Byrd blasts Massey ‘arrogance’ at Marsh Fork

October 7, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.


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.”  


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:

22 Responses to “Byrd blasts Massey ‘arrogance’ at Marsh Fork”

  1. […] Blogs @ The Charleston Gazette – » Byrd blasts Massey ‘arrogance’ at Marsh Fork – view page – cached And for the sake of the kids, they should address these serious environmental concerns at Marsh Fork Elementary immediately. — From the page […]

  2. rwc says:

    stand up and take notice massey,you haven’t bought byrd.these taxes you gripe about,would be paid no matter really amazes me that these workers wouldn’t take notice to this.massey is the ones that put these kids in harms way.they should do right by these innocents,and at least get the ball rolling on a new the least ,they could use this as a tax right off.they pay don 44 million and stock options,so what would another million or two for a good purpose hurt them.

  3. USMCDeathCard says:

    Sen Byrd is one of the greatest Americans we shall ever know in the history of this country. May God Bless him always.

  4. JB says:

    The “and for the sake of the kids” dig at Blankenship’s PAC is priceless.

  5. eastwood78 says:

    Massey Energy, Inc. has no intentions of helping to build a new school for Marsh Fork Elementary School. Maybe, and I say maybe very lightly that Senator Byrd’s statement toward Massey may help sway their way of thinking. But Don Blankenship bought out the WV governor, but I know he can’t buy out Senator Byrd.

    It would be nice to hear the words said that President Ronald Reagen said, when he told Russia to tear down the Berlin Wall. Senator Byrd could say,”Mr. Blankenship, build those children a new school,” but it would not carry the weight that President Reagen had. Anyway, just a thought. At least Senator Byrd is trying. Where are Rahall, and Senator Rockefeller? Come on Governor Joe, and get in there with Senator Byrd. About everyone says you want to be Senator when Byrd passes away. At least try to learn something good from him.

    God bless the children at Marsh Fork Elementary School, and protect them from the silos and the sludge dam that hovers so close by.

  6. wvcitizen says:

    He has nothing to lose and he should take up for our children and their future….some one needs to.

    It would be nice to see a prominent politician stand up to big coal/ corportations but I’m not holding my breath.

    I’m so very disappointed in Manchin.

  7. William says:

    But what about Massey’s contention that they already pay millions of dollars in taxes? Is there no justification in that statement?

    Since when is it the responsibility of the coal industry to build schools? If the Raleigh County School Board was truly fearful for the safety of these students, they would already have either built a new school, or relocated the students elsewhere.

    This is nothing more than political fear mongering at its worst.

  8. Dave Cooper says:

    Thanks to Ed Wiley and Bo Webb – they are true courageous American heroes like Sen. Byrd.

  9. Tami Scott says:

    Why is it not mentioned the millions Massey spent to put in the top of the line air filters and such in the MarshFork School….you don’t hear anything about that…why is that?? Don’t wanna talk about the GOOD things Massey has done I guess…..

  10. blue canary says:

    Top of the line air filters aren’t going to do much if that slurry impoundment breaks.

  11. hollergirl says:

    Blue Canary is right and the air filters won’t help on the playground as well. The chemically treated coal dust and rock dust gets on the grass, the little children run and play and kick up the dust and into those little lungs goes that dust. I noticed cracks along the back of the school that was not there a year ago and I think that is from the blasting. Last fall I was in the building, there was coal dust evident in the gym as well. A new school in the Marsh Fork community is needed.

  12. Nanette says:

    If Massey paid millions for air filters at that school, it seems to me that they are aware that there is a serious problem there.

  13. William says:

    I still would like someone to answer my previous question. If the students at this school are being put into a dangerous situation, why would any responsible parent allow their kids to go there? Why would the Raleigh County Board of Education allow any children to attend classes there?

    I don’t get it. Massey was issued permits to do what they are doing at this site, like it or not.

  14. scott 14 says:

    Can someone tell me who built the plant and inpoundment in question. I think Massey bought the operation. Also can you tell me if the school was there when the operation was built. I may be wrong but I think that Peabody and the umwa built it.

  15. rwc says:

    scott14,massey has assumed responsibility for that impoundment that has been fined for allowing it to if they don’t take care of it,who’s responsible if it decides to let loose?how many children would have to be killed before you see that?i’m not against coal,but just look at the school from driving past it.backdrop is a coal silo,would you want your kids put into a situation such as this?it puts me in mind of the iraqis and afghans using innocent people to cloud terrorist activity,and we are supposed to be the good guys.

  16. scott 14 says:

    RWC, i realize all of this, but my question still goes unanwsered.

  17. eastwood78 says:

    scott14. I believe Peabody built the plant and impoundment. If Peabody didn’t build it, then Armco mining at Montcoal built it, and Armco sold out to Peabody. As for the school Peabody and the UMWA most certainly did not build it.

    Construction on the school was begun in about 1947 and at that time the name of the school was Elliot High School, and in later years it was named Marsh Fork Junior High, and was eventually named Marsh Fork Elementary School. The Board of Education at Beckley could give you the information you need by calling them.

  18. […] In response, Sen. Byrd, typically a staunch supporter of Big Coal, replied: […]

  19. […] In response, Sen. Byrd, typically a staunch supporter of Big Coal, replied […]

  20. […] streams and ruined communities in his own state. On October 7, 93-year-old Sen. Byrd finally spoke – and his words shook West Virginia like an earthquake. Sen. Byrd blasted coal company Massey […]

  21. […] Energy just issued a response to Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s strongly worded statement yesterday, in which Byrd said Massey’s unwillingness to help fund the relocation of Marsh Fork […]

  22. […] last October blasted Massey Energy officials for their refusal to provide assistance to efforts to replace the existing Marsh Fork Elementary […]

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