House Committee Censors Testimony of Appalachian Activists

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CommonDreams.org

House Committee Censors Testimony of Appalachian Activists

The House Natural Resources Committee has some explaining to do.

In a blatant disregard of the concerns of affected West Virginia coalfield residents who actually live under the fallout of devastating mountaintop removal operations, a press release summary from the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources' field hearing on "Jobs at Risk: Community Impacts of the Obama Administration's Effort to Rewrite the Stream Buffer Zone Rule" completely deleted any mention of the official testimonies by Appalachian coalfield leaders Maria Gunnoe and Bo Webb. The press release reported exclusively on testimony from coal industry representatives, Big Coal-bankrolled politicians and hired coal industry supporters.

"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," noted Natural Resources Defense Council staff Melissa Waage. "Now the subcommittee leadership is trying to pretend these people don't even exist."

Makes you wonder: Is such censorship in an official document released by the House committee a violation of Congressional rules? And will Democrats on the subcommittee or Natural Resources Committee follow up with an investigation and hold responsible committee staff and members accountable?

A resident of Raleigh County, West Virginia, and a long-time mountaintop removal critic, Webb had openly challenged the hearing's focus: "The very title of this hearing indicates a bias from this committee against those that are living (and dying) in mountaintop removal mining communities. The title suggests that jobs are at risk if the SBZ rule is corrected. The SBZ rule must be corrected in order to protect The People's health. It was rewritten by George W. Bush at the cost of people's health and it needs fixed."

Gunnoe, who was awarded the prestigious Goldman Prize in 2009, foretold such unfair tactics: "The coal industry and the politicians have for most of my life manipulated and twisted the law in order to legally break this law by destroying our valuable headwater streams. Surface mining has demolished our quality of life and life expectancy in our native homes."

Here's the video of Goldman Prize winner Maria Gunnoe:

Maria Gunnoe testifies at Congressional hearing from jordan freeman on Vimeo.

Video courtesy of Jordan Freedman

Here's the video of Purpose Prize winner Bo Webb:

Untitled from jordan freeman on Vimeo.

Video courtesy of Jordan Freeman

Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers is the author of The United States of Appalachia, and more recently, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (The Nation/Basic Books). Follow him on twitter: @JeffRBiggers

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