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“Out-of-State Coal Corporations Have Used West Virginia Like a Colony”

Today's Charleston (WV) Gazette on how corporate coal lobbyists are basically writing new mine safety laws:
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.

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.

Replace "West Virginia" with "southwest Virginia" and "Legislature" with "General Assembly" and this editorial could just as easily be talking about our own state.

Virginia Becomes First State to See Coal Mine Death in 2012

Going in a coal mineAmerica's first reminder of the true cost of cheap energy in 2012 comes from Virginia:
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.

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.

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.

Via Ken Ward Jr.'s Coal Tattoo

Surprise: Study from Energy Industry-Packed Commission Presented as Pro-Uranium Mining

As the Virginia General Assembly considers a mining company's request to lift the state's longtime moratorium on digging up radioactive uranium, a new study is making some big claims about economic impacts. But considering the commission that requested the study, should we be surprised the study puts questionable jobs claims first and buries ominous warnings further down?

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
When reporting to a commission like that, it's no wonder Chmura made sure to highlight the positives and downplay the potentially disastrous negatives:

Packed House for Uranium Mining Event in Arlington

1 Meeting in Arlington, VAI went to an information session on uranium mining last night at the Arlington Central Library hosted by You can read up on the many reasons the 30-year ongoing uranium mining ban Virginia has been such an important protection for Virginians on their website. But here were the key takeaways for me:
  • 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.
Read more to get additional details, learn what you can do, and watch videos with Delegates David Englin & Ken Plum talking about their recent trip to a former uranium mining site in France.

Uranium Mining Poses Serious Threat to Roanoke River Basin


Cross-posted from

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.