Coal Tattoo

Byrd blasts Massey ‘arrogance’ at Marsh Fork

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And for the sake of the kids, they should address these serious environmental concerns at Marsh Fork Elementary immediately.

– Sen. Robert C. Byrd

This just in from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, responding to the news that Massey Energy declined to help fund a new school so Marsh Fork Elementary students in Raleigh County can move away from Massey’s Goals Coal operation:

“Such arrogance suggests a blatant disregard for the impact of their mining practices on our communities, residents and particularly our children.  These are children’s lives we are talking about,” said Byrd.

“If Massey were not operating near Marsh Fork Elementary, we would not be debating what to do about moving these young students someplace safer.  This is not the taxpayers’ burden to remedy.  This is Massey Energy’s responsibility to address.”

Byrd added that, “Let me be clear about one thing – this is not about the coal industry or their hard-working coal miners. This is about companies that blatantly disregard human life and safety because of greed. That is never acceptable.”

“At a time when coal is under such close scrutiny, coal companies operating in West Virginia should be working together to put their best foot forward. For the sake of the entire coal industry, Massey Energy should strive to be a better and more responsible corporate citizen.  And for the sake of the kids, they should address these serious environmental concerns at Marsh Fork Elementary immediately.”  

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Photo by Britney Williams, courtesy Coal River Mountain Watch.

I’m told this is also at least part of Byrd’s response to a fact-finding mission by some of his staff to West Virginia’s coalfields in June to visit mountaintop removal sites and talk to some of the folks who live near these operations.

Late last week, Coal Tattoo mentioned a story in the Beckley Register-Herald about the Raleigh County Board of Education considering a plan to move Marsh Fork Elementary from its current spot — less than 300 feet from the Goals Coal processing facility and right down the hollow from a huge coal slurry impoundment. That story included some suggestion from local school officials that they would ask Massey to help fund the project. Well, in a Saturday story by Mannix Porterfield, the Register-Herald gave Massey’s answer:

“Massey pays millions of dollars in taxes each year that are available for projects such as this,” spokesman Jeff Gillenwater said.

“In fact, just the mines in the Marsh Fork area pay nearly $5 million per month in severance, property and other state taxes.”

Judging from the press release issued today, that didn’t sit too well with Senator Byrd.

Don’t forget, it wasn’t so long ago that Byrd  met with Ed Wiley, the Raleigh County grandfather who walked all the way to Washington to call attention Marsh Fork Elementary School’s precarious location downstream from Massey Energy’s huge coal-slurry impoundment: