Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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March 2010
Contents

Coalfield Residents and Scientists Meet with Governor
A Victory in Fayette County
Carol Warren: Living the Dream of World Peace
EPA Approves Hobet 45 Mine
Sludge Safety Project Legislative Update
MTR Disproportionately Impacting Low-Income Americans
Before I Was Hungry
Coal Going Down, Naturally
Lindytown Twilight-ed into Darkness
Holding Government Accountable: Meetings, Meetings, Meetings
No CONSOL-A-Tion, Workers Misled About Possible Job Losses?
West Virginias Greatest Resource: Water
Alert Residents Contact DEP About Spill in Area Creek
WV Council of Churches Sets Legislative Agenda
Blair Mountains Historical Status Revoked, Group Will Appeal
Cemetery Protection Bills Introduced At Session
Supreme Court Ruling Makes Clean Elections Work Even More Important
The More Things Change ... Granny D on Campaign Finance Reform
20 - 30 Years of Surface Mining Left
Clean Elections Advance in West Virginia
OVEC Files Notice of Intent to Sue Massey Energy Over Water Violations
Coal-to-Liquid Plant: Jobs Over Health and Water?
End DC-Style Business As Usual Join Us in A New Campaign
Ken Do! Hechler Honored
We Hereby Resolve to Make a Difference
Meeting with the Governor and Kathy Mattea
Hundreds Rally at DEP For The Mountains
Organizing for the Mountains in Mercer County
Going Solar in Roane County - Off-Grid is Good
Watch It, Read It, Groove To It All to Protect It
Global Warming / Climate Instability in the Mountain State
Study: Mountaintop Mining Damage Pervasive and Irreversible
Eating For OVEC Keeps Raising $$$
Coal Company Depredations Endanger WV Family Cemeteries, Part Two
Byrds Words Rock the Coalfield Status Quo
Byrd - Old Senator, New Tricks Has King Coal Confused
A Yell Out to Yale
Standing Our Ground


For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

 
Winds of Change Newsletter, March 2010     See sidebar for table of contents
 

So much for getting to the Berry Branch cemetery in Lincoln County - just one reason more protection is needed.

Cemetery Protection Bills Introduced At Session

What a difference a few months can make! When we last reported on our Cemetery Protection Groups efforts to protect the states rural cemeteries, we had been given the opportunity to speak before the Joint Interim Judiciary Subcommittee A during October Interims. Danny Cook, Carol Warren and Robin Blakeman spoke, as did faith community representatives. Since then, our small but mighty lobbying team has continued working with our allies in the religious community the West Virginia Council of Churches and the Catholic Conference to gain support for the issue and to shepherd legislation.

During January Interims, the subcommittee again invited speakers on the topics of cemetery access and protection.

Representatives of the coal , oil and gas industries told subcommittee members that they were not aware of many problems related to cemetery disturbance or access. Delegate Bonnie Brown confronted coal industry lobbyist Chris Hamilton on that, since he was present in October when CPG members detailed the problems of cemetery access, buffer zones and desecration.

Delegate Brown then asked if there was anyone present who wanted to speak to the concerns mentioned, and Dustin White nephew of Danny Cook did an excellent job highlighting the details of his familys continued struggles to gain access to their Cook Mountain family cemeteries.

Chris Hamilton and other representatives of industry and regulatory agencies had little to say in rebuttal to Dustins comments.

Soon after that meeting, WOWK-TV news interviewed Del. Bonnie Brown, White and Cook about the scope of cemetery problems in the state and the need for improved cemetery preservation.

Now that the 2010 Legislative Session is underway, our two bills that were successfully introduced during last years Legislative Session have been reintroduced (HB2905 and HB2928).

However, we are most excited about the prospect of a new piece of legislation that resulted from our coalition work with Joint Interim Judiciary Subcommittee A.

The new bill, HB 4457, would require coal, oil and gas permit applications to include both the locations of all cemeteries present in the permit area and a plan to allow access to persons seeking to visit such cemeteries.

Buffer zones of 300 feet will be required, and there will be penalties for violating the zone restrictions. The measure suggests that a permit should not be issued if damage is likely to occur to publicly-owned lands or resources or public or private cemeteries.

While the code previously stated that reasonable access for certain specified purposes (genealogy research, visiting family graves, cleanup, etc.) should be granted, the new language makes a stronger statement that access for reasonable purposes will be granted.

The legislation makes clear that access should accommodate a typical automobile safely, if that is the type of access that had been available in the past.

A time period is also set for responding to requests for access. Within ten days of receiving the request, the individual landowner or industrial company must arrange for access by authorized individuals. If for some reason the request cannot be accommodated, an alternate date must be set within five days. The bill also states that a judge can issue a preliminary injection regarding access without the posting of bond.

Another helpful addition is the stipulation that if a government entity (such as a county commission, a mayor, etc.) is notified by a citizen of the existence of a cemetery or marked grave, the government entity is to inform the current landowner. Landowners are to be told of the existence and location of the cemetery and receive an explanation of their responsibility to allow access.

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