Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Archive list of "E"- Notes newsletters

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October 2009

Major News: EPA May Do Its Job!
DEP Biologist: Agency Chief Huffmans Testimony to Congress Was Ill Informed

Thinking About Your Legacy: An Open Letter from Dr. Ken Hechler

Reflecting on EPAs Announcement
JOBS in the Coalfields, the Right Way
Families in Mingo Co. Sue Over Flooding
Asking the Highest Court in the Land to Hear Our Case
Dear Friends at OVEC
Lindytown - Threats, Dead Horses and Shattered Dreams As the Draglines Creep Ever Closer
Lindytown - From Nice Little Mountain Town to Virtual Ghost Town
EPA Moves to Block WVs Largest MTR Mining Permit
Corps Approves Controversial Permit Despite EPAs Objections
The Trail of Tears - History Is Repeating Itself in WV
Policy Efforts on Family Cemetery Protection Issues
Join the Cemetery Protection Group And Help Find Long-Term Solutions
Awareness is Where Its At
Please Pray for Webster County
Cook Family Cemeteries: Ancestors No Longer Rest In Peace Due to Mountaintop Removal Mining
Coal Slurry: New York Times Nails Clean Water Act Crimes (Many) and Punishment (None)
Victory! Public Water Lines Finally Coming to Prenter
Goodbye Patricia, Welcome Stephanie! - New Organizer Joins SSP Effort
WVU Studying Effects of Coal Slurry Injection on Health
Working to Reduce Coal Prep Plant Air Pollution
Six Southern WV Communities to Benefit from EPA Grant
Judge Thornsbury Disqualified from Presiding in Slurry Injection Case
Coal Country - the movie: Film Debuts To Packed Crowd After Concerns Almost Cancel Showing
Help End MTR and Help Coal Country Have a Party!
OVEC: Power With!
What Happens In Valleys Is As Important As What Happens On Mountain Peaks
Plundering Appalachia - The Book, Is Here!
Chemicals and Their Dangers Force People From Kanawha Valley
Clean Elections - Saving WV From Future Scandals
Why Manchin and Co. Dont Care About Health in the Coalfields
Eating For OVEC Keeps Raising $$$
Carbon Tax: Our ACES in the Hole for Real Change
Report: Global Warming Causes 300,000 Deaths A Year, Toll to Increase
Remembering Conley Branch - May It Always Be In My Heart
United Against MTR:
Red Bandanas, Dreadlocks, Clean-Cut, Old Folks and Young
TV News Fails to Cover Mountaintop Removal Well, Or At All
Nominations for OSM Chief
University Divesting of Massey Stock, Others May Follow
Toxic Legislation: Selenium at the Legislature; OVEC Appeal to EPA

For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

Winds of Change Newsletter, October 2009     See sidebar for table of contents

Cook Family Cemeteries: Ancestors No Longer Rest In Peace Due to Mountaintop Removal Mining

Left to right: Danny Cook, Dustin White and Nada Cook joined members of OVEC and Coal River Mountain Watch, as well as representatives from the Mountain Justice and Climate Ground Zero movements, to protest DEP at the agencys headquarters in Charleston on August 11.

Your great-grandparents chose their resting place. Its on a hill, close to heaven, and to other family members who had gone before them. Youve always known they were there. They are part of your childhood and your sense of your own history, part of family picnics on Memorial Day and you visit on the anniversaries of their deaths.

Imagine waking up one morning to find that a mining operation has blocked your accustomed access road. It appears not to have been an accident, because there are multiple piles of tree limbs and other debris strategically placed in the middle of the road by humans. When you finally scramble to the site of your family cemeteries, you find mountaintop removal mining and blasting taking place a scant couple of hundred feet from the burial grounds. The mine superintendent says he isnt aware of any cemeteries on the permit site.

Most people would react to this nightmare with sheer panic, but not Danny Cook and his sisters Vickie, Delores, and Nada and her son.

The family members kept their wits about them, pulled together and took constructive action to protect their cemeteries, which includes the grave of their ancestor Civil War veteran William Chapman "Chap" Cook, on Cook Mountain, near James Creek in Boone County.

OVEC staff mobilized immediately to work with the Cooks in every possible manner. Organizer Maria Gunnoe assisted the family in initiating contact with DEP and Horizon Resources to gain access to the cemetery. Robin Blakeman informed them about the process for registering their cemetery with the State Historic Preservation Office. Vivian Stockman sent out press releases and media updates. Carol Warren contacted legislators charged with an interim study of cemetery protection issues and worked with the Attorney Generals office on a complaint procedure.

The family was promised that access to the gravesites would be possible from the Lindytown side of the mountain, but they found that was not the case. A huge rut in the middle of the road rendered it unsafe for vehicles. The question was raised also as to why James Creek Road, which the family was accustomed to using, had obviously been purposely blocked. Photojournalist Antrim Caskey and videographer Jordan Freeman documented and disseminated evidence of the roadblocks and nearby mining.

In a show of solidarity, a number of volunteers with Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice accompanied the Cooks up that road with tools for removing the roadblocks. As they were working, Randall White from the Boone County Sheriffs office appeared.

His cousin Marvin White happened to be with the Cooks, and confrontation was avoided when he explained the situation to the sheriff. Sheriff White vowed that nothing would be allowed to happen to the cemeteries, and the group departed peacefully with the promise that guards would be posted to keep watch. The sheriff and Danny Cook agreed to meet again to mark the boundaries of the cemetery together.

Since late June, the Cooks have been in the process of seeking an access arrangement from Horizon Resources to make regular visits to the cemetery without having to negotiate a dangerous road.

West Virginia legal code states that reasonable access must be granted to persons desiring to visit cemeteries on privately owned land for the purpose of maintaining ancestral gravesites. OVEC folks will continue to accompany the family in bringing attention to their situation, and in seeing it resolved to the Cooks satisfaction.


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