Grass Roots Environmental Effort Newsletter
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
"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
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
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
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
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
For registration information and participation requirements contact me at
WVEC, 1324 Virginia St. E., Charleston, 25301, 304-346-5905 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For continual updates and information please visit www.lapaixherbaljourney.com
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
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
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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"
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
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 email@example.com.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.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.
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!!