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Committee press release redacts existence of mountaintop removal opponents

Melissa Waage

Posted September 27, 2011

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Yesterday a House Natural Resources subcommittee tried its very hardest not to hear West Virginians' concerns about the destruction and heartbreak of mountaintop removal in their communities. Now the subcommittee leadership is trying to pretend these people don't even exist.

As I blogged previously, the Charleston, WV field hearing was meant to examine "Jobs at Risk: Community Impacts of the Obama Administration’s Effort to Rewrite the Stream Buffer Zone Rule." The lion's share of the witness list weren't impacted community members; they were coal companies and their political allies. Under pressure, the subcommittee tacked on two witnesses with a different point of view: Bo Webb of Coal River Mountain Watch and Maria Gunnoe of  the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Well, the committee has issued a press release about the hearing. And it lists every witness and summarizes their testimony--except for Bo and Maria, the only two witnesses who spoke up for the environment and the well being of people in mountaintop removal affected communities. They aren't mentioned at all.

Ironically, this press release makes the hearing look even more unbalanced than it actually was!

In fact, Bo and Maria did have the chance to testify, at the very end of the hearing. And they did so powerfully, focusing on the science pointing towards serious health impacts from MTR, and on the destruction of community and culture that it brings. Thankfully, blogger Jeff Biggers has recorded and highlighted their words for all the world to see over at the Huffington Post

If you find this omission as offensive as I do, don't hesitate to contact the committee and tell them they can't ignore the people harmed by mountaintop removal in the hope that they'll just go away. As Bo put it yesterday,

To date there are 19 peer reviewed science papers addressing human health in mountaintop removal communities...Science does not allow a choice of preference, what to believe, what not to believe. You either believe in science or choose to put your head in the sand and revert to the dark ages.

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