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Coal On The Skids

Article By Chuck Wyrostok (chuckwyro@hotmail.com)

Photos from February 14, 2002 Overweight Coal Truck Rally by Vivian Stockman (photos at end of article)

You can really tell when an outdated concept is on the slippery slope. Desperate logic and admissions of guilt surface. Consider some of the testimony at the House Judiciary Sub-Committee on overweight coal trucks this week.

Coal said if they cant continue to break the law (they verbally admitted this), then many jobs would be lost. Well, it seems like drug dealers could make the same case. So could the mafia. Maybe Ill try using that line next time I get pulled over for speeding on my way to a job site: Officer, Im sorry, but Im late for an important appointment and I CANT AFFORD TO OBEY THE LAW!". . . Right!

Apparently, theyve been breaking the law for decades. Chuck Bradley is a truck dealer whose company sells trucks he says can safely haul 139,000 pounds. For years, he said, coal trucks have hauled 165,000 to 175,000 pounds. This is a practice we have done for many, many years, he told the legislators. Now that coal is being forced to deal with it because of a string of highway fatalities, they have come to the legislature with a demand: Let us carry heavier loads so we can remain competitive and we will accept heavier enforcement of the new weight rules. Enforcement indeed! Where has enforcement been all this time? Drivers are caught in the middle, really, being forced to haul dangerously heavy loads that many of them admit is more weight than they would like to carry. Coal area resident Freda Williams put it in perspective, saying to haulers wouldnt you check out the legal weights before buying your trucks?

Heavier weight limits? I dont think so! Not with my tax dollars paying for roads in WV. A state Division of Highways report issued last month said that if you took the 2,684 miles of state roads on which coal is hauled and created a 20-year upgrade plan to handle trucks carrying those heavier loads, it would cost AT LEAST $2.8 BILLION! House Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores, DKanawha, seems to be afflicted with the same twisted logic. He said To leave the weight limit where it is would be to keep our head in the sand on the economic arguments. It would put truckers and the coal industry at risk. To ignore that wouldnt be discharging our responsibility to create good law. Well, Delegate Amores, what about your responsibility to people driving those roads in little cars. What about the all those poor crushed lives, all those broken-hearted families? Could we get a comment on that from you?

Hundreds of residents, union members, environmentalists, law enforcement officers, county commissioners and state legislators gathered on the steps of the capitol Thursday afternoon to rally in support of upholding current law.

While coal field residents held up tiny crosses with the names of dead coal truck crash victims, UMWA President Cecil Roberts, Delegate Mike Caputo, Attorney General Darrell McGraw and others spoke of the need to rein in the outlaw attitude that operates outside the realm of civilized society.

The balmy sunshine of the day seemed to carry a ray of hope, toward a day when law would rule and people could feel comfortable driving the roads of their neighborhoods again.

Please imagine this carnage going on in your part of West Virginia and then contact the delegates from House Judiciary Committee and demand that they be JUDICIOUS! If you live in any of their districts, be sure to let them know you are a constituent. Members are Jon Amores (Chairman), Dale Manuel, Larry Faircloth, Mike Caputo (our champion), Tom Coleman, Kevin Craig, Joe Ferrell, Barbara Fleischauer, Roy Givens, Lidella Wilson Hrutkay, Ginny Mahan,Dave Pethtel, John Pino, Joe F.Smith, Sharon Spencer, William Stemple, Richard Thompson, Carrie Webster, Randy White, Mark Wills, Tim Armstead, Dale Riggs, Robert Schadler, Jody Smirl and Charles Rusty Webb.

Coal lobbyists want our sympathy as they destroy roads, bridges and lives while their CEOs rake in salaries and bonuses of MILLIONS of dollars. Give me a break! If you cant stay competitive while obeying the law, it seems like theres something wrong with your business plan. This is not Podunk Hollow anymore, boys. You are wearing us out with this sad, sad argument. Enough! BAD DOG! BAD DOG! UNACCEPTABLE! PERIOD!


"Greed, intimidation, callous disregard for life and laws and a heartless indifference to the well-being of the citizens and workers of the state have been pillars of the industry. It is time for the governor and the Legislature to put people before profit."

Bill McCabe, organizer with Citizens Coal Council

Photos from February 14, 2002 Overweight Coal Truck Rally at the Statehouse in Charleston, WV.


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