Winds of Change Newsletter, December 2007 See sidebar for table of contents
Highlights of OVECs History 20 Years of STANDING OUR GROUND
1987The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition is formed to fight a proposed huge BASF toxic waste incinerator near Ironton, Ohio. After 8 months of successful petition drives and organizing, the incinerator proposal is cancelled.
1989OVEC uncovers and publicizes evidence indicating toxic waste leakage at the Aristech Chemical Co.s hazardous waste deep injection disposal well in Haverhill, Ohio. As a result, Ohio and US environmental agencies issue stiff fines and the company agrees to close the well. In 2007, toxic wastes from that well are still being pumped out!
1989OVEC protests the then-unregulated burning of chemical wastes as boiler fuel at the BASF plant in Huntington. OVECs work on this issue leads to additional state inspections at the plant. New federal regulations follow.
1990OVEC members petition the US EPA to investigate abandoned chemical dumps along the Guyandotte River in East Huntington. While EPA action lags, OVECs pressure on West Virginia officials results in the surface of the dumps being covered to reduce public exposure to contaminated dusts.
1987-1997OVEC holds numerous citizens meetings and public forums with government officials in the Kenova, WV, area, to build citizen pressure to end serious pollution violations at the then-Ashland Oil refinery in Catlettsburg, KY. Members take many trips to visit state and federal regulators and politicians. Regional and national media coverage grows.
1990In response to continual OVEC pressure, the first of several university and government studies is released showing high illness rates around the Ashland Oil refinery.
1991An OVEC telephone and letter-writing campaign to the West Virginia Air Pollution Control Commission results in placement of a carbon monoxide monitor in Kenova, WV, to monitor emissions from the Ashland Oil refinery.
1992OVEC receives $75,000 in grants and hires 3 full time staff persons Dianne Bady, Janet Keating and Kim Baker. Laura Forman is hired in 1994.
1993In response to OVEC members videotapes and demands, the Kentucky Division for Air Quality sets up the first-ever-in-the-US 24-hour-a-day video surveillance system to record emissions from the Ashland Oil refinery.
Early-mid 1990sOVEC researches and publicizes problems with the proposed Apple Grove, WV, pulp mill, which would discharge deadly dioxin and devour in excess of 10,000 trees per day. OVEC organizes numerous citizen meetings, public forums and events, including a series of protests at the WV State Capitol.
1996The US EPAs Tri-State Geographic Initiative, a result of OVECs efforts to reduce pollution, begins measuring toxic chemicals in the Kenova area. Subsequent US EPA reports document serious air quality problems.
1997First public forum on mountaintop removal held by OVEC at Marshall University, where Larry Gibson speaks. (Larry was quiet and shy then!)
1997Citizen Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste inducts OVEC into its National Grassroots Hall of Fame.
1997APPLE GROVE PULP MILL VICTORY! OVEC leads the effort that stops what would have been the largest dioxin-producing pulp and paper mill in the country.
1998OVEC and WV Highlands Conservancy win a lawsuit forcing the US EPA to develop water pollution cleanup plans for WV waterways.
1998As a result of OVEC members, the WV Highlands Conservancy and others joining in a lawsuit led by attorney Joe Lovett, Hobet Mining Inc. is blocked from a 2,100 acre mountaintop removal mine near Blair, WV.
1998ASHLAND OIL VICTORY! After OVEC applies 10 years of unrelenting pressure on environmental regulators and politicians, the US Justice Dept. and US EPA level the then-largest fine in their history ($38.5 million) against Ashland Oil, requiring that they bring all their US refineries into compliance with environmental regulations.
1999OVEC receives the National Methodist Social Justice Award.
1999Vivian Stockman receives the WV Environmental Councils highest award the Mother Jones Award.
1999Chief US District Judge Charles Haden rules that mountaintop removal affecting some streams is illegal. OVEC members are plaintiffs on this suit.
2000US District Judge Robert C. Chambers refuses the WV DEPs request to dismiss the Cumulative Hydrological Impact Assessment mining lawsuit filed by OVEC and Hominy Creek Preservation Association.
2000A permit that would have buried the headwaters of a naturally reproducing trout stream in Nicholas County is overturned after OVEC files a lawsuit against the WV DEP for their routine failure to enforce provisions of the federal Surface Mining Act when issuing mountaintop removal permits.
2001Dianne Bady, Janet Keating, and Laura Forman win one of the Ford Foundations inaugural Leadership for a Changing World awards with a prize of $130,000. They are chosen from more than 3,000 nominees!
2001Longtime OVEC organizer Laura Forman collapses and dies of a heart arrhythmia at a mountaintop removal protest she organized at the US Army Corps of Engineers in Huntington.
2002Work by the WV Peoples Election Reform Coalition results in legislation being introduced into the WV Legislature that would provide for public financing of elections. OVEC and WV Citizen Research Group are founders.
2003The Sylvester "DustBusters," Coal River Mountain Watch and OVEC members Pauline Canterbury and Mary Miller, along with local residents, win a major lawsuit against Massey Energy for coal dust pollution from the Elk Run processing plant, costing the company $2 million in damages.
2003OVEC and others launch a national "road show" to raise awareness about mountaintop removal and the Clean Water Protection Act. Thanks, Dave Cooper!
2003Dianne Bady wins the WV Citizen Action Groups Excalibur Award.
2004Janet Keating receives the Mother Jones Award, the WV Environmental Councils highest award.
2004After a lawsuit by OVEC and others, US District Judge Joseph Goodwin bars the Corps of Engineers from approving mountaintop removal mining activity that affects waterways under a streamlined permit. The Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment represents us.
2005After pressure from Coal River Mountain Watch, OVEC and Mountain Justice Summer, the WV Department of Environmental Protection revokes the permit for a second coal silo to be built adjacent to Marsh Fork Elementary School.
2005OVEC works with Sierra Club and others resulting in the West Virginia Archives and History Commission agreeing that Blair Mountain belongs on the National Register of Historic Places. Thanks, Regina Hendrix!
2005A coalition of Clean Elections supporters, which OVEC took the lead on organizing, results in the West Virginia legislature passing a first-in-the-US law curbing political contributions to 527 groups, like Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenships "And for the Sake of the Kids."
2006During the 2006 West Virginia legislative session, six legislators co-sponsor legislation calling for a moratorium on the permitting of additional coal sludge impoundments and to prevent the expansion of existing ones.
2006The Corps of Engineers suspends four Massey Energy mountaintop removal permits that OVEC challenged in federal court, including one which would have impacted historic Blair Mountain, site of the famous battle of Blair Mountain.
2006Abraham Mwaura wins a Generation Next Award for West Virginias up and coming young leaders, sponsored by the Charleston Daily Mail.
2006Maria Gunnoe wins the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage presented by the Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest.
2006The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a decision in an OVEC case, barring the federal Office of Surface Minings approval of a change by WV in the definitions used to review mountaintop removal mining permits.
2007Citizen efforts coordinated by OVEC result in the West Virginia legislature passing a resolution requiring that state agencies study the effects of toxic coal sludge injection on drinking water and the environment.
2007US District Judge Chambers rules that the Corps of Engineers violated the law by issuing permits that permanently buried vital headwater streams near five mountaintop removal mines in West Virginia. He orders the Corps to comply with the law and rescinds the permits.
2007In a second order, Judge Chambers outlaws the common coal industry practice of turning small stream segments downstream of valley fills into waste treatment systems. OVEC is lead plaintiffs on these lawsuits.
2007US District Judge Chambers issues a temporary restraining order on a Boone County, WV, mine. For the first time ever, a federal judge rules that permanent damage to streams and the environment trumps the temporary economic losses for a mining company.
Above history is slightly abridged: See the complete history here.