This has been a busy week in my fight against the Keystone Development #2 Strip Mine. This past Thursday, August 7th, Tam and I attended a rally on the capitol steps. Several hundred people attended and the rally received a fair amount of media response. I spoke on behalf of the residents that will be affected by the Keystone Development #2 mine. I was so nervous that I don’t know what I said. The next day over 4,000 signatures to Governor Tomblin’s office. Again the media attended. Tam and I finished the day with a picnic sponsored by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.
These events and the people involved made me feel positive, hopeful and personally powerful.
Then yesterday I went to a hearing at the Department of Environmental Protection regarding this permit.
This was not my first hearing and I was better prepared this time for my anger and frustration. I knew that the DEP attorney would roll his eyes and be disrespectful. I knew that the Keystone attorneys would be arrogant and dismissive of human life. I knew that the Surface Mine Board would give the impression that they were objective while finding for the mining company every time.
One expert for our appeal was trying to discuss the watershed plan and the high potential for flooding from this permit. It seemed that the only thing that the Board and attorneys for the DEP and Keystone could focus on was whether or not the witness was an engineer. I’m not certain how that would change the inadequate watershed plan.
When an expert for the appellants was expressing concerns about mine run-off and the affect it could have on aquatic and terrestrial life, the attorney for Keystone said, “and some flies might die, none of them would be on the endangered species list, would they?”
The arrogance demonstrated by Keystone’s attorney in the above quote was minor compared to the repeated comments he made in asides about being done with “these people”. Kanawha State Forest might not be affected by pollution in Kanawha Fork but WE would be! Our ground and well water WILL be. When my father-in-law made this point from the witness stand the attorney for Keystone snidely said, “You don’t know that.” Fred responded with, “Prove to me it won’t. You can’t.”
Kanawha Fork is the creek that runs in front of our homes, it joins up with Davis creek at the entrance to Kanawha State Forest, and then runs through Loudendale, WV, approximately 2,300 people potentially affected by water polluted by mine run-off. 2,300 homes in danger from mine-related flooding. But then, from what I’ve seen of Mr. Hoyer, we’re probably less significant than the flies he mentioned.
Our attorneys tried to get clarification on the $700,000 payment to the Department of Natural Resources. The CEO of Revelation Energy said it was a way to give back to the community for the “temporary inconvenience.” His attorneys repeatedly called it a “settlement” and a “done deal” that they would not discuss. First of all, ten YEARS is not “temporary.” Second, no matter what you call it, the “settlement” sounds more like the Department of Natural Resources signed off on the permit because they were paid off to do so.
The mine has had three violations since the permit was signed in May. The precursor to this mine, Keystone Development #1, has had a history of being in violation, a history which seems to be repeating itself at Keystone Development #2.
West Virginia Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin has the authority to rescind the permit, or, at the very least, place the entire permit on hold until a full review can be done. To ignore us and not respond in any way makes his alliance clear. He does not represent the people of West Virginia. He represents the corporations.
The time I spent at the hearing was not a complete waste. Since I am often overwhelmed by the desire to burst out at these hearings and am fluent in American Sign Language, it’s important to keep my mouth shut and my hands busy. So I brought my sanity with me in the form of crochet. I may get a lot of gifts done this way.
This is a personal blog and these are my impressions and my understanding of the situation.