For generations, out-of-state coal corporations have used West Virginia like a colony, bleeding away mineral wealth and leaving little behind but poverty and ravages. The industry invests heavily to sway the Legislature. Traditionally, it wielded enormous power.Replace "West Virginia" with "southwest Virginia" and "Legislature" with "General Assembly" and this editorial could just as easily be talking about our own state.
But coal is fading. The number of West Virginia miners dwindled from 125,000 after World War II to around 15,000 today, as machines displaced human workers. All studies say easy-to-reach Appalachian coal is being depleted, and production will decline severely in coming years.
Under these circumstances, it's remarkable that coal lobbyists still have power to steer the Legislature, like the tail wagging the dog.
A Mercer County coal miner died Wednesday evening as a result of injuries he received while working at Consol's Buchanan No. 1 Mine on Jan. 11. He was the first coal miner to be fatally injured on the job this year.We tend to turn a blind eye to coal mining deaths unless they come in bunches like the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, but individual deaths like this add up to dozens of miners killed every year. While our dependence on coal keeps electricity rates low for consumers, it comes with a steep cost in human lives, both in mine accidents and pollution deaths.
Joe Saunders, 44, of Princeton, died at Bristol Regional Medical Center in Bristol, Tenn., according to Mike Abbott, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy. Saunders and another coal miner were both injured at about 9 p.m., on Jan. 11, when a high-pressure water line valve they were working on blew off and broke into pieces. Abbott said that Saunders was struck in the head by one of the pieces. Abbott said that Saunders was initially transported to Clinch Valley Medical Center in Richlands, then transported to BRMC.
Via Ken Ward Jr.'s Coal Tattoo
The report was produced by Chmura Economics & Analytics for the Virginia Coal & Energy Commission. As Bacon's Rebellion blogger Peter Galuszka first pointed out, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) is so terrified of the possibility of any dissent on the Coal & Energy Commission, he didn't appoint a single representative from conservation groups or from activist groups in Virginia's Southside, where the proposed uranium mining would take place. Stacking the deck doesn't even begin to describe McDonnell's appointees:
- Barbara Altizer, president & executive director of the Eastern Coal Council
- Jodi Gidley, president of Virginia Natural Gas
- Ken Hutcheson, former GOP strategist and president of Virginia Alternative and Renewable Energy Association, whose main mission seems to be to help Gov. McDonnell and the Virginia Petroleum Council greenwash
- James K. Martin, senior vice president for Dominion Power
- John Matney, president of the Harbor Company & president of the coal mining Stearns Company
- Donald L. Ratliff, vice president for coal mining Alpha Natural Resources, LLC
- Rhonnie Smith, retired from nuclear reactor maker B&W
- The biggest risk from uranium mining is that a catastrophic flood would wash radioactive mine waste downstream. The proposed Coles Hill mine site is in a FEMA-designated flood zone and upstream from four drinking water intakes. How this is even a question for anyone in Richmond, I do not understand.
- The Coles Hill Site alone would generate at least 28 million tons of waste. Exposure to uranium waste has been linked to increases in leukemia, kidney disease and other severe health problems.
- If mining does take place, it would have no impact on Virginia electricity rates. The uranium "yellow cake" won't even be processed into nuclear fuel rods here in Virginia - it'll be shipped out of state, then sold on the international uranium market. (Much like offshore drilling would have no impact on gas prices in Virginia or anywhere else.)
- Think this isn't an issue where you live? The Virginia General Assembly & Gov. Bob McDonnell can't just repeal the ban for one site - they'd have to lift it for the entire state. There are also uranium deposits in the Occoquan River and Rappahannock River watersheds. If the ban is lifted, communities all over the state could be at risk.
Cross-posted from www.articlexi.com
Today the Roanoke River was included in American Rivers' 26th annual list of the 10 most endangered waterways in America. American Rivers says lifting the ban on uranium mining would threaten the Roanoke River as well as drinking water supplies in the region with radioactive pollution and toxic chemicals.
The river flows from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia to North Carolina's Outer Banks. It provides drinking water to more than one million people in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and other communities. Raleigh, North Carolina has also expressed need to use water from the basin.
The River is also a center of tourism and cultural heritage for the region. Once a passageway for the Native Americans and early European settlers, it is now enjoyed by local and visitors who enjoy trout fishing, kayaking, swimming and so much more.