Capitol Building Commission Meeting
on MTR &
January 2, 2003
Photos by Vivian Stockman
The Capitol Building Commission met to hear our grievances on the West
Virginia Coal Association's (WVCA) interpretation of Senate Concurrent Resolution
No. 24 (1999). At the end of the meeting they told us the Commission had
no authority about what was on the base of the statue. Ultimately, it
seems the WVCA gets to interpret the resolution and have final say over
what goes on this monument, in the most public place in the state.
the news articles, and the Coal Industry's interpretation, then read the
resolution for yourself. Take a look at the flyer the WVCA circulated
asking for donations for the monument. See any mention of plaques,
other than a bronze panel for contributors' names?
contends the plaques were public knowledge long ago - we've seen pictures of
the miner statue from a while back, but we must have missed the
information about the plaques. Coalfield residents, the WVCA also contends,
were consulted on the monument, but no coalfield-resident members of OVEC
or Coal River Mountain Watch knew anything about this. We sure weren't invited to
the Governor's mansion for a preview.
Didn't anyone privy to what
would be on the base of this statue question the West Virginia Coal Association
when they said there would be a plaque honoring those who have "dedicated
their careers to providing low-cost energy" on this memorial that was
supposed to honor miners? Who defines "low cost" energy? The
miners who have lost their lives? The people driven from their communities
by mountaintop removal?
The coal industry unwittingly gave us
a clue of how it defines "low cost" when it unleashed ex-WVU
coach Don Nehlen as its "Friend of Coal" spokesman. On January 9,
2003, during the West Virginia Coal Associations annual symposium,
Nehlen said, according
to an article in the Charleston Gazette, Lets get some of these
doggone regulations eliminated or at least made sound, so guys can mine
coal. I dont exactly know the regulations, but Im smart enough to
know that in China, they mine for six bucks a ton, and we have got to be
able to compete with them."
Just days later, a blast trapped
33 miners underground in China, with little hope for survival. The
New York Times reported that about 7,000 miners died in China's mines in
If, as the WVCA says, this monument is intended to honor the economic
impact of coal to the state, and to tell the whole story of coal,
then there are some very important elements missing.
the monument is about Coal's economic impacts where's the plaque featuring
Ole King Coal stuffing a politician's pocket? Where are the plaques for
the missing worker's comp money, the billion dollar super tax credits coal
got, (much of which Coal got for jobs but used for draglines), the bonding
crisis, and the all-but-sequestered abandoned mine-land funds? Where's the
plaque for the lost economic value of ecosystems that are forever
destroyed by mountaintop removal, the plaque for communities' ruined
water? Where's the plaque for the millions in infrastructure damage from overweight
coal trucks? For perpetual costs associated with acid mine drainage? For
the poverty-stricken area the coal industry once touted as the
"billion-dollar coalfields" The list of economic impacts goes
If the monument is about the history of coal in West Virginia,
where are the plaques for the Mine Wars, the formation of unions, the
busting of unions, black lung disease, the Farmington mine disaster and
others, the Buffalo Creek coal dam disaster, the recent floods....the list
Judy's Bonds addresses the Capitol Building Commission regarding the
removal plaque and "low-cost energy" plaque on a state capitol
entitled the "West Virginia Coal Miner."
Freda Williams addresses the Capitol Building Commission as author Denise
Giardina (far right) looks on after delivering her own impassioned speech.