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

Follow the Money
Why Manchin and Co. Dont Care About Health in the Coalfields

Why do West Virginias elected officials have such a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to investigating why the health of our states people is so poor?

After all, poor health costs our state in both compensated and uncompensated health care, prescription drug costs, days lost from work and school, and children who will not develop their full adult potential.

Yet, the governor and many members of the Legislature have blithely ignored recent studies focusing on the health and well being of coalfield residents. Could part of the answer be that their campaign contributors in the coal industry discourage them from investigating?

Although the states population tends to be older, its not just the elderly who suffer from poor health the health of young people and children also appears to be in jeopardy. Recent university research studies have revealed troubling data:

N A summary of a Harvard University study released by West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, appropriately called "Early Deaths," noted that women in four West Virginia counties (Mingo, Logan, Wyoming and McDowell) have life expectancies in the lowest 1 percentile nationwide. On average, these women are losing a decade of life.

N In the town of Sylvester, citizens complained about coal dust and air quality problems for several years before a protective dome was built over the local coal processing plant.

N A 2007 study, "Hospitalization Patterns Associated with Appalachian Coal Mining" by Dr. Michael Hendryx, of WVU, found that rates of hospitalization for hypertension and chronic pulmonary disease increased in proportion to the amount of coal mined in the immediate area.

N Another recent study by Hendryx and his associate Melissa Ahern of Washington State University appeared in the respected journal Public Health Reports. It concluded that, although the coal industry generates about $8 billion in economic activity per year in Appalachia, the societal costs in terms of premature deaths across the region is at a conservative estimate $42 billion, or more than five times as much.

The 2007 Legislature commissioned a study of the effects of slurry injection, after coalfield citizens with our Sludge Safety Project haunted the capitol with jars of their contaminated orange, black and brown well water.

Former DEP chief Stephanie Timmermeyer said the agency had plenty of time and funding to complete the study by the end of 2007. When the DEP finally reported to the Joint Committee on Water Resources in June 2009, DEP chief Randy Huffman contended that, because the DEP had not done its job in testing water quality around the injection sites prior to allowing the practice, they now have no idea whether the injection has affected the water quality. The DHHRs part of the study, identifying possible health implications, has barely begun.

Its no secret that the coal industry wields significant political influence in West Virginia. But did you know that between 1996 and 2008, coal interests contributed more than $4 million to candidates for governor and seats in the Legislature? That includes more than $1 million to Governor Joe Manchins campaigns and inaugural celebrations.

Sometimes money talks loudly enough that the lobbyists need not say anything. It is just assumed that the true human and economic costs of coal production will never come to light.

And coals campaign spending doesnt stop with the governor and the Legislature. West Virginia is clearly following a national trend in which coal and other special interests are trying to exert significant monetary influence in state Supreme Court races. Between 1996 and 2008, coal interests made $868,163 in direct contributions to candidates for the West Virginia Supreme Court.

This does not include the nearly $3 million Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship spent in 2004 to unseat a Supreme Court justice who had often sided against Massey.

Public campaign financing for candidates in West Virginia would help remove special interest money from the election process, along with real or perceived conflicts of interest, by providing candidates with an alternative source of "clean" funding.

This would help ensure that the governor and legislators are free to represent the interests of the citizens. They could pursue policies, such as making health care affordable and enforcing pollution controls, because they would be accountable only to the voters.

For Supreme Court candidates and sitting justices, public financing would mean their campaigns would no longer have to raise money from special interests and attorneys whose cases they may later adjudicate.


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