A letter to Lisa Jackson from West Virginia

Written by Amanda Starbuck

Topics: Coal

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Yesterday we learned the news that the EPA has, yet again, flip-flopped on mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining and given the go-ahead to new mining at Pine Creek in Logan County, West Virginia

For West Virginia coal miner’s widow Lorelei Scarbro and leader with the Alliance for Appalachia, who has met numerous times with the EPA, the decision is nothing less than an act of betrayal to the Appalachian people. In a personal letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson yesterday, Scarbro wrote:

Dear Ms. Jackson:

I just finished reading what amounts to a green light by Region 3 EPA on the Pine Creek permit in Logan County, WV.  I have to say that this disturbs me.

I have been involved in the battle to stop, not regulate, mountaintop removal coal mining since the coal mine moved in next door to my home at the base of Coal River Mountain in Rock Creek, WV.

I watched my husband die of black lung after 35 years as an underground union coal miner.

I watch as people I love get sicker each day from contaminated water after raising their family in Prenter Hollow, WV.

On April 5 of this year I made phone calls to family and friends to make sure they made it home from work after the explosion at Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, WV.  And, I pray everyday that my 26 year old son-in-law (the father of my 2 grandchildren) gets to see the sun again after a long hard day underground in a Massey mine.

I have left my very peaceful home 3 miles up in Rock Creek and traveled to DC many times in the past 2 years to help the powers that be to really see the face of coal.  I hope that by telling the people on Capitol Hill how the decisions they make affect the lives of the people in the mountain communities they might begin to see us as valuable.  Too often we are treated like collateral damage or just the price of doing business.

I have been in many meetings with David Evans, Brian Fraizer and many others at EPA in DC and Region 3.  I have met with CEQ, OSMRE and many other regulatory agencies and countless numbers of Senators and Congressmen trying to make a difference.

I was on the call on April 1 when you released the guidance for conductivity levels and I was very excited when I heard you say “ You’re talking about no or very few valley fills that are going to be able to meet standards like this.” The release of this guidance and your words brought hope to many people that long ago lost it.

I have been very thankful for all of the steps this EPA has taken to improve life in the mountain communities of Appalachia, but I was heartbroken when I saw the decision on Pine Creek.  Although I live about 1 ½ hours from this area I stand with the citizens there and I fear that this is just the beginning of many more permit releases.  We believed you when you spoke about “zeroing out valley fills”.  Where I am from, sometimes all you have is your word.  People here have historically made life altering decisions on nothing more than a handshake and their  word.

I am a 54 year old widow of a coal miner and the most important thing to me is clean drinking water for my grandchildren.  I don’t believe that is possible if we continue to destroy and cover head water streams in Appalachia.  Once again, I have lost hope.  Please don’t let this be the final word on Pine Creek Surface Mine.

Thank you.

7 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Pat Okerlund says:

    Stop mountain top removal of coal, now.

  2. Pat Okerlund says:

    Stop mountain top removal of coal now.

  3. Anna Crowson says:

    Coal is never enough gain for the amount of destruction it causes. Trying to make short sighted, corporate greed addicts see this is nothing short of a monumental task. I feel for this woman, and her plight.

    Shame, disappointment, both are words that I’m wondering if Ms. Jackson understands, as she seems to have blatantly lied to Lorelei and countless others.

    I don’t know how to go about doing it, but people from places like RAN and Greenpeace need to be put in charge of local and state EPA branches. That way, we can see everyone put their money where their mouth is and actually get it done, enforcing the law and the sustainability of our planet.

    I’m going back to college so I can head in this direction… but I know plenty of good people are out there with the know how already. We should find ways of gaining those jobs, so that people who lie for the sake of short sighted greed can no longer affect the way whole ecosystems can be devoured, and instead implement a sustainable, lasting, beautiful, Natural world.

  4. Heidi Fannin says:

    This saddens me. Profit over people, profit over earth.

  5. Sandra A. Eckert says:

    EPA seems to stand for “environmental pestilence always.” Please stop removing mountain tops and other actions that negatively affect nature. Earth has been good to us. Why are you hell-bent to destroy her?

  6. marilyn cook says:

    Dear Ms. Jackson, I cannot believe that you put greed ahead of clean air and water for the people of West Virginia. Are you so naive to think that a coal company can put back what they destroy? I grew up in that area and it may not look like much to some people but it is loaded with flora,wild animals and valuable trees. When this coal company gets through destroying the wild life,flora and trees, I will give you $1,ooo if you will live there for one year, and I give you my word on that. Are you willing to take me up on my offer?

  7. Bradley Cromer says:

    Please protect something Wild And Wonderful, Because there won’t be any Take Me Home Country Roads, Mountain Momma and of course the mountains, streams and animals and last but not least the Humble People of Pine Creek of West By God Virginia.. Do We Have To Beg The People Who Lead The EPA . Sorry Miss Jackson This Is For Real. Real Way of Life in WV Thank You for Our Childrens Sake

Trackbacks For This Post

  1. The Understory » Army Corps Issues Permit to Blow Up Pine Creek

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