Grass Roots Environmental Effort Newsletter

February 2001

Delay Dereg

by Gary Zuckett and Jim Kotcon

One of this year's biggest news stories is the exciting new way California is generating and distributing its electricity - the 'deregulated free market.' What a gamble, instead of rolling the dice, Californians are rolling blackouts around the state.

Since casino gambling at the Greenbrier went down the tubes this past election the Legislature has set up an even bigger gamble to consider - Electricity Deregulation. It's gotten very little coverage outside of Charleston, but it will affect everyone in the state if it passes.

What's the rush? West Virginia already has the 9th lowest electricity rates in the country, rates that have no where to go but up under the present proposal. In fact, rate increases are built right into the plan. Ah, but rates are capped for several years before they go up, up, up says the Public Service Commissioner.

"Sure the rates are capped. But these caps come with a bottle opener!" testified a retired federal regulator from the Eastern panhandle at the most recent public hearing. He's referring to a loophole in the plan that gives the PSC authority to grant rate increases to power suppliers who come to them with hat-in-hand claiming they will be harmed by their 'free market' dealing unless PSC lets them jack up prices to consumers. In California, the state legislature is now bailing out the electric companies to the tune of billions of dollars just to keep the lights on.

Some legislators who support the plan argue that if WV doesn't dereg on its own, the Boogieman (Federal Government) will step in and do it for us.

A federal deregulation program would more likely provide some minimum floor of consumer and environmental protections that all states would have to meet, but would allow states to develop more comprehensive programs tailored to their own needs. For West Virginia to deregulate now would mean that the program would have to be redesigned later to meet federal criteria.

West Virginia's program is way out of step with what most states are considering and with what is being proposed in most federal legislation. This is especially true in the area of renewable energy support, energy conservation programs, environmental disclosure provisions, and air pollution control requirements. West Virginia's proposed plan is among the nation's most anti-environmental, and is far weaker than even the Texas plan that George Bush adopted and is proposing as a national model. Given this situation, West Virginia's environment would be far better off if we delay deregulation until a federal plan is mandated than if we try to pre-empt these proposed federal requirements.

The argument that we must deregulate now in order to avoid federal deregulation guidelines can only be interpreted as an EXPLICIT, DELIBERATE anti-environmental position, designed to avoid the benefits of cleaning up West Virginia's polluting dinosaurs. And those West Virginians already suffering from asthma, black lung, or other respiratory illnesses will remain forced to breathe the dirty emissions from our 'grandfathered' power plants, while paying higher electric rates for that 'privilege.'

Who's pushing dereg? Have any of your friends called upon our lawmakers begging for the opportunity to have telemarketers interrupt their dinner to switch electric suppliers? Dereg is a totally industry driven proposal. Big users, power companies, and big coal are pushing for free reign to wheel and deal in electrons. They claim competition will bring the price down.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is an appropriate comment on the current push for dereg. Call your lawmakers (and our new governor) right now and ask them to pull the plug on electric deregulation.

Sunrise Sculpture: Gift to the Environmental Movement

by Don Garvin, WVEC President

Mark Blumenstein, well known West Virginia artist and longtime member and supporter of the Council, has given us a rare gift and opportunity: he has donated one of his wonderful artworks to help raise funds for our legislative lobbying effort.

The piece of art he has chosen, "Sunrise Broaching," is a unique environmental sculpture, created from old vice grips, metal disks and sprung springs. It stands about 12 to 13 inches in height and is a bit longer. The piece is valued at almost $700.

We have decided to make the most of Mark's donation and raffle off this inspiring sculpture. Tickets are five dollars each and will be available throughout the 2001 legislative session. Each of you will be able to take a chance on winning this fine prize, and we hope each of you will help us sell additional tickets. We'll will draw the winning ticket at the E-Council "End-of-the-Session" party on April 14th.

Mark's sculptures are well known for their whimsical nature and kinetic movement. His works are in collections worldwide and the artist has galleries in Taylor Books Annex Gallery in Charleston , Studio 40 at the Greenbrier, Tamarack, Vivian's in Charlottesville, VA, and Browning Artworks in Cape Hatteras, NC. He has had one-man shows and installations at Sunrise Museum in Charleston, the Huntington (WV) Museum of Art, along with a monumental sculpture at the Youth Museum in Beckley. His work was featured in "Tools As Art," an April '96 Smithsonian Magazine article, and a New York Times review of the Heckinger collection book, "Tools As Art."

According to Mark, "My work for the past 28 years has been the exploration of the physical properties of recycled metals, intense heat and the relationships of these elements to each other. The process not only intrigues me, but so does the shape and interaction of material with the elements. I am continuing to follow the path that this process has created and hope to work toward finding many more of the intricacies that this path has revealed. My sculpture is the product of this search and the direction that it takes is dictated by the discoveries that are divulged."

Some of Mark's work can be viewed at his web site at http://www.inetone.net/markb/sculpture/.

The sculpture will be on display throughout the legislative session at Taylor Books in Charleston, where tickets will also be available. Tickets will also be available for purchase or consignment at the WVEC office. Additional tickets will be available at the next board meeting, and we will be working on other ways to distribute them to members as well. So stop by and pick up some tickets to sell for our lobby effort.

And remember when you see Mark to say, "Thanks!" We all owe Mark Blumenstein our deepest gratitude for this extraordinary opportunity, and for his exceptional generosity as well.

Slurry Pond Plan Has Red Flags Waving

by Dave Peyton, Huntington Herald Dispatch

January 26, 2001

The organizers called it a "teach-in," but the information that Rick Eades presented at the gathering transformed it into a scare-in.

A group of students and interested citizens convened Tuesday night at Marshall University's Student Center to hear Eades, a hydrologist who works with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, tell them that a sludge pond in western Raleigh County, W.Va., has the potential of making the environmental disaster late last year in Martin County, Ky., look like a Sunday school picnic.

In that dark episode last October, a 20-acre Martin County Coal Co. sludge impoundment near Inez collapsed and sent 250 million gallons of black slurry sludge into tributaries of the Big Sandy River. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called it one of the worst environmental disasters in the region's history.

Eades said a planned impoundment in Raleigh County would dwarf the Kentucky impoundment, where sludge from the pond apparently poured through cracks in the bottom of that pond into abandoned mining tunnels underneath them and then into two adjacent creeks.

The slurry pond planned for Raleigh County would cover twice the acreage of the Kentucky pond. It would hold an estimated 5 billion gallons of coal sludge behind a dam, built from coal refuse, that would be 600 feet high.

Underneath the proposed pond is a honeycomb of underground coal mines, both active and abandoned. The only thing that keeps the underground mines from collapsing are the pillars of rock and coal left to create the opening from which the coal was mined.

"These pillars are big enough to hold the rock and soil above the mines, but are they enough to support the weight of hundreds of feet of coal sludge and slurry?" Eades asked.

What happens if they're not that strong?

Eades displayed maps showing that, if the slurry finds its way into the underground mines, the liquid would take a twisting path to a mine portal in a hollow above Whiteville in Boone County.

If that sequence happened, it wouldn't just inundate streams and yards the way it did in Kentucky, Eades said. This time, it would take houses off their foundations and destroy everything in its path as the slurry entered the Coal River and made its way to St. Albans.

I'd say the environment would be destroyed all the way to St. Albans and would be seriously affected downstream in the Kanawha River and even the Ohio.

If that's not enough to scare you, consider this: The Raleigh County impoundment is proposed by Marfork Coal Co. The parent company of both Marfork and Martin County Coal Co. is A.T. Massey Coal.

Thus, the same company that's planning the Raleigh County impoundment was in charge of constructing the failed Martin County impoundment.

Eades admitted that the Marfork impoundment might never fail. But it's simply too risky, he said. The consequences are too great if the worst happens. And if the worst happens, he added, we can't say we weren't warned.


The Maryland Alliance for Greenway Improvement and Conservation (MAGIC) is launching a statewide conservation project called the Appalachian Wildlands Preserve. Its goal is to reconnect forests in Maryland with those of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia to provide continuous wildlife habitat between fragmented forests in these states. The Appalachian Wildlands Preserve is modeled after The Wildlands Project (TWP). TWP is the most visionary conservation program in existence today.

It is about "reconnecting" the remaining wildlands across North America, and about "re-wilding" the land to the benefit of both humans and wildlife. It will provide many additional benefits like improved habitat for plants and improved air and pure water for all of us. Through advocacy, education, scientific research, and cooperation with regional groups, TWP is drafting a blueprint for an interconnected, continental-scale system of protected wildlands linked by habitat corridors.

MAGIC is planning a statewide meeting on April 7, 2001, at the Patuxent Wildlife Center in Maryland to launch the Appalachian Wildlands Preserve Project. Please plan to attend. It will be a full day of lectures and workshops.

Representatives of several other regional TWP groups will discuss their work and how a large-scale TWP conservation model in Maryland can be linked to efforts under way in neighboring states and regions.

To receive a brochure on the project, please send your name, postal mail address and affiliation, if applicable, to BOBDEGROOT1@cs.com.

Sustainable Fair 2001

by Denise Poole, WVEC Coordinator

"Think Green", Sustainable Fair 2001, will be July 27 - 29 on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan in Buckhannon, WV. WVEC is collaborating with several organizations and individuals on this project.

Focusing on sustainable and green economic initiatives throughout the state, planned activities include: demonstrations & workshops on hydrogen powered, solar powered and electric diesel vehicles; solar energy for the home; windmill energy; water resources; herbal medicine; dowsing; and homes built with paper, tires, and hay. Booths, offering an array of information and products, music and special children's activities, are also a part of the three-day event.

I am thrilled with the enthusiastic response we have received. Fair Co-Director Myra Bonhage-Hale (La Paix Herb Farm, Lewis Co.) defines it this way: "Sustainable Fair 2001 intends to tackle the problems of the current crisis situation in America's economy: gas for our cars and heat for our homes, unsafe food, polluted air, inadequate health care, lack of clean water and dwindling energy resources."

West Virginia offers its own nuances when it comes to the economy and environment, as well as possible alternatives. I hear about new initiatives constantly, and hope more of you will get in touch and participate in some way.

A few participants to date include: WVEC, La Paix Herb Farm, West Virginia University Extension Service - Sustainable Agriculture Dept., OVEC, WV Herb Association, Mountain State Organic Growers and Buyers Assoc., Arcadia Farms, Garden Treasures, Whistlin' Wheels, Auvil Homes, Thorn Run Inn, Mountain State Dowsers.

For registration information and participation requirements contact me at WVEC, 1324 Virginia St. E., Charleston, 25301, 304-346-5905 or deniseap@earthlink.net. For continual updates and information please visit www.lapaixherbaljourney.com and www.ecouncil.org.

Creation's Corner

by Mary Ellen O'Farrell

The days are becoming longer; with the sunrise coming earlier and night falling later. I have begun to receive garden catalogues in the mail, and daydream about this spring's plantings. Every year there is less grass to cut, as more of our yard is plowed to grow vegetables and flowers.

There are still weeks of darkness and cold to experience, however, to help us prepare for the joyful intensity of Creation's new life in early spring. As we await this season of rebirth, we may experience spiritual renewal in ourselves as well. Our prayer lines may deepen as hope increases, and we may feel a desire to share this faith in our Creator as one who does indeed call forth new life in all that he has made.

The canticle of the three young men thrown into the fiery furnace (found in the Hebrew scriptures) expresses these feelings so beautifully:

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,

drops of dew and flakes of snow.

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him forever.


Let the earth glorify the Lord,

praise him highly exalt him forever.

Glorify the Lord, mountains and hills,

And all that grows upon the earth,

Praise him and highly exalt him forever!

With the legislative session about to begin, remember in prayer our legislators, elected officials, and lobbyists (green and otherwise) that they may respond in grace to God's call to stewardship of Creation! Send us your thoughts, suggestions, and prayers regarding these topics, and please don't hesitate to contact WVEC if you can volunteer during the session.

Logging Coalition Forming

by Frank Young, President, WV Highlands Conservancy

Several West Virginia environmental organizations have joined with citizen logging reform activists to form the Coalition for Responsible Logging (CORL). CORL's purpose is to improve logging techniques through strengthening the state's Logging Sediment Control Act.

CORL would improve the Act by a bill that would make currently only nominally mandatory commercial timbering Best Management Practices (BMPs) enforceable by requiring inspections of logging sites and providing for enforcement BEFORE erosion and sediment runoff occurs, if control measures are not in place.

It would move enforcement from the state Division of Forestry to the Division of Environmental Protection, and mandate that agency to develop a system of civil and administrative penalties for violations.

The legislation would also create a better logging registration system. Under current law, a timber site must register, but no permit is required. Under the proposed bill, the Division of Forestry would have to actually look at the site and approve planned roads and sediment control before logging begins.

The CORL legislation would require logging operators to post a performance bond. If the site is reclaimed, the logger gets the bond back. If not, the Division of Forestry keeps the bond and has the site reclaimed.

The bill would provide for criminal penalties for violations of the Act, including failing to implement Best Management Practices, not registering, and not informing adjoining landowners.

And finally, the bill requires the logging operator to notify adjoining landowners that timber is being cut. Landowner claims of stolen timber is very common.

In summary, the bill doesn't do much at all to change what operators are supposed to be doing on the ground. It just makes it more likely that it will actually happen.

The CORL organization is composed of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the WV Sierra Club, the WV Rivers Coalition, the Religious Campaign for Forest Restoration, the WV Environmental Council, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, Trout Unlimited and the West Virginia Organizing Project.

Other organizations may be accepted for CORL membership by an affirmative vote of the CORL steering committee. They should send a representative to CORL meetings and ask for membership.

For more information, please e-mail frankly@mtparty.org.

E-Day! At the Capitol

Our 13th annual E-Day! will be at the State Capitol on Wednesday, March 21 in the Lower Rotunda area and upstairs on the Senate-side wing from 10 AM to 4 PM. Make your plans now to join us, reserve a display area and take the opportunity to lobby your representatives .

Relax afterward at our Wine & Cheese Fundraiser tentatively scheduled for the same evening at Taylor Books, Capitol Street in Charleston from 5:30 to 8:30. Music will be provided.

For display reservations and information contact: Denise Poole, WVEC E-Day! Coordinator, at deniseap@earthlink.net or the WVEC office, 1324 Virginia St. E., Charleston, 25301, or 304-346-5905.

Thanks to Senator Rockefeller!!

This week Senator Rockefeller voted against the nomination of Gail Norton for Secretary of the Interior. Many of you took the time to call him and ask for his support in opposing this anti-environmental candidate that is now in charge of our national park systems. Please take the time to call Senator Rockefeller and thank him for his vote against Bush's nominee, affectionately known as "James Watt in a skirt." He needs to know that we appreciate his decision to vote "no" and can be reached at 202-224-6472.

To let Senator Byrd know that his "yes" vote was unacceptable, call 202-224-3954.

Frankenfood Info

by Mary Wildfire

Are you concerned about the widespread selling of unlabelled, genetically engineered food in this country? Would you like to keep perverted food off your own table and out of the bodies of your own family? If you have Internet access, there is a very handy list at www.truefoodnow.org . It's several pages long, but you can print out just the relevant sections if you prefer. It's organized by categories and lists items, by brand and product name, in either "genetically engineered," "not genetically engineered," or "phasing out genetically engineered ingredients" columns.

If you want to get involved in the fight to force companies to label frankenfoods, there are many organizations working on this, including Greenpeace and Public Citizen.

Even Underwood Hates Litter!

by Clint Hogbin, EPPEC

The Eastern Panhandle People's Empowerment Coalition (EPPEC) has agreed to attempt to address the ever-growing problem of litter and open dumping of solid waste into streams and along roads. Remember, West Virginia spends $3-5 million of your money to cleanup litter and open dumps annually.

Senator John R. Unger II has agreed to propose legislation to stiffen the litter and open dumping laws. This legislation has the support of the WV-DNR, many conservation officers, solid waste authorities, anti-litter and environmental groups. The big picture of the proposed legislation is to amend the existing litter statute to:

1) Make it a crime to litter from a motor vehicle and assess 3 points on the driver's license if convicted.

2) Convert the present "flat rate" penalty to a graduated scale penalty. For example, a conviction of dumping less than 100 lbs equals a $50-$100 fine or 8-16 hours of litter pickup or both. A conviction of 100 lbs to 500 lbs equals a $500-$2,000 fine or 16-32 hours of litter pickup or both. A conviction of 500 lbs or more equals $2,500-$25,000 fine or jail for one year or both. Any convicted commercial waste hauler dumping any amount lands a $2,500-$25,000 fine or jail for one year or both. And, any second or subsequent conviction(s) doubles the range of fines and community service penalties.

3) Return 50% of the civil penalty to the county solid waste authority in the county in which the act occurred for use (only) in litter prevention and education programs.

The proposed law has several advantages. The first is it essentially doubles the fines of the present law thereby further discouraging the act. A second is it penalizes dumpers for higher volumes dumped. A person caught throwing out a couch will pay a higher fine than the person caught throwing out a cup. Another is that for the first time it implements points against your driver's license again thereby further discouraging the act and it returns half the money to county solid waste authorities; all of which are poorly funded; some of which are so poor they actually have offices in homes or in the basement of churches.

EPPEC is establishing a statewide e-mail network that will educate legislators of the need to pass the legislation. It is the old rule "endless pressure - endlessly applied" and timed to specific committee - just in a different format. I will provide updates and specific instructions of who/when/where to apply the citizen pressure. I will never ask you to travel to Charleston but will ask for repeated e-mail messages to multiple legislators in a timely manner. If you're interested in addressing the litter and open dumping problem and reducing the need to spend your tax dollars to clean it up, please e-mail me at crhogbin@cs.com. Thank you.

WV-CAG Perspectives

by Norm Steenstra, WV-CAG Executive Director

Picture an old fashioned scale. You know, the kind that denotes justice. The scale's lighter side is at 11:00 and the heavier side is at 5:00. There is a joint committee of the legislature called the Legislative Rulemaking Review Committee. It's an important committee that reviews all the rules and regulation changes including those affecting beauticians, embalmers, food handlers and taxes. It is also the committee that controls nearly every air, water, solid waste, and mining regulation in the state. The scale I refer to is an accurate symbol of the composition of Rulemaking Committee. The committee is remarkably unbalanced on environmental issues. Guess what is on the light side? That's how biased the committee was before Bob Kiss kicked Delegate Mary Pearl Compton off the committee.

In the "old" days, former Speaker Chuck Chambers tried to provide balance to the Rulemaking Committee. Even though Chuck favored many of our positions he once said to me that he "wanted the committee to be a place where all sides were heard and decisions made wisely." Some old-time GREEN readers may recall that we could actually win some big issues on that committee. The "Cancer Creek " vote that helped so much to stop the Mason County pulp mill was one such victory. Over the years, people like Dave Grubb, John Huntwork and Don Macnaughtan left the legislature and pro-polluter toadys were appointed in their places.

For the last couple of years, we relied on Mary Pearl Compton to be the consistent (albeit minority) voice for the environment on the committee. Last month Bob Kiss kicked her off the committee she had served on for 12 years. Her abrupt departure occurred shortly after she had "caught" industry lobbyists trying to insert an amendment into the water non-degradation rules last month. She then moved to postpone any vote on the rules and publicly stated that "any proposed changes should be agreed to by both industry and the green lobby." Remember the scale? Removing Mary Pearl from something already so biased speaks volumes on the leadership and values of the House of Delegates. It also defines just who our opponents are. Polluters already enjoy a big majority on the committee but they also demand an atmosphere in which there is no issue debate. That is bully mentality and there is no place for such behavior in a rational democratic process. Under the Kiss leadership, debate suppression is the norm.

Mary Pearl Compton worked hard on the Committee for 12 years and represented the progressive perspectives on nearly every issue. She and West Virginia deserve better than the Legislature's pervasive good old boy mentality. There are different styles in dealing with the good old boys. Go along with them and hope to have a few crumbs or try to replace the crumbs.

WVEC Goes Electronic!!

Many of you have sent us your e-mail addresses for action alerts during the Legislative Session and throughout the year. To save on paper, postage and labor, we are now offering our on-line members the Legislative Update and GREEN via e-mail. If we have your e-mail address, this is the last paper issue of the WVEC you'll receive. Starting with the first Update on February 16th, you will find us in your virtual mailbox.

If you can't live without the paper version, please call WVEC at 304-346-5905 or e-mail lmallet@wvwise.org and we'll keep sending it to you via snail mail.

If we don't have your e-mail address yet, please send it to cahogbin@cs.com and we'll add you to our list.

Remember, the legislative session is just around the corner! Once we have your e-mail address you'll also receive e-mail updates on urgent issues.

Thank You!!

The fundraising drive this year has been a huge success! Many of you dug deep and sent generous donations that will be used to fund our lobby team as well as to put together the weekly newsletter for the upcoming eight weeks of the session. Almost all of the WVEC budget is spent during those weeks.

Please look at your address labels with this issue of G.R.E.E.N. If no date appears, or it is outdated (over a year), we will not be able to send the Update. You can read Update on our web site, however: http://www.wvecouncil.org.

Postage and copying costs continue to go up. Please send in what you can so we can keep the newsletter coming to you!!