Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Coal Industry Pushes for Relaxed Selenium Standards

Charleston, WV -- It is a ludicrous moment. West Virginia lawmakers are fighting to override current EPA standards on selenium discharge into West Virginia streams because they are up for review so that the state must come up with their own in the meantime ?

Selenium Hearing, HB2579 - Images by antrim caskey

 According to Thomas Cook, Vice President of Environmental Permitting for Alpha Natural Resources, the mountaintop removal company in West Virginia, "For several years, I've overseen research on selenium on fish impact in West Virginia streams...there were no individual community effects. The fish appeared healthy." This is the word from Alpha-funded research from the Alpha employee in charge of permitting. Patriot Coal has been held liable for more than 400 million dollars related to selenium clean up in their coal mining operations in Boone County, WV thanks to lawyers at Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Sierra Club. As part of the agreement to settle the selenium lawsuits, Patriot Coal has promised to quit all mountaintop removal operations. This eliminates just 15% of the mountaintop removal operations in West Virginia. Alpha Natural Resources, formerly Massey Energy, control the rest of the mountaintop removal operations.

Water Problems With Coal Mining - Images by antrim caskey

 There was the junior Dark Lord of Coal, Bill Raney, of the West Virginia Coal Association, who shuffled up to the witness stand to testify in favor of the regulation-loosening bill; he was draped over bulky black crutches, dressed in a dark suit, though his hair is now grayed. Rainey, perhaps making up in voice for what he lacked otherwise, pronounced that the current regulations and rules on selenium discharge into West Virginia streams, which is not uncommon in coal mining, are already too strenuous. "They're literally having to make distilled water," he gaped. He then recited a platitude, "to keep our minds and business open" as he left the podium and loped back to his seat, surrounded by the bevy of junior coal barons he came with. 

 Refreshingly, citizen testimony channeled through a cute Hunger Games metaphor by United Methodist preacher Luana Scott who said "this bill makes fun of the fact that we're controlled by Industry...I come today in a ludicrous outfit. My faith compels me to speak out today." Scott was followed by Kathy Elkins who had taken the afternoon off so that she could comment on the proposed legislation. Elkins said " I observe this bill to be an attempt to protect the coal industry." For a final dose of inanity there was Jason Bostic, Vice President of the WV Coal Association, who pleaded with the lawmakers, "We seek to bring some sanity to our state's waste quality."

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