Winds of Change Newsletter, May 2007 See sidebar for table of contents
What It Takes to Win the Fight: ORGANIZE!
|Arley Johnson talks about the horrors of
Buffalo Creek at ceremony held at the state Capitol to honor the
35th anniversary of the disaster.
No one person got SCR 15, the sludge study
resolution, passed by themselves. It was truly a group effort by
hundreds of people.
As part of the year-long actions and activities
leading to the Sludge Safety Project success, OVEC:
Organized standing-room-only crowds at the
legislative interims in October, November, December and January,
where coalfield residents told legislators and the media
heart-wrenching stories about the health effects they and their
families have suffered from exposure to water contaminated by
underground sludge injection.
Organized Lobby Tuesdays: OVECs community
leaders, assisted by our organizers, descended on the state Capitol
weekly during the 60-day session to educate legislators on toxic
coal sludge-related issues during the 2007 WV legislative session.
On average, 10-12 coalfield residents armed with jars of black water
from their taps got up before dawn and braved icy, winding roads to
speak with legislators about their concerns and to hand out
Commemorated, at the State Capitol, the 35th
anniversary of the Buffalo Creek disaster, in which 125 lost their
lives when coal waste dams failed in Logan County. About 75 people
attended the event. Disaster survivor Arley Johnson spoke, reminding
us all that we must work together to hold the coal industry and
government accountable so such a preventable tragedy never happens
Hosted an organizing house in Mingo County from
May through mid-August. A local church donated office space, which
we continue to use. Six college interns worked with leaders to
create and carry out community action plans. Using data gathered at
offices of the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection (DEP),
they worked with other volunteers to develop an underground coal
slurry injection site map, the first of its kind for the state.
Continued organizing, coalition-building and educational efforts
with other constituencies which made coal sludge issues one of their
state-level lobbying priorities, including the League of Women
Voters, WV Council of Churches, WV Catholic Conference, Interfaith
Center on Public Policy, West Virginia Environmental Council and
Community Lutheran Partners.