Grass Roots Environmental Effort Newsletter
Wood, Water, Dereg, Targeted at Fall Gathering
The 11th annual fall membership conference was held Sept 29th to Oct1st at
the Appalachian South Folk Life Center near Pipestem, WV. Conference attendees
felt right at home at the Center with its rich history of organizing for social
justice and workers' rights. (Its founder began at the Highlander Center in
Tenn. where Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks taught non-violent
The Gathering began with a traditional "I live on a Dot" session
where folks introduced themselves and briefly described their
"backyard" issue. These sessions demonstrate the breath and depth of
West Virginia's environmental movement and never fail to inspire everyone in the
Next came a detailed discussion on the upcoming lobby effort with suggestions
on improvements in communication and accountability with the Council's member
groups. Lobby Team coordinator Gary Zuckett described the nuances of day-to-day
reconnaissance at the Capitol where new bills surface daily. These must be
analyzed for potential impact and then triaged and communicated to the member
organizations and general membership. "It's challenging to be on the front
lines of environmental protection at the state Capitol," said Zuckett.
"We depend on back-up from our groups and members to help deal with
unexpected assaults on enviro rules and regulations which industry lobbyists are
continually trying to weaken or kill. This is one of the reasons improved
communication and cooperation with members and groups is so important."
One of the main events at each annual meeting is the setting of the
legislative agenda for the coming session. Extended discussion on various issues
brought forth an agreement to focus on three main areas: Wood, Water, and
Electric Deregulation. These critical issues are briefed inside this newsletter
so a few words on each will suffice here.
Wood: Timbering is the only industry that is regulated using
"voluntary best practices." That's right, it's up to the largesse of
individual timber operators whether or not they play by the rules. At the very
least the Council wants to see these minimum requirements made mandatory. Better
yet, a comprehensive bill to strengthen timbering regulations is needed.
Water: A Stream Protection Bill and Water Quality Standards Package
dealing with Anti-Degradation of existing clean water (among many water rules)
are in the works.
Electric Deregulation: This is a 'sleeper' but probably the most
far-reaching environmental issue to be dealt with this session. Will WV complete
its conversion into a "sacrifice zone" in order to supply the East
with cheap electricity? Will the race to Dereg flatten even more mountains as
dirty, coal-hungry power plants all run at continuous peak capacity to make
power companies even richer? Will WV follow Calif. with rolling brownouts and
blackouts on top of skyrocketing electric rates? The 2001 legislature will
either give Dereg its blessing or pound nails in its coffin. Stay tuned
As you can see, the Council has its work cut out for it in 2001. What can you
do to help? First of all, renew your membership.
Member support is a must to finance our lobby efforts and several pledges of
support from member groups are on a 'matching' basis to funds we raise directly
from YOU! Second, send in your name, Snail-mail and E-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org
in order to get our Legislative Update E-mailed to you every Friday night and,
in between, Action Alerts for quick response in support of important
legislation. Our total effectiveness at the session depends on lawmakers'
knowledge that you are out there ready and willing to back us up on the issues.
We know you are concerned about what is happening to West Virginia's
mountains, forests and streams. Would you be willing to participate with others
to determine legitimate ways to bring the multi-faceted issues of mountaintop
removal (MTR) to the forefront of classroom discussion?
Bill McCabe and others are trying to identify classroom parctitioners who
have the energy and interest to participate in a discussion of how MTR issues
can be legitimately incorporated into the adopted cirriculum. They want to start
with an e-mail contact group for discussing strategy and tactics. Contact Bill
McCabe at email@example.com
or P.O. Box 261, Valley Head, WV 26294 to get involved.
As I lay there in my hospital bed for a few days after Thanksgiving, reality
dealt me a severe blow: I am really sick!!
Although the physical health problems I have been dealing with of late are
relatively minor and not life threatening in the least, I am really quite ill!!
Being held hostage in that hospital room by a television set broadcasting an
endless array of reporters and talking heads while lawyer after lawyer droned on
and on about the recount in the presidential election in the State of Florida,
it hit me: I have a serious case of "legal-beagle-itis."
I found myself actually relishing every minute of the legal debate and every
minor nuance of the law "proffered" by the network legal analysts (are
they analysts now because they are out of work as lawyers?) and by the attorneys
for both sides. It didn't matter if they represented Gore or Bush; I was still
intrigued by their arguments.
What is a "butterfly" ballot? When is a "chad" a vote?
Just how does a chad get "pregnant," and when is a "dimple"
just a pimple? Give me more. Bring it on. I want to know the answers! I am sick
with curiosity, and it seemed I wasn't alone. Poor George W. was apparently so
sick with curiosity that his face broke out in a big boil!
I have noticed this same illness has infected many of my enviro colleagues
over the years.
One good friend of ours (who is also a former state senator) actually loves
reading all the figures in the voluminous state budget each year. Another Trout
Unlimited buddy of mine delights in perusing every dredge and fill permit that
is filed (or NOT filed) in the state and knows all the relevant state and
federal regulations better than those in charge at the Corps of Engineers.
Another dear friend knows the statutes and regulations governing strip mining
as well as any lawyer in the country, and she is not an attorney. Others at
Rivers Coalition know the Clean Water Act like the backs of their hands, and
they also are not attorneys. And then there's a couple of fellas from the Sierra
Club - one of them specializes in the Clean Air Act, the other in the National
Forest Management Act. And no, they are not attorneys either.
It is not clear to me as yet if we are infected with this "legal-beagle-itis"
disease against our will or not. On the one hand, we seem to be prone to
contracting the disease because our immune system is always weak - we rarely
have enough funds to hire attorneys of our own. On the other hand, some of the
sickest among us seem to relish delving into the legal complexities on which
environmental protection is grounded. I am among the sickest.
Each year as we assemble another lobby team and get ready for the assault of
another West Virginia Legislative Session, I am thankful that there are those
among us who suffer from this disease. I am thankful there are those among us
who are smarter than I and who seemingly relish the legal battles we always
But as I write this, the country still does not know who our next president
And I am loving it!!
Donald S. Garvin, Jr., WVEC President
The Word on Water
by Nathan Fetty, West Virginia Rivers Coalition
It'll soon be time for another refreshing dip in the shark tank (a.k.a. the
annual state legislative session), and yours truly will be there to track water
quality issues. Last year was my first year of learning to swim with the sharks,
so to speak, and I'll be returning this winter a little more seasoned.
Anticipating what will happen in the legislative session is pretty difficult
unless you happen to have a crystal ball (which I don't). But since a lot of the
issues WVRC is already dealing with are slated for legislative action, we can
make a pretty fair guess as to what bills we'll be promoting, defending, killing
One of our top priorities will be tracking the huge package of rules that
deals with water quality standards. In this package resides an anti-degradation
implementation plan the plan that details how the state is supposed to
protect its already clean water, and keep dirty water from being polluted
further. West Virginia has been without this plan since the Clean Water Act was
passed in the early 1970's, and the plan before the legislature is weak, weak,
WEAK! It's way up in the air how this rule will go through the session, since
the federal EPA has promised to step in and implement a rule that conforms to
federal standards, and the state DEP wants to submit a separate plan to the
Elsewhere in the rules package, we'll be watching for attacks on West
Virginia's drinking water protections and attacks on coldwater trout stream
protections for Upper Blackwater River.
We're also looking to promote the Protection of Water Bill, a bill that we
successfully introduced in both houses last year. This bill clarifies the DEP's
oversight in permitting stream work, and curbs reckless stream destruction while
protecting homes and property. We're developing even more support for the bill,
and hope it will see committee action, if not passage.
With water legislation, we hope the legislature will re-visit a bill to
increase maximum daily fines for Clean Water Act violations. This legislation,
which was introduced last year by DEP and eventually died in both houses, would
increase the maximum amount of daily fines from $10,000 to $25,000. This bill
would help deter bad actors from doing business in West Virginia, and make sure
it's not more cost-effective to illegally pollute our rivers and pay the fine
than for polluters to clean up their act. Also, we'll be looking at funding for
the DEP Office of Water Resources to make sure regulators are given the
resources they need to protect our rivers.
by Trenton Harper
Three SEN members from Elkins recently went to Cincinnati for a mass protest
against the Transatlantic Business Dialogue, a group of around 150 CEOs from the
U.S. and European Union meeting to discuss "free trade."
This group is a policy maker for the World Trade Organization (remember
Seattle?). We did trainings and worked as street medics out of the clinic during
the actions. We treated our first tear gas and mace victims. It was a far away
place compared to our mountains here at home.
For more info on SEN (Student Environmental Network), call 636-5658 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Election Cloud w/o Green Lining
by Norm Steenstra, WV-CAG Executive Director
In stark contrast to the sweeping green victories of a decade ago, this past
election left little to be optimistic about. The headlines recapping the 1990
election predicted a "rising environmental tide in the state." The
ensuing WVEC legislative victories in the early 90's were largely the result of
that political climate.
Look for no such headlines this time. Consequently don't look for any major
legislative gains either. In the big picture, WV environmentalists have a
congressional delegation that is now less green. To a great extent we've
alienated the new governor and still have to deal with the same
anti-environmental legislative leadership of Bob Kiss and Earl Ray Tomblin. Oh,
and we'll probably have George W. too.
Don't expect major changes in the legislature. Fourteen of the 18 state
senate seats were won by incumbents. The good news is that three of the four new
senators are friendlier to our issues than those they replaced. The reelection
of Jon Blair Hunter was a major victory and broke the trend (Becky White, Dave
Grubb and Mike Withers) of one-term green senators. Larry Rowe's (D-Kanawha)
election to the Senate will add a voice of reason and compassion to that good
old boys' club.
The brightest news in the House was the victory of Barbour County's Mary
Poling. She becomes the fifth WVEC GREEN subscriber elected to the Legislature.
The others were Don Perdue, Ginny Mahan, Don Macnaughtan and Jon Hunter. Mary
beat back a serious "Democrats for Underwood" effort to defeat her and
won the race by a resounding 33 votes. Mary, like Macnaughtan and Mahan, is a
veteran leader in the "garbage wars" of the early 90's.
As we begin a new legislative era, once again it will take a combination of
activism, legal maneuvers, media savy and dedicated lobbying to keep our fingers
in the green dike and figure out how to eventually drain the sea.
Enviros Take On Wheeling & WV
by Mel Finstein,
Vice President, The Wheeling Environmentalists
Ten years ago and more, environmentalists labored mightily to have recycling
mandated by West Virginia law. Among them were David Grubb, Martha Huffman, Tom
Degen, Clint Hogbin, and Norm Steenstra (apologies for any omissions). The
resultant law, passed in 1991 and fully in effect as of 1997, covers household
"recyclables" such as bottles, cans, newspaper, and, by means of
composting, leaves, brush and other yard waste.
This article is not a comprehensive review of how well, or how poorly, the
law's intent law has been realized. Rather, it describes a conspicuous failure
in Wheeling, and how this led to lawsuits against both the City and the State.
Also noted is a case of serious backsliding in the eastern panhandle, in
A CARPETBAGGER COMES TO TOWN
Almost two years ago, shortly before moving to Wheeling, I learned that the
City conducts a special seasonal collection of leaves, amounting to some two
thousand tons per year. These separately collected leaves are then dumped into a
landfill, at a cost of approximately $100,000 per year (hauling and dumping,
exclusive of the street-by-street pickup). Also I learned that for West Virginia
cities over 10,000 in population, dumping yard waste is illegal. Moreover, the
City owns an ideal site for a yard waste composting operation.
Thus marked the start of a personal campaign to affect change in this small
corner of the environment. With the formation of The Wheeling
Environmentalists organization ("act both locally and globally")
about eight months ago, the campaign became a group project.
A listing of our efforts, at the levels of the City and the DEP, would fill
this page. Early on, I wrote a technical analysis of the proposed site noting
its evident suitability. This led to interactions with various officials, many
presentations to the City Council, favorable editorials in the local newspaper,
etc. I had discussions with the Director of the DEP, the Chief of the Office of
Solid Waste, and many other contacts at various levels of the DEP. It is fair to
say that no stone was left unturned.
The response of the City was - well - actually there was no response. The
response of the DEP may be summed up in the statement that "we [DEP]
don't want to criminalize the people up there."
Importantly, we recently learned that the City of Martinsburg plans to (or
already has) closed two yard waste composting operations. The intention is to
resume the landfilling of yard waste.
Our efforts having thus far failed, the choice was to either give up or to
bring the matter to the courts. We chose the latter, and engaged Mary Ann Maul
as our attorney.
Our suit argues that the City is in violation of State law, which bans the
dumping of yard waste and mandates the composting of this fraction of the waste
stream. The suit includes a request for injunctive relief.
At the State level, we are suing the DEP and the Public Service Commission.
This is much more involved.
Our complaints against the DEP are:
1) A failure to enforce the law.
2) The issuing of landfill operating permits that do not prohibit the dumping
of yard waste and other recyclables.
3) The discouragement of recycling and composting in the way its tonnage
assessment fee is managed.
4) A proposal to weaken its already wimpy yard waste regulation.
The complaint against the PSC is that it sets rates for illegal activities
namely the hauling of leaves to the landfill and the dumping of them into the
With respect to item 3), the DEP's monetary income is reduced to the extent
that materials are diverted to recycling rather than being dumped into a
landfill. We DO NOT advocate the termination of the assessment fee! Rather, we
advocate that part of the fee be used for 'tonnage grants' to municipalities,
according to the amount diverted. This would transform what is now a
disincentive to an incentive to recycle and compost.
With respect to item 4), the DEP proposes to change a single word in its yard
waste regulation (33 CSR 3) from 'practical' to 'available'. This seemingly
innocuous change would let the City of Wheeling, among others, off the hook.
While it's eminently practical for Wheeling to establish a yard waste
composting operation, one is not currently available.
What started as a narrowly conceived effort to get the City of Wheeling to
compost yard waste has blossomed, logically, into a broad effort to
comprehensively reform the way the WV DEP administers the recycling law.
The Wheeling Environmentalists need your help in this
effort! Please attend the hearing 1 PM on January 3rd in Kanawha Co. Circuit
Court of Judge Zakaib.
Editors note: Mel Finstein, a Professor Emeritus (retired) of
Environmental Science at Rutgers University, is an internationally recognized
expert on the composting microbial ecosystem. He currently serves on the Board
of WVEC . At our December Board of Directors meeting, WVEC voted to sign on as a
plaintiff in the lawsuit.
A Gift That Gives Twice
Why not give a gift that gives twice? Pilgrim Glass' master artist Kelsey
Murphy has designed two new etched glass ornaments depicting the scarce Pink
Lady Slipper orchid and the showy Pileated Woodpecker. Etched onto Pilgrim's
signature cranberry glass, these orbs are helping to raise awareness of scarce
species. They also raise money for OVEC in its work to protect the habitat of
these species, as OVEC receives half the proceeds from their sales.
The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the most spectacular birds in West
Virginia. Its closest relative was the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, which is now
extinct because of habitat destruction.
Ornaments from both the 1999 and the 2000 collection are $30 each and are
available for pick up at the OVEC office and at the Pilgrim Glass gift shop.
Call 304-522-0246 to arrange for pick up. Orders can also be shipped for an
additional $4.00. To receive shipped ornaments before Christmas, orders must be
placed by December 10.
Utilities Forced to Clear Air
by Jim Kotcon
One year ago, WVEC joined Natural Resources Defense Council and other citizen
groups in a lawsuit against American Electric Power to require the utility to
meet tougher clean air standards. Under the Clean Air Act, power plants that
upgrade their facilities to increase output are supposed to also reduce their
emissions, which AEP and other utilities have failed to do.
At the same time, several states from the Northeast filed suit against AEP
and other utilities on the same grounds. Later, EPA filed yet another suit
against these and other power plants. Over the last year some utilities, most
recently Dominion Resources which operates the Mount Storm power plant in Grant
County, have settled with EPA and agreed to install required pollution control
equipment. However, AEP continues to insist on polluting our air, so a lengthy
briefing schedule has been established with the trial date set for May 2002.
Air quality in West Virginia is poor, with many areas proposed for
designation as "non-attainment" for failing to meet health standards,
especially for ozone. Ozone damages crops and forests, and causes serious
respiratory problems for children, the elderly, and those with illnesses such as
asthma or black lung. Coal-fired power plants are far and away the largest
emitters of the pollutants causing ozone, so getting these old dirty plants to
clean up will help us all breathe a little easier.
by Mary Ellen O'Farrell
As the Season of Lights approaches - the Winter Solstice, the eight days of
Hanukkah, and Christmas Day - may you experience deep joy and peace with these
blessed events, celebrations and customs! May the cold and dark of our land's
winter sleep open our hearts to the beauty of frozen, silent winter landscapes
(and cityscapes), and to the possibility of lives lived a little more slowly,
with the possibility of fewer activities, and less rushing to GET THINGS DONE!
During these (possibly) less frantic times, you might want to locate and
enjoy a book edited by Steven C. Rockefeller and John C. Elder, published in
paperback by Beacon Press of Boston, and titled Spirit of Nature - Why the
Environment Is A Religious Issue - An Interfaith Dialogue. A book like this can
be a very good way to introduce care of God's Creation as a religious issue to
churches, synagogues, mosques, Sunday school classes and ethical issues
caucuses, as well as to your favorite preacher, rabbi or iman.
For further assistance, or to communicate your interests, concerns or
suggestion, contact the Interfaith Center For Public Policy (WVICFPP), a new
organization which held its initial meeting on October 24 at the Unitarian
Universalist Church in Charleston. The Center needs to know of your region's
activities, needs and plans regarding Creation Care. Find out about the WVICFPP
by calling the WV Council of Churches at 344-3141 or write to 1608 Virginia St.,
East, Charleston, WV 25311.
Please don't forget to contact me at 346-3303 or Linda Mallet at email@example.com
for contributions to this column, as well as to remember in your prayers during
this holy season all who are working for the health and restoration of God's
Creation. And let us all say Amen, be it so!
Dereg, It Ain't Over Till It's Over
By Linda Mallet, WV-CAG
On just about everyone's legislative priority list at WVEC's Fall meeting was
electric deregulation. It could possibly be one of the most far-reaching, yet
most difficult to understand environmental and consumer issues that the lobby
team has had to tackle. If you've followed this issue, you may be thinking we
"lost" this battle at the end of last year's session. Well, the Senate
Judiciary Committee attached an amendment to the Public Service Commission's
deregulation plan that forces the Legislature to revisit this issue during this
year's session. At issue are tax ramifications (changes in the state, city and
county revenue) from a deregulated industry. In other words, the Legislature
realized that there were some important fiscal questions yet to be answered and
included this mechanism to slow things down. There are green issues to be
So the good news is, we still have opportunities to improve on the PSC's
plan, both at the Legislature and during the rule-making process. And while the
WVEC and WV-CAG are against the PSC's concept of deregulation, we have been
fighting for enviro-friendly rules all year long by submitting written comments
and participating in hearings. You see, the legislation was passed, with the
above-mentioned stipulation, and the PSC then began to write its rules. The
public, of course, has been invited to participate in any and all of the
process, as long as it is available during business hours. Oh, and it's helpful
if you hire an attorney to represent you at the hearings and to help you prepare
your testimony and assist you when you are cross-examined. Oh, and Charlotte
Lane, PSC chair, really doesn't like us much.
Even though we oppose the PSC's Dereg plan, we have worked to make the rules
as green as possible. We argued for a uniform disclosure page where customers
can turn to find out a power supplier's emissions data and generation sources
(coal, wind, biomass, etc.). This page would also include pricing information.
The Coal Association wants only pricing information on this page. Hmm, wonder
WVEC, WV-CAG and the Sierra Club testified that customers should receive this
page in their bills. The utilities maintain that notices should go in newspapers
where the public gets its information. An attorney for one utility actually said
that "customers are not the public."
Stay tuned as the session looms. Jim Kotcon, Jim Sconyers and Norm Steenstra
are also watching another Dereg issue net-metering. More in the next GREEN.
And, finally, Happy Holidays!! Let's hope that WV learns from California
where in its deregulated marketplace this year Christmas lights are causing
Is A Coal Sludge Disaster Coming To A Community Near You?
by Vivian Stockman, OVEC
On October 11th, 250 million gallons of sludge broke through from a 72 acre
coal waste and slurry impoundment at Kentucky's largest mountain removal
operation into an old underground mine below the impoundment.
The thick black glop exploded from the old mine into Coldwater and Wolf
Creeks. It spread downstream some 70 miles, till it reached the Ohio, wiping out
aquatic and other wildlife along the way. Apparently, pets that have gotten
rescued out of the sludge have later died. We are still trying to find out
what's in the sludge-don't believe reports that it's little more than rock. Coal
companies use nasty chemicals to clean coal, and those end up in the sludge. The
coal waste itself contains cadmium, mercury, arsenic and more.
Communities along the sludge's path have had to truck in clean water and now,
nearly two months later, cleanup efforts are still underway. Water wells are
contaminated and septic systems are ruined. Property values are likely to
plunge. OVEC staff and volunteers have visited the impacted areas and we're
still reeling from what we saw. In places, the sludge has spread along the
creeks' floodplain-people's yards!-up to 70 yards wide and 7-10' thick.
Newspaper reports have said the disaster will take six months to clean up,
though at least one said the area may never fully recover.
The coal company responsible for the impoundment, AT Massey, has said in
court documents that the spill was an Act of God! This ludicrous, insulting
defense should never again have been mentioned. Pittston Coal said the same
thing when its Buffalo Creek coal slurry dam broke in 1972, subjecting 125
people to a horrifying death and wiping out numerous communities.
Many of our current mining laws were enacted in response to this tragedy, so
obviously an act of Man. Dams are certainly better engineered now, but even so,
the Kentucky dam that just broke through was rated as having a
"moderate" risk of potential breakthrough. The US has over 600 coal
slurry dams, many in Appalachia. Many are labeled as having "high"
potential risk for breakthrough.
AT Massey's coal slurry impoundment above Whitesville is over 100 acres.
Could the same thing happen there-or at any of hundreds of other sites? Are
these dams violating coal mining law? Citizen activists and environmental groups
are working feverishly to find out. Stay informed by getting on OVEC's e-mail
action alert list by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
or email@example.com. or
calling OVEC at 304-522-0246.
WV Council of Churces Interfaith Global Climate Change Campaign is seeking
two part-time (15-20 hours per month) regional coordinators - one for the
Eastern Panhandle and one for the North/Central Region.
The Council is sponsoring a 2001Interfaith Global Climate Change Campaign.
Representatives of many faith communions have been trained to work in their
congregations and communities to educate and lobby about the global warming
issue. A person is needed to continue the work in each region, which began in
2000, with those trained in the regions and with the state coordinator.
Qualifications: active in a faith community; concerned about stewardship
& environmental issues (does not have to be expert); has organizational and
communication skills; access to computer and computer skills; ability to
resource, network, and monitor regional campaign activities; attend meetings of
the Steering and Executive Committee.
Send resume' & letter of recommendation to:Marcia Leitch, P.O. Box 226,
Talcott, WV 24981-0226; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
phone:466-0982, fax:466-4790 by January 5, 2001.
Free Water Quality Sampling
Alternative Testing Laboratories, Inc. has generously offered to provide
chemical analysis of natural and waste waters to West Virginia's watershed
groups free of charge. Watershed groups pay only the cost of shipping samples.
Paul Baker, president and the one offering the lab's services, is a
semi-retired chemist residing near Fairmont, W.Va. Alternative Testing
Laboratories is located in Lemont Furnace, Pa. Water quality testing parameters
include acidity, alkalinity, conductivity, metals (aluminum, iron, manganese),
pH, suspended solids and sulfate. Contact Paul Baker, Alternative Testing
Laboratories, Inc., 2252 University Dr., Suite 300, Lemont Furnace, Pa. 15456.