Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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March 2010

Coalfield Residents and Scientists Meet with Governor
A Victory in Fayette County
Carol Warren: Living the Dream of World Peace
EPA Approves Hobet 45 Mine
Sludge Safety Project Legislative Update
MTR Disproportionately Impacting Low-Income Americans
Before I Was Hungry
Coal Going Down, Naturally
Lindytown Twilight-ed into Darkness
Holding Government Accountable: Meetings, Meetings, Meetings
No CONSOL-A-Tion, Workers Misled About Possible Job Losses?
West Virginias Greatest Resource: Water
Alert Residents Contact DEP About Spill in Area Creek
WV Council of Churches Sets Legislative Agenda
Blair Mountains Historical Status Revoked, Group Will Appeal
Cemetery Protection Bills Introduced At Session
Supreme Court Ruling Makes Clean Elections Work Even More Important
The More Things Change ... Granny D on Campaign Finance Reform
20 - 30 Years of Surface Mining Left
Clean Elections Advance in West Virginia
OVEC Files Notice of Intent to Sue Massey Energy Over Water Violations
Coal-to-Liquid Plant: Jobs Over Health and Water?
End DC-Style Business As Usual Join Us in A New Campaign
Ken Do! Hechler Honored
We Hereby Resolve to Make a Difference
Meeting with the Governor and Kathy Mattea
Hundreds Rally at DEP For The Mountains
Organizing for the Mountains in Mercer County
Going Solar in Roane County - Off-Grid is Good
Watch It, Read It, Groove To It All to Protect It
Global Warming / Climate Instability in the Mountain State
Study: Mountaintop Mining Damage Pervasive and Irreversible
Eating For OVEC Keeps Raising $$$
Coal Company Depredations Endanger WV Family Cemeteries, Part Two
Byrds Words Rock the Coalfield Status Quo
Byrd - Old Senator, New Tricks Has King Coal Confused
A Yell Out to Yale
Standing Our Ground

For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

Winds of Change Newsletter, March 2010     See sidebar for table of contents

Coalfield Residents and Scientists Meet with Governor

OVEC organizer Maria Gunnoe talks with a reporter during a Jan. 25 press conference after the meeting with WV Gov. Joe Manchin in Charleston.

Bo Webb, a resident of Rock Creek, WV, a Vietnam war veteran and someone whose home is adversely affected by mountaintop removal, doesnt take no for an answer.

In December when Governor Joe Manchin met with representatives from the coal industry, county commissioners from southern West Virginia, state agency representatives and other politicos, Webb knew the governor was only hearing half the story. He contacted the governors office to ask that the governor meet with those living in the shadow of mountaintop removal.

After a lot of wrangling over the governors proposed agenda, the meeting was finally set for late January.

Bo and others hoped that the governors attendees would be there to listen to the many different concerns regarding mountaintop removal/steep-slope strip-mining of coal.

Invitees of the governor included Congressman Nick J. Rahall, Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito, and staff members from Congressman Mollohans and Senators Byrd and Rockefellers offices.

State Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin was there briefly; House Speaker Richard Thompson and several southern West Virginia county commissioners stayed for the entire meeting. People seated around the edges included Randy Huffman, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Speakers outside the coalfield delegation, including the governor, spoke about the need to balance energy demands and job growth with safeguards for the environment , drinking water and streams, cultural heritage and our communities.

Webb thanked the governor and others who had gathered and wisely spoke about the common bond of everyone in the room a love for West Virginia. He acknowledged that coal will play a role in our economy and energy future for a while.

He then turned the microphone over to Dr. Ben Stout, a scientist from Wheeling Jesuit University who tests streams and drinking water wells throughout the southern coalfields. Ben said people there ask, "What is wrong with my water?" The answer: arsenic, lead and other toxic heavy metals.

The next speaker was Dr. Michael Hendryx, a health researcher from West Virginia University who has for the past three and a half years been studying the effects of coal mining on people s health. He noted that the more he looks, the more he sees that people living near mining operations have "significantly higher death rates," even after adjusting for other factors like age, lifestyle, etc.

He acknowledged that poverty plays a role and is part of the problem and said that there is a direct correlation between coal mining and poverty. He finished with a plea for greater investment in diversifying the economy and for investing in public education.

Rory McIlmoil, an analyst and researcher for Downstream Strategies and the author of the study that shows the excellent wind resources on an intact Coal River Mountain, alerted the attendees to a report just released by his consulting firm that details the decline of coal in the Central Appalachian region.

Judy Bonds, 2003 Goldman Environmental Prize winner and co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch, had several questions for the governor and others, "What are you going to do to stop the impacts to communities and people?" "What are you going to do about the blasting and water pollution?" She pleaded that the impacts to people be stopped and noted that the issue is not a choice between mayflies and jobs, but between lives and livelihoods.

The next speaker was Maria Gunnoe, OVECs community outreach organizer in Boone County, who won the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize. She indicated that she organizes in communities where UMWA miners live. She has seen mountaintop removal depopulating communities like Lindytown.

She emphasized that many people are standing together. She said that we are running short on coal, patience and mountains, but that we have an opportunity to save the mountains and communities that are left.

Vernon Haltom, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch, spoke about balance, and questioned whether someones job was worth the same as another persons life. He suggested that enforcing current state and federal mining laws would go a long way toward helping to protect people, communities and the environment.

He stated that the DEP should be the peoples first line of defense against coal dust and blackwater (coal sludge) spills. Instead, citizens are forced to go to federal agencies for relief because the DEP turns a deaf ear to our pleas.

West Virginia Environmental Councils lead lobbyist Don Garvin implored those present to take a look at the WVEC legislative agenda and said that our nation needs to be serious about creating a post-fossil-fuel economy "if we are going to save the planet."

Bob Kincaid spoke passionately of his granddaughters reaction to blasting caused by mountaintop removal, and of how he refused to tell her that everything would be all right. The truth is, he wasnt sure when or if things would be all right.

OVECs executive director Janet Keating said the notion that our state needs to "balance" jobs with environmental concerns is ludicrous. When we are blasting ancient mountain peaks to recover coal, poisoning water supplies with toxic coal sludge waste, destroying streams and forests, annihilating entire communities and harming human health the need is to restore the balance.

Beloved native-daughter country singer Kathy Mattea ended the meeting with a heartfelt song by Jean Ritchie. Gov. Manchin gave final remarks, adjourned the meeting and opened a press conference. In his blog Coal Tattoo, Ken Ward Jr. reported:

Manchin emerged from a long meeting with coalfield citizens and issued a call for an end to threats and intimidation against West Virginians who are fighting to stop mountaintop removal:

"We will not in any way, shape or form in this state of West Virginia tolerate any violence against anyone on any side. If youre going to have the dialogue, have respect for each other."

Manchin also promised he would look into citizen complaints about lax enforcement of strip-mining rules by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, but he certainly wasnt persuaded to drop his strong support for mountaintop removal. He said he told the citizens they would have to agree to disagree about that one.

The day after the meeting, the governor asked the Legislature to approve resolutions "affirming that coal is still king in West Virginia," according to the Associated Press.


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