Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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Winds of Change
February 2003


 What Part Don't Coal Companies Understand?

Remembering Laura

Don't Despair - Organize and Fight Back Instead!

West Virginia Bill for Public Financing of Elections Advancing

Trick or Treat for George Bush - No War!

West Virginia's Clean Election Law - Let's Do the Right Thing and Return Honor to the Process

China - Nehlen remark unwise

Sylvester 'Dustbusters' Beat Up On Massey Energy

Massey Energy Subsidiary Denied Permit to Cover Another West Virginia Town with Coal Dust

Small Town Threatened by Huge Slurry Impoundment Proposal

Mothman Returns: Is He Sending Us Another Dire Warning?

Ken Hechler: A Hero for Our Time

Buffalo Creek 30 Years Later - Have We Learned the Lessons?

Legislation Introduced to Counter Bush Rollback of Clean Water Regulations

Whose Monument Is It?
Keep Miner, Ditch Industry Rhetoric at New Coal Memorial

World Social Forum Shows Commonality of People's Goals

The Field of Broken Dreams

Hey! The Truth IS Out There!

The Truth is Out There - Wayyyyyy Out There, in Massey Energy's Case

Honoring a Great Crusader


For viewing the PDF version


Whose Monument Is It?

Keep Miner, Ditch Industry Rhetoric at New Coal Memorial

by Vivian Stockman

In 1999, the WV Legislature approved erecting a statue of a West Virginia coal miner on the State Capitol grounds, "as a lasting memorial to the many who have perished as a result of coal mining in the state." While environmental and citizens groups fully support a memorial honoring miners, we had to protest the way the West Virginia Coal Association warped the original intent of the resolution.

In mid-October 2002, the base for the statue went up, revealing bronze plaques that seemingly move the WV Coal Associations public relations efforts off billboards and onto the State Capitol grounds. One plaque features the controversial and legally questionable practice of mountaintop removal/valley fill coal mining.

Nowhere in the Legislatures resolution is it stated that the monument will include a plaque honoring the draglines of mountaintop removal.

News stories revealed that another proposed plaque may include wording that is a virtual coal industry ad: "In recognition of the men and women who have devoted their careers to providing the state, country and world with low-cost household and industrial energy."

Coal miner's wife and a Coal River Mountain Watch leader, Patty Sebok (center) speaks out on the State Capitol grounds in favor of honoring miners, not machines that take their jobs. Behind her is the plaque that depicts mountaintop removal/valley fill strip mining. With her, left to right, are Winter Ross, Regina Hendrix, Dave Cooper, Connie Chojnaki, Bob Henry Baber, Mel Tyree and John Taylor.

How did honoring lives lost become honoring careers dedicated to "low-cost energy?" This phrasing is especially offensive when you consider what miners, the public and the environment have endured from the coal industry for over 100 years. Our lives and our land are not cheap!

The WV Coal Association says these plaques depict the history of mining. If that is what they want to do in this public place, lets tell the whole story. That would have to include mention of (and this is far from an exhaustive list!):

Miners jobs lost to the machines depicted on these plaques and to union-busting coal company tactics;

Communities, mountains and streams lost to mountaintop removal;

Surface and groundwater forever destroyed or heavily polluted by valley fills, sludge impoundments and blackwater spills;

Miners lives lost to mine wars, tragedy and lung disease

Democracy lost to political corruption.

Members of OVEC, Coal River Mountain Watch, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Environmental Council and Citizens Coal Council gathered around the mountaintop removal plaque on Oct. 21, 2002. The brothers and sisters and daughters and sons and grandchildren of miners spoke their outrage at what the WV Coal Association has done with this memorial that was supposed to be about their families, but is instead an etched-in-bronze coal industry propaganda piece.

The groups delivered a letter to the Capitol Building Commission and the Governor, noting that if this public monument is to truly honor miners lives and tell the history of the coal industry, coal-related tragedies must be included.

Otherwise, the monument should feature only the statue of the miner and a plaque that is a carefully worded memorial to those who have lost their lives to the coal industry. Coal industry ads and the bronze memorials to its criminal behavior should be removed from this monument in the most prominent public place in West Virginia. 

On Jan. 2, 2003, the Capitol Building Commission met to hear our grievances on the West Virginia Coal Associations planned monument. At the end of the meeting the Commission said it had no authority about what was on the base of the statue. So, does the WV Coal Association get to interpret the resolution and have final say over what goes on this monument on our state capitol grounds?

Didnt anyone privy to what would be on the base of this statue question the WV Coal Association when they said there would be a plaque honoring those who have "dedicated their careers to providing low-cost energy" on this memorial that was supposed to honor miners? Who defines "low cost" energy? The people driven from their communities by mountaintop removal?  The miners who have lost their lives?  If, as the WV Coal Association says, this monument is intended to honor the economic impact of coal to the state, and to tell the whole story of coal, then there are some very important elements missing. 

 If the monument is about coals economic impacts, wheres the plaque featuring Ole King Coal stuffing a politicians pocket? Where are the plaques for the missing workers comp money, the billion dollar super tax credits coal got, (much of which King Coal got for jobs but used for job-destroying draglines), the bonding crisis, and the all-but-sequestered abandoned mine land funds?

Judy Bonds at the "Honor Miners, Not Machines" protest in Charleston.

Wheres the plaque for the lost economic value of ecosystems that are forever destroyed by mountaintop removal, the plaque for communities ruined water, the plaque for flood-destroyed towns? Wheres the plaque for the millions in infrastructure damage from overweight coal trucks? For perpetual costs associated with acid mine drainage? For the poverty-stricken area the coal industry once touted as the "billion-dollar coalfields"?

To tell the whole story, we are going to need a really big monument!

Also see OVEC's people in action gallery: Honor Miners, Not Machines that Take Their Jobs 


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