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February 2007

Sludge Safety Project: People Power in ACTION
ANOTHER Legal Victory for Mountain States Environment
Waging Democracy in the Kindgom of Coal: OVEC and the Movement for Social and Environmental Justice in Central Appalachia 2002-2003
Help Out Sludge Safety Project 
Goodbye to Sibby Weekley
Surprise, Joe! Gov. Gets Special Delivery from 400 Kids
Big Victory in Boone County for Sludge Safety!
Slurry Communiqus
Bad Water? Better Organize Now to Help!
Sludge Safety Projects Handy-Dandy Guide to the Golden Dome
OVEC Works! - Thanks
Holding King Coal Accountable - It CAN Be Done
Truth IS Stranger than Fiction - Coal Mine Wants Charity Tax Break
And Another One: Coal Companies to Perform Virginia Highway Study
Buffalo Creek Remembered: An Act of Man Leaves 125 West Virginians Dead
West Virginians Take on the FAT CATS
This is THE Year for Public Funding of Election Campaigns
Security Of Electronic Voting Condemned
With Clean Elections, Could We Have Universal Health Care Too?
Support the Push for Clean Elections - Here's How to HelpRight Now
A True Freedom Bill: Public Financing Will Ensure Voters are Heard
Groups, Individuals Work for Environment: Much Vital Work Goes On Behind the Scenes
Going Before the UN: We Z New York, Again 
Gutless Wonders: Corps Issues MTR Permit in Secret
Whose Security are They Talking About When They Say Homeland Security?
Goodbye to Hazel Mollett
Selenium Slugfest: DEP Seems to Think Heavy Metals Are Good For You
Voices From the Mountains and Beyond
Way to Go Dustbusters! Sylvester Residents Win Another Round
Situational Science Man
My Family in West Virginia, and How MTR Changed It
OVEC Gets A New Voice in Washington, DC

For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

Winds of Change Newsletter, February 2007     See sidebar for table of contents

Study Resolution Advances

Raging Grannies attend the slurry hearings.
Raging Grannies attend the slurry hearings. Fanning the paper is Sylvester Dustbuster Pauline Canterberry. To her left, longtime mountaintop removal and slurry opponent and fighter Freda Williams. To her left, OVEC board member Winnie Fox. From the looks on their faces, they must be listening to the coal industry lobbyists speak.

Sludge Safety Project: People Power in ACTION

It appears the coal industry is shocked shocked! that We, the People, would bring our concerns directly to our legislators.

"Quite frankly, we questionwere trying to find the origin or basis of this issue being brought before this committee and are a little lost in trying to find out what the basis was for, the actual origin of this issue."

So said Chris Hamilton, vice president of the WV Coal Association, as he addressed a legislative subcommittee on the problems of coal slurry injection and groundwater contamination. Hamilton inaccurately contended that the only area where theres controversy surrounding coal slurry injection and groundwater contamination is in certain areas of Mingo County, where the matter is in court.

"that litigation is advancing, positions are being taken, and the whole issue is being prepared for trial. Given that, we would question why this committee of the legislature would have interest in substituting itself for the judiciary," Hamilton said.

Chris Hamilton, coal industry apologist
Chris Hamilton, coal industry apologist, we mean lobbyist, wondering why ordinary citizens of West Virginia think they have any right to address their duly elected legislators.

The Associated Press reported, "The West Virginia Coal Association may not understand why legislators are asking about coal slurry and groundwater when the matter is before a Mingo County Circuit Court judge.

"But lawmakers said Monday that they cannot ignore their constituents concerns about the possibility of coal waste contaminating drinking water and endorsed a resolution calling for a comprehensive study of the matter."

The Associated Press continued, "Delegate Robert Tabb, D-Jefferson, told Hamilton that lawmakers cannot ignore the volume of complaints and entreaties from residents."

Tabb told Hamilton, "Im not content on this issue or any other to wait until the court system makes a decision to do what I believe to be the right thing. Im a little offended that were kind of being talked down to I havent looked at this as a judge. I look at the issues that are brought forward and its looking at possible solutions to problemsthe judicial system doesnt wait on us to decide what to do, and I dont think its prudent to wait on them if theres a change that needs to be made.I appreciate you coming forward, but I take a little personal offense at being told that I dont need to look at any of this stuff until I hear a courts made a decision."

Chuck Nelson meets with a reporter at the State Capitol.
Chuck Nelson meets with a reporter at the State Capitol.

Our interactions with legislators be they personal visits, phone calls, e-mails or letters are making a difference! Lets keep up the pressure, and involve more people. It is our government, and our duty to make it work for us. (Be sure to see news about Clean Elections in this newsletter. Advancements on this issue make our work of reclaiming our democracy a whole lot easier!)

It was the beginning of 2006 when Sludge Safety Project (SSP) members really began a team effort to educate legislators on this issue. We traveled to Charleston to meet with legislators; the first time 20 people told their stories to Legislators whose eyes welled with tears. We were successful in writing and introducing the Sludge Safety Bill during the 2006 Legislative Session, but it died (as they say) in committee. Several legislators then co-sponsored a resolution to study coal slurry injection and coal sludge impoundments; that, too, went nowhere.

The 2006 Legislative Session ended, but our efforts continued as the Legislature went to its monthly Interim meetings. Thanks to SSPs work, letters from the coalfields, our allies in the faith community and the efforts of the West Virginia E-Council, in late spring, an Interim Subcommittee agreed to hear debate on the underground injection of coal slurry and groundwater contamination. We would have one hour to present our case.

Volunteers and staff spent the summer and fall discussing ideas in meetings and conference calls, sorting through boxes of old DEP record, creating maps from the data gathered, and contacting experts in order to hone our one-hour presentation to perfection. Sludge Safety Project volunteers plugged away at meetings and conference calls. The Joint Judiciary Interim Subcommittee B heard from us in October. We gathered scientists, government officials, and affected residents to speak to the threats of sludge. Mothers told the committee about watching their children suffer.

Over the next two months, the committee heard from the Department of Environmental Protection and the US Geological Survey. Finally, in January, it heard from the West Virginia Coal Association, with its sorry presentation on why the issue is none of the legislatures business and there is nothing to worry about.

Each of those four months, we diligently mobilized to Charleston. Sludge Safety Project members filled the committees meeting room. We came from Mingo, Boone, Logan, Calhoun, Cabell, Kanawha, Raleigh, Roane and other counties across the state. We were determined to show, every chance we had, that we want this study, that we are paying attention to what they are doing and what they are saying.

On the day Hamilton spoke, the last day of the 2006 interims, the Subcommittee voted unanimously to pass the study resolution. The next day, the entire Joint Judiciary Committee also voted to pass it.

During the 2007 Legislative Session, SSP members walked the halls of our State Capitol. We looked our representatives in the eye, asking: Will you stand with us? Will you support SCR 15, the resolution to study sludge injections and how they have impacted the water and the people of West Virginia? Will you co-sponsor the Sludge Safety Bill to ban sludge injections and impoundments and to study the dangers of existing impoundments?


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