WV: More Massey Madness and the ongoing Paradox of MTR Oppositions

If you live near the West Virginia coal fields and mines, you certainly know what the acronym MTR stands for. If you live in West Virginia at all and keep youself even slightly in tune with the "goings on" of the state, then chances are great that you will be familiar with the three-letter phrase yourself.

MTR is short for the dreaded MountainTop Removal mining method that quite literally lives up to its namesake. It ravages and rapes the state of its natural beauty while causing numerous unintended health and environmental effects hazardous to the way of life of the people living near these sites. The Mountain State is quickly turning into the plateau, bluff, and coal slurry state without much opposition from those who lead the state in Washington and in Charleston.

Recently the EPA has issued more guidelines in regards to the mining technique

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just posted a new guidance document for Appalachian strip mining on its Web site.

It’s called “Assessment of Stream Ecosystem Structure and Function Under Clean Water Act Section 404 Associated with Review of Permits for Appalachian Surface Coal Mining.”

Neither EPA nor the Army Corps of Engineers have formally announced the issuance of this guidance, which appears to have been posted pretty late on a Friday afternoon.

But the issues dealt with in the guidance are the same as those raised in a March 2007 ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers: Whether government agency reviews of mining permits adequately consider impacts on not just the “structure” of streams, but also the important ecological “functions” served by those streams


Source: Gazette’s Coal Tattoo

Without a solid force against MTR, the state will continue to function its coal economy and income based on this method. Its cheaper, easier, and requires less miners to perform the tasks necessary to complete the job. The after-effects are mammoth in size and people all across the state are left to clean up the mess and live with the coal slurry deposits and several other hazardous aftershocks of this haphazard and carefree way of mining coal.

West Virginia’s special senate election could be the first real breaking point for this method of mining. Ken Hechler (albeit 95 years of age) is gunning for the democratic nomination this august to fill Robert C. Byrd’s vacated seat in the Senate. His soul purpose for running, as mentioned in a previous blog, is his opposition to Mountaintop Removal Mining. Hechler isn’t slated to make a big run at the seat, and even claims that he isn’t using much of his own financial resources to help his chances. He is running solely to oppose MTR and send a message across the state and country where he stands on the issue and where his backers also stand. We need more people like Ken Hechler taking a stand for whats right in West Virginia and falling in line to back an opposition to MTR.

Governor Joe Manchin is pretty timid when discussing issues of MTR. He doesn’t outrightly throw his entire support into MTR, nor does he oppose it either. Hechler claims that Manchin doesn’t give enough care and attention to those affected by the Mountain stripping method.

"I think he has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of those people that are adversely affected by mountaintop removal," the former congressman and secretary of state said at a Capitol news conference to discuss his campaign.

Hechler and Manchin are both seeking the seat left empty by the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd. They are joined in the Democratic primary by former state Delegate Sheirl Fletcher.

Charleston Gazette

Hechler doesn’t have a super strong campaign or following, his followers even express doubt of his chances of winning… but I truly admire the reason he chose to run at the ripe old age of 95. He would be older than Robert C. Byrd was when he died if he actually got elected.

As promised! A Massey Energy Idiotic Update!!!! Those who frequent the Massey Trend will be so excited that there is yet another installment, so I hope I don’t disappoint!
After the news release a few weeks ago about Massey Energy having their Methane monitors disabled, damage control naturally ensued on the parts of Grandwizard Blankenship and his coal-black posse of corporate power.

Recently mentioned in Coal Tattoo (a blog on the WV Charleston Gazette Website dedicated to the interests of coal and news about it in WV) was a piece about Massey Energy officials meeting with the families of employees and sounding off on the story that the methane monitors had not been disabled in the Upper Big Branch Mine prior to the disaster earlier this year. And of course that Don Blankenship would never tell a lie in the world so this must be true…..

Massey Energy officials have said they want an open, transparent and complete investigation of what caused the deaths of 29 mines at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., four months ago.

But today’s Massey briefing for families of the miners who died was held behind closed doors. Three uniformed Charleston Police Department officers guarded the door of the ballroom at the Embassy Suites Hotel.

CEO Don Blankenship declined to talk with reporters afterward, and his general counsel, Shane Harvey, only took a couple of questions in a brief session with the media following the meeting.

The news release didn’t say a whole lot, either, but here’s the quote from Blankenship about the purpose of the meeting:

The purpose of today’s meeting was to keep the families informed of key developments associated with the UBB investigation. Massey Energy will continue to do our part in updating families on key information obtained during this continuing inquiry.

The key thing being pushed today seems to be the idea that Massey has concluded from the evidence available thus far that methane monitors in the mine’s longwall section had not been disabled prior to the April 5 explosion that killed 29 workers.

Coal Tattoo

The families of the deceased miners, and the ones still working for Massey, deserve to know the truth about what happened in that mine prior to the explosion and on the day of. Massey Energy has not done a good job at being transparent and coherent enough to the downtrodden families and its wrong and sad. Show some moral integrity Blankenship! If any exists in that coal-baron body of yours.

More Soon! If you are interested in following the coal news in West Virginia check out coal tattoo or follow @kenwardjr on twitter for the best updates

WV Special Senate Election: Mountaintop Removal is Hechler's Priority

As of Yesterday (July 21st) only 2-3 people had come forward and filed for their official candidacy for the special election for Robert C. Byrd’s Senate seat. The primary is slated for August 28, 2010.

The only takers were Democrats yesterday and the big name in the field was Joe Manchin III, West Virginia’s current governor. Manchin, as many close to him figured, had most likely planned on making the run for the Senate when the seat opened up. Joe Manchin is nearing the end of his second term as West Virginia’s governor and hopes to lock in the Democratic Party nomination.

The biggest surprise in the filing so far has been Ken Hechler. Hechler is the former Secretary of State for West Virginia, and used to Represent the state in Congress for West Virginia’s 4th District. *Its worthy to note that West Virginia only has 3 districts now. Why is this a surprise? Hechler is 95, older than RC Byrd. According to the Gazette, his primary issue is mountaintop removal mining.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former congressman and secretary of state Ken Hechler has entered the race for U.S. Senate, and he’s running on one issue — ending the practice of mountaintop removal.

The 95-year-old faxed candidacy paperwork to the Secretary of State’s office on Wednesday for the special primary to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

"I’m not running to get votes for myself," Hechler said. "I’m running to give people an opportunity to cast their votes against mountaintop removal … This is the only way I can get [the issue] on the ballot."

Charleston Gazette

Also on the Democrats list is Sheirl Fletcher, a former WV House of Delegates member who is looking to take the coveted nomination away from the heavyweights.

Sheirl Fletcher, Democrat from Monongalia County filed candidacy papers today in a bid to win the democratic primary for the unexpired term of the late U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd.

Fletcher, 53, was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2008 and was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates from 1998-2002.

Huntington News

According to the WV Secretary of State Website, 10 Republican candidates have also put in their papers for candidacy in wake of the upcoming primary election.

Not very many familiar names on the GOP list but the list itself includes John Raese, Mac Warner, Kenneth Culp, Harry Bruner, Daniel Rebich, Lynette McQuain, Scott Williams, Thomas Ressler, Albert Howard, and Charles Railey
(Courtesy of Natalie Tennant and the Office of WV Secretary of State.)

Mac Warner ran for the Republican nomination for the 1st Congressional District Seat in WV but lost earlier this year.

It should indeed be a very interesting race. More to come!


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