Frank Taylor: “I Think People are Still Willing”

Date: January 1, 2008

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I think People are still Willing
Frank Taylor, Dungannon, VA

Dominion Power says they need to build a plant in SW VA to sell to the inhabitants of 140,000 unbuilt homes in Northern Virginia. There are 140,000 real homes in Southwest Virginia that would emerge under the cloud of pollution from that plant. When the children from those homes go outside to play, they will breathe it into their lungs and it will impair their health. There’s a mountain of evidence to prove it. Are they to be considered collateral damage?
I think sometimes the stars just line up and the light lets our creator have a closer look at us. And that light now shines bright on the far western mountains of Virginia and the people who live there – people who have given so much to this country. Haven’t they sacrificed enough? The thousands of men who have lost their lives in the coal mines, the tens of thousands of men who have black lung, a great deal of the land stripped away – Isn’t that enough? Now they are being asked to give up the clean air they breathe for a fistful of dollars. Is there no greater insult? If only they had been asked.
For many years there were no other choices, but now there are. We have a host of other technologies. We all know what they are. But this power company has grown into a stubborn old man who ignores these and would stupidly build a giant furnace on the grounds of old underground mines where piles of poison wait to kill the nearby river. This old man will not see that another way to produce electricity is to conserve electricity.
Seventy five years ago, and several miles downstream, there was another power plant on the Clinch River. Otto Dingus, inventor, captured water from the river to power a sawmill and provide the little town of Dunganon with its first electricity. In the fall of the year, leaves would collect on the screens through which the water flowed, slowing the machinery, and dimming the lights in town. And then folks would go up to the mill, clear the leaves, and their lights would brighten.
I think people are still willing. During World War II, there was a great conservation program. Everybody did something every day for a common goal. Today, again, the stakes are high and the future dangerous. I think Americans can rise to the task. But nobody has really asked us.
There’s an idea circulating among some young people, and they call it a “phone book.” They would like to work with the governor and other officials to prepare a detailed conservation plan that would be in every phone book. It would instruct everyone to conserve in the home, in their car, at the workplace, and in businesses large and small. Every phone book in Virginia – and then hopefully, every state - It will take leaders who will remind us every day, after every speech. It will take courage.
This effort has to happen in some fashion. If we yield to those who say that our economy depends on every growing waste, then I think that the life of those stars that shine so brightly will sadden and fade.
Let’s all find the courage.

Buried Mountains means Buried Economic Activity

Gary Selvage

Wise County, Va. -- In this part of Virginia, our elected officials from all across the state, including our own local officials, think we’re expendable. That’s what they’re doing to us.
I’m just an old country boy. I don’t know much, but when it comes to somebody harming my family, I got something to say. Our houses are being covered up, our forests are being wiped out,
All I’ve heard today (at this hearing) is about the dollar bill, that’s what its all about. Everybody that’s for this plant is after the dollar bill. That’s it. That’s all they got to say.
We’re slowly being poisoned to death by all the strip jobs and pollution and machinery. Wise County and southwest Virginia has suffered for decades. Why don’t they invest in solar or wind or something?
The lives and the health of the people of Southwest Virginia are being sold, and for what? The pollution is going to kill us, but we’ll die with more money in our pockets.
There are a few of us in Wise County who have enough courage to say what we think, but most have not voiced their opinions because they are afraid of losing their jobs or their businesses. We feel from their political contributions the coal operators and Dominion have a great deal of influence over our elected officials.
I hope you all have the courage to do what’s right.
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Kathy Selvage --

Wise County, Va. -- We’re flat broke. Coal has been with us for more than a century, and if it’s the answer to our problems, why are our streets not paved with gold instead of potholes?
My father was a coal miner. He took a job in the mines after the war. Worked in the deep mines 30 years. And I can tell you that my father, if he were with us today, would not approve of the desecration that he would see in his own community.
I know we cannot and should not divorce our history. We don’t have to be ashamed of it. In fact we should embrace it. But I really believe that it is past time to make a new history in energy production and save the land, the environment, and the people. That’s what I envision as a win-win process.
No one knows what the final cost of this plant will be. There are no incentives for Dominion to be as efficient as they can be. Dominion’s initial estimate was $ 800 million but today it has doubled to $ 1.6 billion, and it’s not likely to stop there. One can rest assured, wherever that price tag lands, Virginia ratepayers will be writing the check.
The burning of waste piles – pleasantly called ‘gob piles’ – will deliver to us a toxic soup that we and our children will breathe into our lungs. The sentence of another 50 years of coal burning in our midst will seal the fate of our people.
Every time another mountain is buried, it deprives us of another economic development opportunity and seals our fate to forever live in poverty.
Dominion has no plan, other than pretty words, to control global warming. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig.

Coal is Killing Southwest Virginia

Larry Bush

Wise County, VA -- I worked as an underground coal miner for 13 years and I inspected coal mines for the federal government for another 13. I’ve never seen any good from strip mining.
It’s easy to talk about coal, its easy to say ‘clean coal,’ but there is no such thing as clean coal technology. Coal is dirty. It burns dirty. The byproducts are fly ash, which is highly toxic, and they are proposing to put this in a dump beside the site, it’ll fill up the whole valley with poison.
The majority of people in Southwest Virginia don’t want this coal plant, they don’t want their children growing up in filth, they don’t want them poisoned. I know it’s there because I’ve lived with it for 26 years.
My home right now is covered in dust because of constant bulldozers, truck traffic 24 hours a day. On the roads you take your life in your hands because these trucks are running constantly and they don’t give you an inch. You get out of the way or they’ll run over you.
They talk about what coal can do for Southwest Virginia, but coal is killing Southwest Virginia. The only hope we have for future development is being lost daily. The Appalachian mountain range is one of the oldest and most diverse in the world and we’re blasting it into rubble and gob piles every day.
And look at what they’re doing to the people of Southwest Virginia. They’re killing us. They’re destroying our communities, they’re destroying our way of life, and they’re destroying everything around us. We need industry, but how can you draw more industry to a waste land? They’re blasting out communities and our towns. The town of Appalachia is dead. Thirty years ago it was booming. Today there are two gas stations, a grocery store and a couple of shops.
The underground coal seams in Wise County have been largely mined. It’s over. The only thing left is mountaintop removal mining, and it is the most destructive process of mining that has ever been on this earth. It is sickening to look at and it is sickening, let me tell you, to live with. It’s not right for them to do that to our earth.
Twenty five percent of Wise County is mined, and a third more is under permit. Nothing grows back on it, you can’t find a worm in that soil. And it was once pristine forest full of wildlife. I hiked and hunted the mountains where I live since I was six years old. And there’s no mountains there now. They’re gone.

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