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Bill to Abolish Mountain Top Removal Introduced in WV Senate
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by Bill Price, Sierra Club Environmental Justice Coordinator | 2008

The FIRST bill introduced to stop Mountaintop Removal mining was introduced by Morgantown's Jon Hunter in the WV Senate

State Senator Jon Hunter recently introduced SB 588, which would abolish Mountain Top Removal in West Virginia. Below are the comments Senator Hunter made on the Senate floor upon introduction of this historic bill. Although the Senator acknowledges that the bill will not pass this session, the hope is that another legislator will continue the effort in the coming year. How does your legislator feel about MTR? Call them up and ask!!! Let them know how you feel!!!

Mr. President:
I stand here today to offer my confession. God created our mountains. God created our clear, clean mountain streams and rives. God created our lush green forests and God created our hardy mountaineer ancestors who settled these hills because of our mountains, our clear, clean streams, and our lush green forests. And, yes, God also put the coal in those mountains, but I fervently believe he did not intend for us to destroy the mountains, the streams, the forests and his people to mine it. Coal can be mined without mountain top removal.

Mr. President:
God through his son Jesus has taught us about Sins of Commission and Sins of Omission- to intentionally destroy God’s creations, be the human or a mountain, is a Sin of Commission.

To stand by and do nothing is a Sin of Omission. On this holy day, Ash Wednesday, I wish to confess my Sin of Omission and I promise to sin no more. That is why today I have introduced SB 588- a bill designed to stop this unholy destruction of our mountains, our streams, our forests, and our people.

Let’s document the Sin of Destruction of our magnificent mountains and forests. To mine the coal seams-up to 800 feet of mountain top is blasted away-using a million tons of explosives. Every 2 weeks the amount of explosives is equal to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. According to OSM, 1.4 million acres or 2,200 square miles of mountains and forests have been destroyed.

What about our clear, clean streams? 1,200 miles of streams have been destroyed. 724 miles have been completely buried- and in just the last 6 years almost 600 miles of streams have been damaged, about 275 of those completely buried. That is the distance between here and Florida.

Mr. President:
And, what about our people? First, we have lost jobs; since 1980-when almost 60,000 of us were employed in mining that number has dropped to about 17,000 in 2006. That is 43,000 lost jobs. Southern West Virginia has seen a massive loss of jobs and population. Those left behind have seen increased flooding, blasting damage to their houses and wells, air pollution and dust everywhere…water pollution, loss of timber jobs, lost hunting and fishing habitats as well as wildlife. Our communities and way of life have disappeared and our health has been severely impacted by the dust, the chemicals and heavy metals polluting our air and water, resulting in skin rashes, respiratory problems, cancer, kidney and liver problems. Our children in these areas are twice as likely to have autism. And Mr. President, I have just received and article in the New England Journal of Medicine that selenium has recently been linked to Type II diabetes. West Virginia leads the nation in Type II diabetes. A coincidence? I think not!!

Recent polls have indicated that over 60% of our citizens are opposed to mountain top removal. I only wish 60% of our legislators were. In truth, I suspect you are, but like gambling-we are addicted to the revenue and like addicts we are committing the Sin of Omission. I know we will not pass SB588, but as one of my last confessions, I have to confess my sin of not doing this sooner during my 11 years in this body.

May God bless West Virginia and its’ stewards. Thank you for hearing my confession.

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