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News :: Environment : Human Rights : Labor
FOR THE SAKE OF THE KIDS: West Virginia Residents Confront Massey Energy
by Mountain Justice Summer
Email: mountainjusticesummer (nospam) gmail.com
Phone: 304 854 2324
24 May 2005
Modified: 06:17:54 PM
While Massey Energy stockholders met at the Waldorf Astoria
Hotel in New York City, parents, grandparents, and other residents of
Coal River Valley, West Virginia rallied to oppose Massey's operations
adjacent to Marsh Fork Elementary School. Two grandmothers and a third
resident of the valley attempted to deliver a list of demands. The
residents were met by the plant's head of security who refused to
allow them to present their demands. When the residents again
attempted to present their demands, they were arrested in a moving and
dramatic act of civil conscience.
Sundial, West Virginia
May 24, 2005
While Massey Energy stockholders met at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, parents, grandparents, and other residents of Coal River Valley, West Virginia rallied to oppose Massey's operations adjacent to Marsh Fork Elementary School. Massey owns Goals Coal Company, which operates a coal preparation plant, loading silo, and toxic waste storage facility beside the K-5 th grade school. 25 residents of the Coal River Valley and 25 supporters from other regions currently being mined participated in the rally. After an opening prayer, speakers described the hazards of the operations and read a list of demands for Massey. Two grandmothers and a third resident of the valley attempted to deliver a list of demands. The residents demanded that the coal preparation plant behind Marsh Fork Elementary School be shut down, that Marsh Fork Elementary School be cleaned up or that a safe, new school be built in their community, that Massey withdraw its application for the second coal loading silo behind the school, that Massey stop blasting their homes because residents have a right to be safe and secure, and that Massey shut down its surface mine sites. The residents were met by the plant's head of security who refused to allow them to present their demands. When the residents again attempted to present their demands, they were arrested in a moving and dramatic act of civil conscience.
"Seems to me that every government official in this country has a responsibility to protect American citizens everywhere. In fact, they've sworn to it. Yet, we, the citizens of Coal River Valley, have been abandoned to fend for our children," said Bo Webb, one of the residents who was arrested. "I commend the West Virginia State Police Department for being courteous and calm and treating us with the utmost respect, which is something that no politician or coal company has ever done for the residents of Coal River Valley."
"Our communities and children have been the sacrificial lambs long enough to the coal companies. It's time for us as the parents, grandparents and the community to change that," said Debbie Jarrells, whose granddaughter attends Marsh Fork Elementary. Ms. Jarrells was among the residents who attempted to deliver the demands to Massey, but was not arrested.
"I have to commend the residents of Coal River. I'm very proud of them for standing up to Massey Coal. We embrace and we welcome all our brothers and sisters all over America in this fight to stop the rape of Appalachia. I think this is a perfect way to announce that we are Mountain Justice Summer. I think that it's a crime that the people of Appalachia have to beg the government to protect them from violent coal companies like Massey Energy," said Judy Bonds, the 2003 Winner of the Goldman Prize and a grandmother and resident of the Coal River Valley. Ms. Bonds was also arrested.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is considering Massey's application to construct a second loading silo next to the first, which sits 150 feet from school grounds. The DEP is holding a hearing Thursday, May 26, at 6:00 p.m. at the school in Sundial. At the hearing, residents can voice their concerns over the silo and also over the renewal of Massey's permit to operate the waste facility, a 2.8 billion-gallon earthen dam whose base is 400 yards from school grounds. In spite of residents' protests, in 2004 the DEP approved Massey's permit to operate a 1,849 acre mountaintop removal site around the waste facility above the school.
"We've appealed to every government agency and elected representative we can think of," said Bo Webb of Coal River Valley, who was arrested. "They all pass the buck or just ignore us. No one seems to care about these kids. No child in America, or anywhere for that matter, should be forced to attend a school surrounded by these monstrosities."
"Anyone who thinks Massey is doing the right thing with energy needs to take a good look at this sludge dam and prep plant, " said Patty Sebok of Coal River Valley. "Massey Energy's disregard for Appalachian people is what is truly extreme. Just look at this silo, right next to the school. Decent people do not allow this kind of atrocity."
Jackie Browning, a Coal River Valley resident who participated in building the sludge dam, said, "This dam is not compacted correctly. It's not as strong as it should be and poses a threat to these kids." Recent inspection reports from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration show seepage from widespread areas of the toe area and from the downstream foundation area.
Ed Wiley, a Coal River Valley resident whose granddaughter attends Marsh Fork Elementary, said, "What Massey Energy is doing to these children and this community is nothing short of terrorism. The kids live in fear, but we shouldn't let Massey drive us out of our homeland. We should have the same rights as any other American citizen."
"We don't just have a right to be here; we have a duty to these kids to be here. Everyone who cares about our children should be here with us," added Webb.
Debbie Jarrells, a Coal River resident whose granddaughter attends Marsh Fork Elementary, said, "This coal company and this state are using our children as sacrificial lambs. We're here to take their place. All parents need to stand up for their children."
see www.mountainjusticesummer.org/wmfmassey.htm for photos
This work is in the public domain