Senator Byrds demands finally met by Massey Energy

Massey Energy has pledged 1 million dollars to the Marsh Creek Elementary School, a school that has been a focus of strong anti-MTR protests in recent history concerning the Massey Energy massive coal mining operation that surrounds the community.  West Virginia’s Senator Byrd has been an advocate for  coal companies to step up and give back to communities in West Virginia where they mine millions of tons of coal, and has been outspoken about the Marsh Fork School as a blatant example of a specific community nightmare for residents. More specifically about a coal silo train load-out 200 feet away from the school, a preparation plant that uses chemical scrubbers within 250 yards, and a mammoth seeping toxic slurry impoundment containing over two billion gallons of coal waste held back by a dam just 400 yards away. This pledge is an official recognition by Massey Energy that they have put the community school in danger, and hopefully a huge step forward in new policies towards reconciliation, environmental, and monetary support to locals who have subsequent outstanding issues in many other communities in West Virginia.  Even though the school will now be moved, there is still much more work to be done to safeguard the Appalachians.

Bo Webb, a community activist and volunteer with Coal River Mountain Watch, commended Massey for their $1 million pledge. “The mining operations around the school are noisy, and increased mining in recent years makes it dangerous for children to stay in the school,” Webb said.

Ed And Debbie Wiley at the “Mountain Aid” festival in N.C. in June 2009.

Ed Wiley, and his wife Debbie, who have campaigned diligently for the safety of their granddaughter, and the children of their community also commented to us directly tonight. Debbie told me that they were “very grateful” that the company had decided to step up and contribute. That she was happy to get the money from anywhere, “though it should have happened long ago”.

Ed Wiley, who’s “Pennies of” ( a grass roots effort comprised of local citizens of the Coal River Valley, WV, and other concerned fellow Appalachians)  have campaigned to raise money to move the school, and contributed $10,400 towards this project. Ed says that “in the absence of help from our elected officials, they have looked to each other for support, we have tried every possible way to raise the funds necessary to build a new school in our community.”

Tonight, Ed’s main comment to me was about Senator Byrd. He was appreciative of the demands of the Senator on their behalf, and he asked: “Where’s Senator Byrd’s nickle? If I can give of my own pocket here in Rock Creek, maybe Mr. Byrd can, too?  I can’t comment about Massey, other than they could do more for the state of West Virginia, and should have way before this. A million dollars is nothing compared to the wealth they have taken out of Raleigh County, and other counties. Everybody should step up. Everyone.”

He went on to thank all the people from around the country that have contributed to his campaign during the time he fought for enough publicity to make this happen.

“A welcome start” said Debbie Wiley, “but it ain’t over until the fat lady sings…”

– Rich Reardin, Coal Country blog administrator

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