Accounts and Accountability

It’s time to go to the source. Who are the chief offenders in Mountaintop Removal pollution and violations, and where does their money come from?

Washington, DC — The Sierra Club is seeking to join federal prosecutors and other environmental groups in a lawsuit to hold Massey Energy Company accountable for thousands of Clean Water Act violations associated with their mining operations. Massey has been charged by the government with illegal dumping of coal slurry waste, rubble, wastewater and other pollutants into Appalachian waterways. Representing Sierra Club in the challenge are the Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment and Earthjustice.

… The government has documented over 4,600 cases of pollution being illegally dumped into local waters by Massey and its subsidiaries, which operate dozens of mountaintop removal and other large-scale surface mines in Appalachia. On the heels of the administration decision to open the door for new, expanded mining, Massey needs to be held accountable before more damage is done.

Massey (and Peabody) are bankrolled by Bank of America. And that’s not okay. Read about protests last week against BOA at Virginia Tech, Harrisonburg, and Asheville.

The VISA that we’ve used for a decade is drawn on Bank of America. I am prepared to take the sissors to our plastic (anybody got a camera?) and mail the pieces to BOA headquarters with a letter explaining WHY.

If a few tens of thousands of us did the same this month, you suppose we’d get their attention?  If the federal government feeds these people, we can starve them. Think about it.

And have you left your comment against the pending (DE)regulation that fatally weakens the Clean Water Act’s enforcement in MTR areas?  To remain silent is a choice. We have the means to be heard. Let’s use it, bloggers.

War Du Jour

I ain’t saying…just listen carefully in the weeks ahead. You might hear the neocons rumbling to “bring it on”. Again. From George Packer at The New Yorker

If there were a threat level on the possibility of war with Iran, it might have just gone up to orange. Barnett Rubin, the highly respected Afghanistan expert at New York University, has written an account of a conversation with a friend who has connections to someone at a neoconservative institution in Washington. Rubin can’t confirm his friend’s story; neither can I. But it’s worth a heads-up:

They [the source’s institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this—-they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is “plenty.”

Setting Our Houses Straight

ECONOMY: Middle English yconomye, management of a household, from Latin oeconomia, from Greek oikonomia-, from oikonomos, manager of a household : oikos, house + nemein, to allot, manage.

ECOLOGY: German Ökologie : Greek oikos, house + German -logie, study (from Greek -logia-, -logy).

Both words much in the news these days come from the Greek root OIKOS for house. Ecology: to study the house. Economy: to manage the house.

We’ve so far mis-managed and mis-understood the workings of our one and only house, the oikos that is our Commons, the basic stock of necessary supplies from which we draw our living.

We’ve failed to bring humankind in any active way into the economy of the ecology. Our economies have been short-sighted, linear, and for the relative few with no consideration of their impact on the other house within which, rich and poor, now and centuries hence, we must all live. We have imperiled our ecology in a thousand ways by a mistaken dualism that sees economy as something separate, other, and independent. It is not.

I encourage you to read how Kentuckian Wendell Berry appraises the relative values of forest, soil and water of the OIKOS against coal extraction. We are selling our birthright for a pot of soup.

Bloggers for Headwaters Protection

Here’s a page I’ve put up that has the information you need (as hard as it has been made to access) to speak out against the weakened protections of watersheds in the process of mountain top coal extraction. Below, the letter I’ve sent via the comments page (see link above) as well as to my congressman.

Please feel free to cut and paste to your blog or web page the whole message from the linked page above. Or just use the letter I sent as a model, editing as you see fit. AND DO IT SOON.


I am writing in regard to DOCKET ID OSM-2007-0007 which if allowed would further weaken environmental protection of the natural and human environments in the coal-bearing portions of the Appalachian states where mountain top removal coal extraction is currently taking place.

I support as rapid a transition as possible away from our dependence on coal to provide electricity. I support a significant increase in our national budget toward alternative sources of clean energy such as geothermal, wind, solar and other methods.

I support a national effort mandated from the Presidential office and sustained across successive administrations to significantly reduce our inefficiencies and waste of electrical energy and to support and require significant conservation measures that would obviate the purported need for numerous additional coal-fired facilities in the coming decades.

I am strongly opposed to mountain top removal as a means of obtaining coal at the expense of our mountains, the headwaters of our streams and for the health and safety risks that kind of mining poses to families and communities.

I am opposed to this pending regulation that serves those who financially profit from extraction efficiency and punishes all of us who share the harm brought to the commons of the natural communities we call home.

A Million Points of Light: At Any Price

Calling for no conservation measures that might obviate the mandate for ever more coal use into the foreseeable future, this abrogation of the “Stream Buffer Zone Rule” gives Big Coal access to anything it wants, any way it wants to get it. We can carry on with our profligate use of electricity as if West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee did not exist. This is unconscionable. It is the Bush way. History will never forget him. His legacy will be written in the very mountains by their absence. (Emphasis below is mine.)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams.

It has been used in Appalachian coal country for 20 years under a cloud of legal and regulatory confusion.

The new rule would allow the practice to continue and expand, providing only that mine operators minimize the debris and cause the least environmental harm, although those terms are not clearly defined and to some extent merely restate existing law.

The Office of Surface Mining in the Interior Department drafted the rule, which will be subject to a 60-day comment period and could be revised, although officials indicated that it was not likely to be changed substantially.

The regulation is the culmination of six and a half years of work by the administration to make it easier for mining companies to dig more coal to meet growing energy demands and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

… A spokesman for the National Mining Association, Luke Popovich, said that unless mine owners were allowed to dump mine waste in streams and valleys it would be impossible to operate in mountainous regions like West Virginia that hold some of the richest low-sulfur coal seams.

All mining generates huge volumes of waste, known as excess spoil or overburden, and it has to go somewhere. For years, it has been trucked away and dumped in remote hollows of Appalachia.

This is a parting gift to the coal industry from this administration,” said Joe Lovett, executive director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment in Lewisburg, W.Va. “What is at stake is the future of Appalachia. This is an attempt to make legal what has long been illegal.”

…If current practices continue, another 724 river miles will be buried by 2018, the report says.