A letter to Lisa Jackson from West Virginia

posted by Rainforest Action Network

Yesterday we learned the news that the EPA has, yet again, flip-flopped on mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining and given the go-ahead to new mining at Pine Creek in Logan County, West Virginia

For West Virginia coal miner’s widow Lorelei Scarbro and leader with the Alliance for Appalachia, who has met numerous times with the EPA, the decision is nothing less than an act of betrayal to the Appalachian people. In a personal letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson yesterday, Scarbro wrote:

Dear Ms. Jackson:

I just finished reading what amounts to a green light by Region 3 EPA on the Pine Creek permit in Logan County, WV.  I have to say that this disturbs me.

I have been involved in the battle to stop, not regulate, mountaintop removal coal mining since the coal mine moved in next door to my home at the base of Coal River Mountain in Rock Creek, WV.

I watched my husband die of black lung after 35 years as an underground union coal miner.

I watch as people I love get sicker each day from contaminated water after raising their family in Prenter Hollow, WV.

On April 5 of this year I made phone calls to family and friends to make sure they made it home from work after the explosion at Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, WV.  And, I pray everyday that my 26 year old son-in-law (the father of my 2 grandchildren) gets to see the sun again after a long hard day underground in a Massey mine.

I have left my very peaceful home 3 miles up in Rock Creek and traveled to DC many times in the past 2 years to help the powers that be to really see the face of coal.  I hope that by telling the people on Capitol Hill how the decisions they make affect the lives of the people in the mountain communities they might begin to see us as valuable.  Too often we are treated like collateral damage or just the price of doing business.

I have been in many meetings with David Evans, Brian Fraizer and many others at EPA in DC and Region 3.  I have met with CEQ, OSMRE and many other regulatory agencies and countless numbers of Senators and Congressmen trying to make a difference.

I was on the call on April 1 when you released the guidance for conductivity levels and I was very excited when I heard you say “ You’re talking about no or very few valley fills that are going to be able to meet standards like this.” The release of this guidance and your words brought hope to many people that long ago lost it.

I have been very thankful for all of the steps this EPA has taken to improve life in the mountain communities of Appalachia, but I was heartbroken when I saw the decision on Pine Creek.  Although I live about 1 ½ hours from this area I stand with the citizens there and I fear that this is just the beginning of many more permit releases.  We believed you when you spoke about “zeroing out valley fills”.  Where I am from, sometimes all you have is your word.  People here have historically made life altering decisions on nothing more than a handshake and their  word.

I am a 54 year old widow of a coal miner and the most important thing to me is clean drinking water for my grandchildren.  I don’t believe that is possible if we continue to destroy and cover head water streams in Appalachia.  Once again, I have lost hope.  Please don’t let this be the final word on Pine Creek Surface Mine.

Thank you.