OSM Silence Birds and Amphibians; Ignores People
March 30, 2004
Photos by Vivian Stockman and Janet Fout
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Public Hearings in WV, KY, TN, PA and DC on Proposed Buffer Zone Rule Change
Under the Bush administration, the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation
and Enforcement (OSM) wants to change the two-decade-old stream buffer
zone rule of federal surface mining law so that coal companies practicing
mountaintop removal mining can legally bury streams under millions of
tons of former mountaintops.
On Tuesday March 30, 2004, hundreds of people attended public hearings
to tell Bush and Co. to back off the buffer zone. The day began
with a noon press conference in a park across from the Dept. of Interior
(DOI, which oversees OSM) building in Washington DC. W. Va. coalfield resident
Maria Gunnoe told how badly the streams she lives near needs the buffer
zone rule to be enforced, not "clarified" (that's the
Orwellian terminology with which BushCo. is promoting their proposed
rule change). Robert Kennedy, Jr., Rep. Frank Pallone, Joan
Mulhern (Earthjustice), Francis Lambert (Tenn. Leagues of Women Voters)
and Brent Blackwelder (executive director of Friends of the Earth) also
spoke at the press conference, which was organized by Earthjustice,
Friends of the Earth and other national groups. OVEC supplied high-resolution
photos and slogans that the groups printed onto posterboard, making for
great visuals around the speakers.
At 2 p.m. over 60 people gathered at the DOI building to ask OSM to
enforce, but not change the buffer zone rule. Be sure to read the
comments of John Hill, Director
of Economic and Environmental Justice of The United Methodist Churchs
General Board of Church and Society. Sylvester, W. Va. resident Mary
Miller's comments were picked up by the Associated press and carrying
all over the nation and even internationally (see news coverage in the sidebar
Citizens Coal Council (CCC)
sent around the following report (edited):
WV: The crowd of more than 100 at this hearing clapped and cheered
in support of the spring peepers and birds, who attempted to
speak with the help of Janet Fout's (co-director of the Ohio Valley Environmental
Coalition) tape of animals that are being wiped out by stream
destruction. Anger and agitation spread throughout the audience as
the local police turned off Janets microphone at the insistence of
the OSM hearing examiner, who claimed that birds and frogs have no
relation to the rule change. WRONG!
the 40-plus leaders speaking against the rule change remarked that
they lived and worked along streams. Several used the newly adopted
WV message of Mountaintop removal is a crime against the
people, a crime against the earth, and economic insanity.
Sherman, a Lakota Spiritual leader and American Indian Movement
organizer, spoke eloquently after he had been culturally insulted
by WV Coal Association head Bill Raney. Apparently Bill had greeted Matt
by asking, How you doing, Chief?
Tree, PA: The crowd at this hearing was 40-plus strong and included
only one representative from the industry. Twenty-five vibrant speakers
repeatedly told of the insanity of the proposed rule change and many
asked that the 80,000-plus comments opposing mountaintop removal,
valley fills, and the environmental destruction that were submitted
during the public comment period for the draft EIS be incorporated as
part of their testimony."
the end of the hearing, when asked by Bev Braverman for clarification,
the examiner stated that incorporating these comments would be taken
under advisement, creating anger in the audience.
leaders were pleased with the variety and clarity of the comments and
that new voices spoke on the issue. One of the groups became so
energized that they are encouraging their members to plan a
call-in action to request an additional extension of the comment
TN: What an amazing display of unity from this crowd! More than 100
citizens attended and over half rose to speak against the rule change,
generating great messages that were particularly critical of OSM, and
receiving much applause and laughter. No one spoke in favor of the rule
change. Many newer leaders thanked those SOCM members who have done so
much to fight strip mining over the years. Cathie Bird, a local leader
from Oak Valley, was one of the highlights with her warning to OSM to
watch the backside of their acronym.
hoped for a political spokesperson at the hearing, but were pleased that
the message came from the leading environmental administrator for the
state, moving the group closer to their greater goal of holding the TN
governor responsible for protecting clean water.
KY: Another vibrant crowd in excess of 100. Speakers against the
rule change outnumbered industry commenters by more than two to one.
Bert Lauderdale, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) executive
director was heard to say that the quality of the testimony was some of
the best that he had heard in his 20-plus years of working in KY. Randy
Moon, board member for both CCC and KFTC, apparently brought the
house down with his angry, impassioned plea.
More on the Charleston
The Charleston Gazette
reported: "Janet Fout thought strip mine regulators should hear
the sounds of frogs and birds whose homes could be damaged by
mountaintop removal mining.
So, at a public hearing on proposed changes to a key stream
protection rule, Fout tried to play a tape of spring peepers and wood
'Im speaking for life, said Fout, a Huntington environmental
activist. 'We will all miss the birds and the frogs and the fish'."
The Charleston Daily
Mail reported: "After a police officer had forced Fout to turn off the
recording (of frogs and birds), she gave Morgan (the OSM official conducting
the hearing) a parting shot.
'I know why you can't listen to this because this is a truth you cannot escape,' she said."
86 year-old OVEC board member Winnie Fox told OSM that they should listen to the birds (Janets and others) as did
miners of old, who, when a canary died in the mine, "got the Hell out of there!"
Joan Mulhern of Earthjustice opens the press conference in DC.
The press crowd in while Robert F. Kennedy Jr. called the proposed rule change
was "the biggest attack on the Clean Water Act in 35 years." He said, "If it
(mountatinop removal coal mining) were happening in any other region of
the country, there'd be a revolution in this country. This could not happen in
California. The only place they could get away with this is Appalachia. "They
are leaving behind a moonscape that will be with us for hundreds of generations."
Cindy Rank (middle, tan jacket) and Mary Miller (right of Cindy) and others
hold slogans and pictures generate by OVEC and poster-sized by the DC groups.
A herd of reporters at the
Hello? Is anybody in government listening?
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