power intends to honor towns with community nights. Sylvester Night would be a good community to show how big coal treats its neighbors. Fans would have their seats and faces covered with coal dust. Of course the power in the luxury boxes would look down on the game in clean air conditioned comfort. Ghost Town Night would recall all the towns boarded up by the replacement of 100,000 miners by continuous miners, long wall machines and mountain top removal. Jumping around and threatening people on all these nights will be Axe, the violent and destructive looking coal mascot.
To close out the season how about Coal Sucks Night, inviting all the politicians who grovel before big coal. Every living past and present governor would be guests of honor. Remember when Jay Rockefeller changed his mind about strip mining and became an advocate of mountain top removal to get elected and Arch Moore took payoffs from coal companies? New governor Joe Manchin has promised big coal he will speed up the decapitation of our mountains. And don't forget the most recently disgraced Governor Bob Wise's devotion to the coal companies.
I figured The Power people might name our new publicly funded ballpark Massey Energy Field or Don Blankenship Park to rub West Virginia's nose in the dog poop left over from the rubbing of noses in the last election. Remember what's his name, that supreme court justice the Don bought? [Don Blankenship, president of Massey Energy, paid five million dollars to defeat a progressive, pro-labor West Virginia Supreme Court justice and replace him with a corporate lawyer of no particular distinction.]
Appalachian Power would gain far more in public respect if they named our new park the Miner's Memorial Park to honor the over 100,000 West Virginia coal miners killed and the untold thousands, like my dad, who were maimed and blinded for life. The miners are the real producers of the energy, not the power company and not the coal companies-they are nothing without the miners.
Appalachian Power could honor the memory of perhaps the youngest victim ever of big coal by naming the new park the Jeremy Davidson Baseball Field. Jeremy was the three-year-old boy crushed to death, while asleep in his bed, by a boulder from a mountain top removal strip mine.
From Julian Martin, (Nigeria 3), Vice President for State Affairs, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. Want a speaker on mountain top removal? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want a t-shirt with I (Red Heart) Mountains? Send $10 for short sleeves(S,M,L,XL,XXL) and $15 for long sleeves(M,L,XL). Hats with the same logo at $10(soft cotton) One size fits all. Send requests to WVHC POB 306, Charleston WV,25321