Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

News Coverage 

What will the state's policy be now? Will W.Va. live with coal or be ruined by it?

No answers in Crum firing

State official doesn't meet with protesters: Protesters sought to talk about firing

Residents want mining director Crum reinstated

DEP's Crum leaves post immediately , director says

DEP Secretary Explains Decision

DEP's Crum forced out

State's mining
director resigns

 Fair Use Notice


Why was Matt Crum fired?

August 26, 2003
Photos by Vivian Stockman
When it comes to DEP, we need all the Crums we can get!

It may well have been a first--coalfield residents and activists requesting the reinstatement (rather than the firing) of a Division of Environmental Protection official.  With less than 24 hours notice, 22 of us showed up outside the DEP headquarters in support of Matt Crum, who was fired from his position as  director of the Division of Mining and Reclamation. 

Many folks were extremely upset when DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer axed Matt. Both are lawyers. Timmermeyer was appointed acting DEP head in April and was confirmed in June. Matt had been head of DEP's Mining and Reclamation for just over two years.

Timmermeyer could point to nothing specific that Matt had done wrong. She claimed it was merely a conflict of management styles that caused her to axe Matt. But, having lived and suffered too long under the far-reaching political influence of the coal industry, many West Virginians reckon Timmermeyer was leaving out a few key details.  

Coalfield residents said Matt was seriously concerned for their safety, and therefore was attempting to require his division begin enforcing some mining laws related to mountaintop removal. Veterans of dealing with the DEP said they had never met a regulator so willing to at least listen to their problems. To be sure, even under Matt, the DEP has a long, long way to go before it actually is a regulatory agency--that is, an agency that forces the coal industry to obey mining laws. But, it is obvious the enforcement steps Matt was taking were just too much for the coal industry and its buddies. Once again, would-be-good-guy regulators learn this lesson: try to do your job, and you will get axed. 

We gathered outside the DEP's headquarters in Charleston at 10:00 a.m., asking to meet with Timmermeyer. After some time, Assistant Secretary Randy Huffman came outside to talk with us, apologizing for taking so long as he had been getting a statement from Timmermeyer.  She said she was in the Nitro office attending to the day-to-day activities of running the Mine and Reclamation division, as she plans to have a big role in the oversight of this portion of the DEP. Excuse me, aren't the coalfield residents a significant part of the day to day operations of that division?

So off we went to Nitro. There, we waited and waited for Timmermeyer to come down to tell us the truth about why Matt was fired. TV crews and reporters waited with us. She refused to come downstairs. 

Finally, she sent an Information Officer to tell us she absolutely would not meet with us just then, but she'd be happy to schedule a meeting with representatives from each group for Sept. 5.  That didn't go over too well.  You see, on Thursday Aug. 21, representatives from several groups were stood up by Timmermeyer. This particular meeting (on another mining topic) had been scheduled for several weeks. We were offered only apologies that Timmermeyer couldn't be there, but no explanation. The next day we found out Matt had been fired. Seems she blew us off in order to fire Matt! 

Judy Bonds reminded the Information Officer that within days of his hiring, Matt faced a whole church full of angry citizens. Matt listened and learned. Through his actions, he began to earn the respect and admiration of coalfield residents. Timmermeyer's obviously not going to bring back Matt, despite, or maybe because of, that citizen admiration. 

What will the Division of Mining and Reclamation be like with her taking a more active role? We might be able to get a clue from a her past. 

In law school she wrote a law review paper titled  "So You Want to Ban Mountaintop Mining? You May Have to Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is." Her paper suggests she is yet another regulator more concerned with corporate rights than the rights of real people. The paper lays out the legal arguments a coal company could use to insist that its "rights" had been "taken" if it obeyed laws that kept it from scalping mountains and burying streams. Under Timmermeyer's theory, you and I would have to compensate a coal company for NOT massacring our mountains.

What really needs to be injected into the "takings" controversy is an examination of the "taking" of property we all hold in common--current and future clean air, water and soil. When will these basic human rights take precedence over a coal companies "right" to flatten our mountains, destroys our forests and annihilate our watersheds?  Will that happen under Timmermeyer's watch?

Patty Sebok (l) and Maria Pitzer outside the Charleston headquarters of DEP.

Donna Price (l), Julian Martin and Judy Bonds outside DEP's Charleston's office. 

Randy Huffman (suit, center), Assistant Secretary of DEP tells us Timmermeyer won't see us.

Patty Sebok addresses the crowd at DEP's Nitro offices. The only
person missing was the DEP Secretary, Stephanie Timmermeyer.

Maria Pitzer tell it like it is at DEP's Nitro office.
Timmermeyer chose not to hear Maria--nor any of us.

Elaine Purkey says "Reinstate Matt and Fire Timmermeyer!"

A Public Information Officer tells coalfield residents and reporters
that Timmermeyer absolutely will not come down to speak with us. 

If only...



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