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Posts tagged "west virginia"

Must read viral response by a prominent West Virginian to the recent chemical spill that poisoned the Elk River. Visceral as the essay is, one must still ask: What changes can we make and how? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, msg me here.

To hell with you. 

To hell with every greedhead operator who flocked here throughout history because you wanted what we had, but wanted us to go underground and get it for you.  To hell with you for offering above-average wages in a place filled with workers who’d never had a decent shot at employment or education, and then treating the people you found here like just another material resource—suitable for exploiting and using up, and discarding when they’d outlived their usefulness.  To hell with you for rigging the game so that those wages were paid in currency that was worthless everywhere but at the company store, so that all you did was let the workers hold it for a while, before they went into debt they couldn’t get out of.

To hell with you all for continuing, as coal became chemical, to exploit the lax, poorly-enforced safety regulations here, so that you could do your business in the cheapest manner possible by shortcutting the health and quality of life not only of your workers, but of everybody who lives here.  To hell with every operator who ever referred to West Virginians as “our neighbors.” 

To hell with every single screwjob elected official and politico under whose watch it all went on, who helped write those lax regulations and then turned away when even those weren’t followed.  To hell with you all, who were supposed to be stewards of the public interest, and who sold us out for money, for political power.  To hell with every one of you who decided that making life convenient for business meant making life dangerous for us.  To hell with you for making us the eggs you had to break in order to make breakfast.

To hell with everyone who ever asked me how I could stand to live in a place like this, so dirty and unhealthy and uneducated.  To hell with everyone who ever asked me why people don’t just leave, don’t just quit (and go to one of the other thousand jobs I suppose you imagine are widely available here), like it never occurred to us, like if only we dumb hilljacks would listen as you explained the safety hazards, we’d all suddenly recognize something that hadn’t been on our radar until now. 

To hell with the superior attitude one so often encounters in these conversations, and usually from people who have no idea about the complexity and the long history at work in it.  To hell with the person I met during my PhD work who, within ten seconds of finding out I was from West Virginia, congratulated me on being able to read.  (Stranger, wherever you are today, please know this: Standing in that room full of people, three feet away from you while you smiled at your joke, I very nearly lost control over every civil checkpoint in my body.  And though civility was plainly not your native tongue, I did what we have done for generations where I come from, when faced with rude stupidity: I tamped down my first response, and I managed to restrain myself from behaving in a way that would have required a deep cleaning and medical sterilization of the carpet.  I did not do any of the things I wanted to.  But stranger, please know how badly I wanted to do them.)

And, as long as I’m roundhouse damning everyone, and since my own relatives worked in the coal mines and I can therefore play the Family Card, the one that trumps everything around here: To hell with all of my fellow West Virginians who bought so deeply into the idea of avoidable personal risk and constant sacrifice as an honorable condition under which to live, that they turned that condition into a culture of perverted, twisted pride and self-righteousness, to be celebrated and defended against outsiders.  To hell with that insular, xenophobic pathology.  To hell with everyone whose only take-away from every story about every explosion, every leak, every mine collapse, is some vague and idiotic vanity in the continued endurance of West Virginians under adverse, sometimes killing circumstances.  To hell with everyone everywhere who ever mistook suffering for honor, and who ever taught that to their kids.  There’s nothing honorable about suffering.  Nothing.

To hell with you.  This is the one moment in my adult life when I have wished I could still believe in Hell as an actual, physical reality, so that I could imagine you in it.

Major chemical spill in West Virginia.


Josh Fox, the filmmaker behind Gasland and Gasland II is the guest on Andrew Sullivan’s Ask Me Anything series this week. Yesterday, he discussed how he got involved in this fight. Today, he has a great answer to the question of whether natural gas is a necessary evil.

Josh Fox. Articulate.

Natural gas pipeline explosion Dec. 11 2012 Sissonville, West Virginia. Fire is out. Pipeline capped. Area evacuated. No casualties. Via

Update: Local WSAZ reports:

Four homes have been destroyed and at least five others have been damaged, according to county leaders.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said 2-5 people have been taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation. Emergency crews say that there are no reported fatalities and that everyone has been accounted for, according to Tomblin.

Tomblin says the area has been evacuated within 1000 feet of the explosion site.

"After looking at the damage, I’m grateful for the quick action of our local and state emergency responders who immediately called for a shelter in place," Gov. Tomblin said.

According to a news release from NiSource, there was an incident in the vicinity of the Columbia Gas Transmission Lanham Compressor Station.

"Our first priority is the safety of the community and our employees," Mike Banas, Communications Manager stateed. "The site where the incident occurred has been secured and the fire - on a 20-inch transmission line - has been contained."

A fiber optic line has also been damaged affecting phone lines in several states, according to Commissioner Carper.

Right now, 16-hundred people are without power, but AEP is bringing in a transformer to help restore power. A shelter has been set up at Aldersgate United Methodist Church is Sissonville to provide food and shelter to families who can’t get home.

The flames shot across Interstate 77, severely damaging the road. Tomblin says an 800-foot section of the interstate was damaged during the blast.

I-77 from Charleston split to Pocatalico/Sissonville exit will remain closed through the night, but is expected to reopen Wednesday afternoon.

WVDOT reports 325 feet of each side of I-77 was damaged.

According to WVDOT, crews will mill down to the concrete and repave the road. President Carper reports emergency crews have been brought in to help fix the road.

Dramatic video of today’s natural gas pipeline explosion in West Virginia by local news, WOWK. No injuries reported but four homes were destroyed and over 77(?) 5 were damaged.

Taking a little road trip to West Virginia. Let’s hope the ol’ benz holds up. Happy Thanksgiving!

"The Upper Big Branch coal mine, where 29 people were killed in a blast two years ago Thursday, will be permanently sealed by the summer.

Crews will seal with concrete the portals that allow entry to the mine, plug boreholes and cap mine fan shafts, said the mine’s new owners Alpha Natural Resources.

"Though two years have passed, everyone still has vivid memories of the tragedy and the suffering the miners’ families endured," said company Chief Executive Officer Kevin Crutchfield. "For all of us in the mining industry, it is a solemn reminder of why we must always put safety first in everything we do at work and at home."

The explosion at the West Virginia mine on April 5, 2010, was the deadliest U.S. mine disaster since 1972, when 91 men died in a fire at the Sunshine Mine in Kellogg, Idaho.

In a December report,the Mine Safety and Health Administration found a methane ignition that set off flammable coal dust was the immediate cause of the 2010 explosion.

But it also blamed the “unlawful policies and practices” of then-mine owner Massey Energy Co., which it said “promoted and enforced a workplace culture that valued production over safety.”

Alpha Natural Resources bought Massey in 2011 and has agreed to a $209 million settlement to avoid prosecution. The deal includes payments of $1.5 million to each family that lost a member in the blast.”


Tumblr-er faithskilee defends Arch Coal’s lawsuit win, which I posted about earlier today. She states that West Virginia needs jobs, and that Arch Coal’s new permit to blow-up mountains and fill streams will create jobs - and jobs are all that matter. You can read her defense, here and below.

"Here’s the deal. This is the company my Dad works for. He knows the soon-to-be manager of this site. I’m frustrated when people are pissed over things like this. Arch has made significant improvements to be more environmentally friendly. Ultimately, in one of the poorest counties in West Virginia, families can be secure to have an income. Families of workers will never fear mine explosions and our nation can still grow and people can use their computers and turn their lights on. #dealwithit #workingwithnotagainst

She’s wrong.

Overlooking that her tags are in direct contradiction with each other, the facts are that:

  1. Arch Coal has laid off workers nearly every year since 1999
  2. The coal industry has not produced the economic gains it promised WV as far back as 1997. Coal has argued that blowing up the mountains of West Virginia will make the state more prosperous. But, WV is still deeply poor. Why? See Shear Madness, written in 1997.
  3. Arch Coal only employs around 1,000 people in West Virginia
  4. Arch Coal has operations around the world, and is the 2nd largest coal miner in the U.S., yet it employees less than 7,000 people (Wikipedia has it at 3,600 employees, but I’ll take the 7k from a recent PR by Arch Coal) (for context, Exxon has about 90,000 employees, Coke about 150,000, Apple about 45,000).
  5. Only 2% of WV’s jobs are in coal mining (see here, PDF). Of WV’s 790,000 people employed, only 19,000 mine coal. 2%! This mine will do nothing for WV families. (And that 19k number is old, from 2008. Since then, thousands have been laid off and more are on the chopping block.)
  6. Coal kills people.

Arch Coal, despite providing light to people’s homes, is not producing jobs nor improving people’s lives.

</second rant of the day>

Now following this very interesting enviro-tumblr: Coal Ash Chronicles.

My public statements about jury nullification were not the only political statements that Mr. Huber thinks I should be punished for. As the government’s memorandum points out, I have also made public statements about the value of civil disobedience in bringing the rule of law closer to our shared sense of justice. In fact, I have openly and explicitly called for nonviolent civil disobedience against mountaintop removal coal mining in my home state of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal is itself an illegal activity, which has always been in violation of the Clean Water Act, and it is an illegal activity that kills people. A West Virginia state investigation found that Massey Energy had been cited with 62,923 violations of the law in the ten years preceding the disaster that killed 29 people last year. The investigation also revealed that Massey paid for almost none of those violations because the company provided millions of dollars worth of campaign contributions that elected most of the appeals court judges in the state. When I was growing up in West Virginia, my mother was one of many who pursued every legal avenue for making the coal industry follow the law. She commented at hearings, wrote petitions and filed lawsuits, and many have continued to do ever since, to no avail. I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry. Those crimes committed by Massey Energy led not only to the deaths of their own workers, but to the deaths of countless local residents, such as Joshua McCormick, who died of kidney cancer at age 22 because he was unlucky enough to live downstream from a coal mine. When a corrupted government is no longer willing to uphold the rule of law, I advocate that citizens step up to that responsibility.

Follow askjerves.

This Is What Hope Looks Like

askjerves: Everyone should read Tim DeChristopher’s pre-sentencing comments (through that link to Yes! Magazine above). And then everyone who’s outraged should do something. Something with more impact than reblogging or signing an e-petition. Like getting loud or maybe getting arrested. We’re losing to the greedy rich who simply don’t care about the health of most humans, or the well-being of future generations. We’re losing because we’re complacent. One guy goes and does something heroic, and a lot of us clap our hands and nod approvingly and like and reblog, but, so far, very few others are following suit, or doing anything else that might compromise our own comfortable lives.

I interviewed DeChristopher last year, and one thing he said really stuck with me. He said: 

You know how Gandhi said you have to “be the change you want to see in the world.” Well the change that most of us wish to see is a carbon tax, but our leaders aren’t doing that for us, so Gandhi’s call is then for us to be the carbon tax. What does that mean—to “be the carbon tax?” To cost the fossil fuel industry money in any way that we can. Getting in their way, slowing them down, shutting them down. Doing whatever we can to be that tax. It forces our leaders to make a choice—to either be more explicit in their war on the young generation, to to get serious about stopping climate change.

So what to do? My friend and mentor Bill wrote this today, about DeChristopher and a mass action planned for DC in late August. 

And it’s time for you to take the same kind of responsibility. In a few weeks, those of us at will be gathering in Washington DC for two weeks of civil disobedience against the proposed Keystone Pipeline, that will carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico. Jim Hansen, the NASA climatologist, says that if those tar sands are fully exploited it’s “essentially game over for the climate.” If those words don’t inspire you to act, nothing will — and so far more than a thousand have signed on, meaning this will be the largest civil disobedience action in the history of the country’s climate movement.

This action won’t be as risky as Tim’s. People are signing up to come to DC for three days. On the first they’ll attend nonviolence training, and on the second they’ll sit down in front of the White House. No one knows for sure how the police will react, but the legal experts say jail time will likely be measured in hours, not years. Still, it’s a very real way to say to President Obama (who will make the Keystone decision all by himself) that this is the great moral issue of our time.

Time to get serious.

(via kateoplis)