5th Annual 'End MTR' Week in Washington DC
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by Bill Price, Sierra Club Environmental Justice Coordinator |
Co-sponsors for the Clean Water Protection Act is up to 167 members of the House of Representative. Where are our Representatives on this issue?
In March 2010, over 200 citizen lobbyists from all over West Virginia and as far away as California and Oregon converged for the 5th annual End Mountaintop Removal (MTR) Week in Washington. Representing groups like WV Sierra Club, Coal River Mountain Watch, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, as well as many other passionate groups and individuals, these volunteer citizen activists came together for five days of stories, training, and serious grassroots lobbying.
Stories were told of the nearly unbearable hardship faced by the people who live in the coalfields where MTR is destroying more and more land and communities. Then came a day of training: what to say, how to say it, who to talk to, who to team with, and so on. Some of us did our annual suit wearing as we put on our inside-thebeltway protective coloration. On Monday we would be ready to be thrown to the lions — meet our Congressional Delegation that is.
Visiting Congress — Making “The Ask”
For three days small groups of citizen lobbyists met with Congressmen, Congresswomen, and Congressional staffers. We were always met politely, sometimes even cordially. We came, we talked, they listened, they talked. Ever hopeful, it was often nonetheless difficult to gauge reactions. The goal of the Week in Washington is to seek sponsors for two bills, one in the House of Representatives — the Clean Water Protection Act (http://ilovemountains.org/clean-water-protectionact/) — and one in the Senate — the Appalachia Restoration Act (http://ilovemountains.org/appalachia-restoration-act/). These bills would basically restore protection of our streams by prohibiting the valley fills that do so much of the damage in mountaintop removal.
At the end of the day we gathered at our church-basement headquarters for debriefing, camaraderie, assessment, etc. Then came several moments of high drama when a loud bell rang through the church hall. What the.....? First-time participants quickly learned the significance: The bell rings when a new sponsor has been signed up! It rang three times while we were there — exciting, and rewarding.
Where Are OUR Representatives?
The Clean Water Protection Act now has 167 sponsors in the House. Slowly but surely.... Unfortunately, none of West Virginia’s three Congressional representatives is among that number.
What You Can Do:
Ask your Congressional representative (contact information is on the back page of this newsletter) to sponsor the Clean Water Protection Act. Go to http://ilovemountains.org/clean-water-protection-act/ for more information and assistance in writing and sending your letter.