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… and let’s join Robert Kennedy, Jr., in stopping Mountain Top Removal

First… go see The Last Mountain if you can.

Of course, we haven’t done much so far to preserve our WV mountaintops from Massey Energy and the coal mining ilk:

Before we get to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and coal mining in West Virginia and the documentary “The Last Mountain,” let me take a minute to congratulate my generation for having been sanctimonious about the environment for 20 years or so while allowing the whole situation to get a lot worse all across the board. Great work, everybody! Let’s give ourselves a hand.

– Andrew O’Hehir, movie reviewer in Salon

Bobby Jr. is campaigning against the destruction of the mineral-rich region in south central West Virginia where Massey Energy and other companies have already blasted several mountains to aqay, causing regional ugliness, pollution and the loss of homes for people who can’t afford it. ( as O’Hehir says “by some estimates, the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb is deployed in the region every week”).

Kennedy has legitimately pointed the finger at Congressional bribery in campaign funding, which means our Reps and Senators… and local and state officials… have done nothing in thirty years to stop this activity… indeed, most of them have encouraged it.

One of the statements Bobby Jr. has made in supporting the film, the Last Mountain, was this, quoted in the Washington Post last month:

“I would like Obama to stop saying that ‘clean coal’ phrase. I would like him to end the subsidies to coal and oil, and do things we need to do to rationalize free market capitalism in this country so we can have real free market capitalism, and give proper incentives to wind and solar, which we are going to need to beat the Chinese in the marketplace and restore prosperity in our country.”

If you are a West Virginian ( or from any one of the nearby affected states… hell, if you are from anywhere in the country!) Write to the Charleston, WV Field Office of OSMRE (Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement) at 1027 Virginia Street East,
Charleston, WV 25301 … or e-mail to:chfo@osmre.gov. Also contact the WV Department of Environmental Protection, Director Randy Huffman at 601 57th Street SE, Charleston, WV 25304… or e-mail to Randy.C.Huffman@wv.gov.

It’s up to us!

“The Last Mountain” is now playing at the  E Street Cinema in Washington, DC. That’s the closest I could find to us.

Upper Big Branch Mine Tragedy was One Year Ago Today…

Here in West Virginia we are seriously interested in reforming the coal mining industry – whether easing it out entirely or at least improving the pollution of the air and water due to mining practices – but the most important reform necessary is mine safety,

There have been many regulations passed over the years to improve mine safety including inspections, improved methods and both labor and management responsibilites. One year ago today, however, a company called Massey Energy and an inspection system that was basically ignored, was responsible for an explosion in the Upper Big Branch Mine, Montcoal, WV (about 30 miles south of Charleston.)

29 miners died.

Today,

Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, issued this statement:

“One year ago today, an explosion in the Upper Big Branch Mine took the lives of 29 miners in the worst mine disaster in 40 years.  Mine safety and health took on new meaning as we witnessed the devastation and pain of the families, friends and communities of the miners who perished in that catastrophe.

“The anniversary of that tragedy brings us fresh resolve to see that an accident of this magnitude never happens again.

“Over the past year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has been fulfilling the commitment President Obama made to honor those miners and their families by ensuring justice is served on their behalf and taking action so that an accident like this never happens again. As the anniversary of this tragedy so vividly reminds us, we in the mining community must continue to work tirelessly to ensure that miners go to work and return home safe and healthy to family and friends, every shift of every day.”

Upper Big Branch had a history of serious problems. In 2009, Massey Energy, was fined a total of $382,000 for “serious” unrepentant violations for lacking ventilation and proper equipment plans as well as failing to utilize its safety plan properly. The month before, authorities cited the mine for 57 safety infractions. Upper Big Branch received two citations the day before the explosion and in the last five years has been cited for 1,342 safety violations. The CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, has received criticism for his apparent disregard of safety. The Upper Big Branch Mine-South, where the explosion occurred, has been in operation since October 1994. Between 2000 and 2009, two fatalities occurred at this mine.

Yet mining went on as usual and an explosion occurred on April 5, 2010. It is not yet certain what the actual cause was, though a methane explosion, largely preventable by proper ventilation, is being closely examined. Federal regulators had ordered portions of the mine closed 60 times over the year preceding the explosion. In addition, the FBI has reportedly also launched a probe, investigating possible criminal wrongdoing at the mine, including criminal negligence and possible bribery of federal regulators.

But today, we remember the 29 men whose lives were taken in the disaster and hope that such a tragedy will be avoided in the future.