Stream Buffer Zone Press Conference and Meeting
August 24, 2005
Photos by Vivian Stockman
the event-Part 1 -> 01:19:05 hrs
the event-Part 2 -> 00:59:57 hrs
Citizens Want Rule Enforced, Not Clarified
If mining laws were enforced, then the Stream Buffer Zone rule (SBZ)
would help protect streams from many valley fills at mountaintop removal
operations. The Bush administration wants to "clarify" (read weaken) the
SBZ, but because
so many of you spoke out last year, the Office of Surface Mining,
Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM)
realized it must conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the
SBZ changes the Bush administration wants.
The first part of the study (the EIS) involves a scoping process. Until September 1 2005 (deadline extended after citizen request), OSM is collecting comments on what it should study in the EIS--that's the scoping process. After we the people pestered the agency, it agreed to hold scoping meetings is Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Charleston, W.Va. (If you are reading this before Sept. 1 and need help making your comments, click here.)
Across the coalfields, people weren't happy with the way OSM said it would conduct this meeting. So, here in West Virginia, Friends of the Mountains called a press conference to explain our objections to both the meeting format and the agency's drive to change, rather than enforce, the SBZ rule.
Coalfield residents Bo Webb, Joan Linville and Maria Gunnoe spoke at our conference, each leading with this note:
The law is clear and the law is clearly being broken: no land within 100 feet of an intermittent or perennial stream shall be disturbed by surface mining operations, unless the company can prove the mining activity won't hurt water quality or quantity. We say leave the rule as is and enforce the rule, dont weaken it. Protect our lives and our lands. Do not destroy them.
Bo said: "As much as we appreciate OSM's admission that changing the rule requires an EIS, grassroots groups across the coalfields are disgusted by the process that OSM will be using its initial EIS scoping meetings. OSM says it will not record transcripts of these meetings. OSM wants to break us into small groups instead of allowing us to hear what everyone says."
Joan added: "Mining laws and regulations were written to balance mining interests with the interests of the environment and the people who depend on that environment.
"The buffer zone rule is one of those rules. It protects streams by prohibiting mining activity within 100 feet of streams that flow most of the year and also allows mining to take place just not on as large a scale as some of the mines we see today. Smaller fills are allowed in the uppermost reaches of the hollows where water flows only when it rains or the snow melts. At the same time the streams, communities and environment are protected...The delicate balancing of interests of both industry and the environment has disappeared. The scales now tip dramatically in favor of greater profit to industry while the people and environment are trashed."
Maria summed up: "If the OSM weakens the buffer zone rule, then that agency is legalizing what is illegal and grossly favoring the coal mining industry over the people who have to live with its abuses. It not just a matter of gross inequality, its a matter of our homes, our communities, our culture and sometimes our very lives...Remember OSM, if you weaken the buffer zone rule, you destroy the streams that are the lifeblood of our communities."
After our press conference, we went into the OSM scoping meeting. We insisted that we all be allowed to hear one another, and thus dispensed with the small group sessions. We also insisted that our comments be entered into public record.
We'll keep you posted as the OSM progresses with this EIS.
Below are pictures from our press conference and the subsequent meeting.
|Coal River Mountain Watch volunteer Bo Webb
addresses the media at the Friends of the Mountains press conference
before the OSM meeting.
|Van resident Joan Linville tells the meida why
the stream buffer zone rule should be protected.
|Mari Gunnoe, from Bob White, numerates the
reasons people and the nevioment must both be protected from any
changes to the stream buffer zone rule.
|Bill Price, standing at left, lets OSM know
the meeting with be on our terms.