A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called, "Lessons from Buffalo Creek".
At the time, I mentioned the ongoing saga of Marsh Fork Elementary, which lies just 225 feet from a coal silo that releases chemical-laden coal dust into the air and lungs of students at the school, and is only 400 yards downhill from a 385-foot tall leaking earthen sludge dam holding back two BILLION gallons of toxic coal waste sludge.
Unfortunately, the 35th Anniversary of Buffalo Creek has not led to any government action to further protect the children of Marsh Fork.
On the contrary, last Tuesday the WV Surface Mine Board overturned a WV Dept. of Environmental Protection ruling and granted Massey Energy’s application to build a second coal silo beside the school. By Massey’s own admission, the second silo will add tons of coal dust to the air.
In response to this action, approximately 50 protesters held a rally at the WV Capitol on Friday, Mar. 16, asking for Governor Manchin to intervene. Rather than building a new Coal Silo, community residents want to build a new school. (Link to AP Story)
As community residents and supporters brought their concerns to the Governor's office, State Police and Capitol Security Officers took their own form of government action and forcibly removed protesters from the premises.
WV Public Broadcasting has posted video on You Tube, which shows that civil disobedience didn't die in the Sixties.
(Also, that the WV State Police should increase their physical fitness requirements. C'mon guys, how about trying a sit-up every once in awhile.)
More video has been posted here.
In all, thirteen people were arrested and charged with obstruction. All 13 have now been released from jail, but still face fines and prosecution pending their appearance in court.
Meanwhile, Massey Energy's CEO, Don Blankenship, paid himself $33.7 million in salary in 2005. Last time I checked, that amount would pay for the construction of at least 4 or 5 state of the art elementary schools.
Instead of using the money for a new school, I guess Blankenship will continue to try to buy elections with campaign contributions, and the State will keep hoping that the rainy weather will be enough to keep the coal dust from flying, but not enough to overflow the sludge dam.
It seems to me that investing in a new school will be much cheaper than paying black lung benefits to students who graduate from Marsh Fork and survivor's benefits to those who don't die in the catastrophic Marsh Fork Flood of 2012, forty years after Buffalo Creek.