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Alpha Natural Resources Ordered to Justify Mountaintop Removal Mine Permit

Mining site on Coal River Mountain has pattern of violations

Courtesy submission

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) ordered Alpha Natural Resources subsidiary Republic Energy to show cause why a mountaintop removal coal mine permit on Coal River Mountain in Raleigh County should not be suspended or revoked. The order was issued on Aug. 1. Republic has 30 days to request a hearing or a consent order; otherwise, the permit will be suspended or revoked or its bond forfeited.

Republic has received seven notices of violation at its 802-acre Middle Ridge permit since July 25, 2016. Three or more of the same type of violation within a year demonstrate a pattern of violations and initiate the “show cause” procedure.


Alpha’s Middle Ridge site above the McDowell Branch neighborhood, Clear Creek, W.Va

Alpha subsidiaries operate over ten square miles of active, approved or pending mountaintop removal sites and coal waste slurry impoundments on Coal River Mountain. Local citizens group Coal River Mountain Watch has opposed the operations because of the documented public health impacts of mountaintop removal, including significantly elevated rates of cancer, heart disease, birth defects and other deadly illnesses. Mountaintop removal also causes long-term pollution of mountain streams and the loss of access to the mountain for traditional activities including hiking, hunting, and gathering ginseng, berries, mushrooms, ramps and other forest resources. Increased runoff from the deforested sites and altered topography can also contribute to flooding.

Middle Ridge drone 4-25-17 1 text.jpg

A blast above the McDowell Branch neighborhood, Clear Creek, W.Va. Photo credit: Coal River Mountain Watch

Four of the seven notices of violation on Republic’s Middle Ridge permit were for sediment control violations related to improperly constructed ditches and sediment ditch failure. Citizen complaints generated two of the sediment control citations.

“This isn’t rocket science. It’s a ditch. If Alpha can’t even properly maintain a ditch, why should we expect them to comply with any of the other regulations and permit conditions meant to protect water quality and nearby residents and property owners,” asked Vernon Haltom, executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch.

Local residents with Coal River Mountain Watch plan to continue pushing for the permanent revocation of the Middle Ridge permit, protection for Coal River Mountain and surrounding communities, and a strong, sustainable economy for southern West Virginia.

wv-dep-logo“The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection needs to start living up to their name and their mission of promoting a healthy environment in West Virginia,” Haltom said. “Instead, they continue to grant mountaintop removal permits knowing full well that these operations will cause long-term water pollution, serious harm to the health of people in our communities, and damage to the long-term viability of our economy.”

Coal River Mountain Watch of Naoma, W.Va., has a mission to stop the destruction of our communities and environment by mountaintop removal mining, to improve the quality of life in our area, and to help rebuild sustainable communities. The website is

More information

Show cause order:

Middle Ridge violations:

Republic Energy permits on Coal River Mountain:


Our Way of Life

“Our way of life” requires
a war machine says the president.
He is not the first to say so;
“The Donald” is just more blunt.

Despite the feigned consternation
of the chattering class, this is our history.
A continent conquered through genocide,
the slaughter completed when Chief Sitting Bull was shot down.

An economy sustained by slavery,
its history screams of man’s inhumanity to his own.
Tolerated far too long,
it could be ended only by Civil War carnage.

Industry was built on the backs of laborers
as crony capitalism profited all but the workers.
War was waged on miners in the West Virginia hills
while children in Southern textile mills labored to the bone.

An empire was built
from Cuba to the Philippines.
Puppet dictators were established here and yonder,
while we fought undeclared wars in Southeast Asia.

We have been at war
since our children were – children.
Our granddaughter has yet to live
in a world in which we don’t wage war.

We justify it easily,
even though the boxes we call home
are filled with boxes of stuff.
It is, after all, Our Way of Life.

All “dire threats” to it
will be destroyed.
If in doing so we obliterate ourselves –
it is Our Way of Life.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2017

Sitting Bull quote

Merely a Visitor

The cabin is nestled into
the steep, wooded ridge of the forest.
The slope ends abruptly, steps away.

After dark,
the night creatures peer in.
Yet, we venture out.

The campfire reassures;
around it, our faces are cast orange
by its fading embers.

First the bats swoop in –
treetop level, scooping bugs –
mosquitoes we hope.

The rustling of leaves up the ridge
under the dark canopy
remains a mystery.

The coyotes scream a frightful warning
to the deer from ridge to ridge.
The outcome inevitable and unmistakable to the ear.

The owls hoot and screech;
Such a hullabaloo is rarely heard.
Except here.

It is night in southern Appalachia.
The creatures declare:
Here, you are merely a visitor.


© Michael M. Barrick, 2012 – 2017. Photo credit: Ray Hennessy

Matt Coffay Shares Progressive Outlook in Western NC Campaign Stop

Democratic candidate looks to take on entrenched and powerful incumbent Mark Meadows

By Michael M. Barrick

LENOIR, N.C. – With Donald Trump’s approval ratings at a record low, Democrats around the nation are licking their chops at the prospects of turning Congress back to Democratic control in 2018. The best evidence of that is right here in Western North Carolina in the solidly Republican 11th Congressional District. GOP Representative Mark Meadows of Cashiers, who is among the most conservative members of Congress and is chairman of the so-called House Freedom Caucus, has already had a Democrat file to unseat him.

Clearly getting an early start on the campaign, Matt Coffay of Buncombe County visited Lenoir on June 1. Coffay, 30, formally announced his candidacy on April 23 outside of Meadow’s office in Waynesville at a Medicare-for-All Town Hall organized by Coffay’s campaign. Coffay is the first Democrat in the district to file a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and has risen right at $30,000, almost entirely in small donations, according to his campaign.

Coffay at CCdP HDQ 2

Congressional candidate Matt Coffay speaks at the Caldwell County, NC Democratic Headquarters on June 1, 2017

Meadows was first elected to Congress in 2012 after the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly gerrymandered the district by drawing liberal-leaning precincts in Asheville out of the district. In addition to part of Buncombe County, the 11th District includes 15 other counties: Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, McDowell, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, and Yancy.

In his visit to Lenoir, Coffay unapologetically invoked the names of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in deeply red Caldwell County as he made his case to local residents. He held a two-hour town hall style event at Highland Coffee House on Main Street attended by about 30 residents; later, at Caldwell County Democratic Headquarters in downtown, Coffay spoke and fielded questions for well over an hour from about three dozen people.

Though the audiences were relatively small, Coffay confidently stated that he can beat Meadows through such retail politics. “I am really excited about what we’re doing.” He insisted that he is fully committed to going door-to-door. In fact, he said, even in places such as Henderson County – a place that traditional Democratic consultants say is a waste of time for Democratic candidates to visit because of its strong support for the GOP – he has heard residents complain about Trump and Meadows, and has seen a level of discontent that makes even the most loyal Republican consider voting for him. Hence, he promised, “I will not ignore any of the district when campaigning.”

We need more regular people in Congress, more citizen legislators, not career politicians.” – Matt Coffay

Yet, his campaign is not relying exclusively on retail politics. In fact, he pointed to the importance of social media; and, of course, cash. Lots of it. He explained, “With one phone call to the Koch brothers, Meadows will get all the money he needs.” So, Coffay insisted his campaign must – and will – raise $2 million.

A native of southern Appalachia – he grew up just a few miles south of the North Carolina state line in Blue Ridge, Ga. – Coffay moved to Buncombe County about a decade ago to venture into farming. After working “seven days and 80 hours a week,” he said it became clear that he simply could not succeed at farming because of unfair competition from corporations and the benefits they enjoy from the GOP-led Congress.

This experience, and his overall worldview that is informed by a concern for social and environmental justice, led him to help form an Our Revolution chapter in Asheville, which he said was the largest such chapter in the nation. Our Revolution is the outgrowth of the failed presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Its purpose is to continue the fight for the agenda articulated by Sanders during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries.

The influence of Sanders and the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party is obvious for one reading Coffay’s campaign literature. He says, “The hardworking people of this region have been let down by both parties over the years. Politicians do favors for big businesses, but leave small-town America to fend for itself. We have to do better than that.”

At both events, Coffay explained how he planned to do better. At the first stop, he said, “We need more regular people in Congress, more citizen legislators, not career politicians.” Later, at Democratic headquarters, he offered a very specific example – Meadows’ leadership to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Coffay called Meadows’ replacement legislation “an abomination.” Under the Meadows bill, said Coffay, 23 million Americans would lose health insurance, including more than 100,000 people just in the 11th District.

The Democratic Party has lost its way. … The biggest issue here is that the party does not have a message that resonates with the middle class and working class. What we need to be talking about it what values we are going to embrace for the 99 percent.” – Matt Coffay

His progressive outlook was also very evident in his remarks about the vital issues of the day, as he spoke about income inequality, education, infrastructure, healthcare, the influence of big money in politics, the environment and more.

Coffay supports a single-payer universal health care structure for all citizens based on the model of Medicare – a position now favored by a majority of Americans, according to recent polls. That is why Coffay stated with confidence, “There are no more safe districts. This is not a safe district (for Meadows).”

Coffay did not limit his criticism to Meadows. He also said, “The Democratic Party has lost its way.” He added, “The biggest issue here is that the party does not have a message that resonates with the middle class and working class. What we need to be talking about it what values we are going to embrace for the 99 percent.” That, he said, is why he favors the more progressive agenda set by Sanders.

Responding to a question regarding his stance on a possible war with North Korea or other nations, Coffay first responded, in exasperation, “I can’t believe we’re talking about this.” Several folks sitting in the room responded, “Yes, but we have to.”

Coffay replied, “We can’t ignore domestic issues. We have 43 million people living in poverty.” He pointed out that a war with North Korea would be costly in human lives and to the U.S. Treasury, arguing that a war would divert desperately needed money at home. He was critical of proposed cuts to the Veterans Administration in wartime. Still, he acknowledged, “If America is attacked, then of course we would have to respond somehow.” That led to a nuanced conversation with many in the audience regarding NATO and treaties with other nations that the U.S. pledges to support should they be attacked. He said that the U.S. should honor its treaties and commitment to NATO, but in light of the fact that NATO is based on a Cold War treaty nearly 70-years-old, that it is worth revisiting.

Still, he argued, the military must be used intelligently. “We are destabilizing the world with our military activities.” He noted also, referring to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, “Saudi Arabia provided the terrorists, yet we went to war with other nations.” So, said Coffay, terrorist attacks could be used again as an excuse to wage war based on the whims of the president, not strategic U.S. interests.

Coffay at CCDP HDQ 1

Congressional candidate Matt Coffay shares his views in Lenoir, NC on June 1, 2017

Returning to domestic priorities, Coffay called for a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure; transitioning from fossil fuels to sustainable, alternative energy sources such as solar; maintaining clean air, water and land for ecological reasons and to help ensure the region retains its appeal to tourists that visit Western North Carolina because of its natural and pristine beauty; lauded the working class and was relentlessly critical of corporate executives, saying, “Those people don’t do actual work. It’s time we have the discussion about these people who nearly destroyed our economy.”

Public education, too, must be a priority he said. “We have plenty of money. It’s just a matter of will.” He criticized efforts by the GOP to kill the public service provision for students who take out federal loans for college and can “pay” them off over 10 years by working in the public or nonprofit sector. Taking that incentive away will lead many college graduates to avoid those low paying jobs so that they can pay off their student loans, Coffay argued.

After Coffay and his campaign manager packed up to head to their next meeting, the mood in the Democratic Headquarters was much more upbeat than the night of the presidential election last year. Yet, some shared they felt that the voters of the 11th District are simply too conservative and committed to the GOP for Coffay or anyone else to have a chance against the powerfully entrenched Meadows. Others were more optimistic.

The split in the Democratic Party last year because of the Clinton-Sanders race seems to have abated. Winning, not ideological purity, is the goal, said many. Indeed, many said that so long as Coffay remains true to his values and the goals of Our Revolution, he would have their support. The losing campaign of Hillary Clinton seems to have convinced Democrats – at least in Caldwell County – that the worldview of Bernie Sanders and Matt Coffay are more aligned with traditional Democratic principles. And, that sticking to them will lead to victory in 2018.

Time will tell. Last November, nearly 360,000 people voted in the 11th District, with Meadows getting 64 percent of the vote. So, as Coffay said, “We have a lot of people to talk to.”

© The Lenoir Voice, 2017. 

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OVEC Publishes Newspaper to Reach 29,000 West Virginians

Dangers of fracking, benefits of Clean Energy in West Virginia are covered in the 28-page newspaper, Renew West Virginia

By Michael M. Barrick

OVEC Renew WV.png

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – One of the most established and influential environmental and social justice organizations in West Virginia is printing and distributing 29,000 copies of its own newspaper – Renew West Virginia.

The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) stated in a news release, “The publication … examines the health and pollution impacts of the fracking boom in other areas of West Virginia, and details fracking-related projects proposed for the greater Huntington area. It also explores the nationwide growth of renewable energy and related jobs, with a focus on the renewable energy efforts underway in Cabell and Wayne counties.

It will be distributed to residents of Cabell, Wayne, Putnam, Jackson and Roane counties.  It is being sent to those “ … who reside near some of the proposed pipelines and their associated compressors stations,” explained OVEC in the statement. It is also available online.

OVEC pipeline map

The proposed route for the Mountaineer XPress Pipeline as provided by Columbia Gas Transmission online.

The proposed route for the Mountaineer XPress Pipeline, as provided by Columbia Gas Transmission online.

The newspaper has been published, said OVEC in its release, to answer the question, “What is our energy future?” The question is timely, argued the organization. It noted, “A total of nine large diameter pipelines are proposed to come through the Huntington area. Unlike the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, which are largely completed already, the fracked-gas pipelines proposed for the Huntington area are not yet in construction, and some are still in the planning phases.”

It continued, “Columbia’s Leach XPress pipeline is planned to bore under the Ohio River near Camden Amusement Park, and Columbia’s Mountaineer XPress pipeline is currently in the public comment phase. There is also industry discussion now about fracking the very deep Rogersville Shale which underlies the Huntington area.”

As pipeline companies seek eminent domain rights, we need to remember that informed and organized people can demand their rights, protect their property, and contribute to a better energy future for our state and nation.” – OVEC Executive Director Natalie Thompson

There is a better way, argues OVEC in Renew West Virginia. OVEC Executive Director Natalie Thompson said, “All across the United States, a new energy for citizen action is emerging. We need to tap into that energy and work with others concerned about the severe climate impacts of these planned developments in our neighborhoods.” She continued, “As pipeline companies seek eminent domain rights, we need to remember that informed and organized people can demand their rights, protect their property, and contribute to a better energy future for our state and nation.”

Robin Blakeman, OVEC’s project coordinator, added, “We see the problems our neighbors in north central West Virginia have faced with the rise of deep shale fracking-related activities. We’ve published Renew West Virginia because we want to make certain that people know deep shale fracking-related activities are not the same as our grandfathers’ oil and gas industry.” She added, “Renewable is doable! We can choose to move West Virginia’s economy into the 21st century by embracing cleaner renewable energy.”

OVEC grandfathers well pad.jpg

Graphic from Renew West Virginia. Courtesy of OVEC.

Indeed, the impact of fracking upon the state’s northern counties, as well as residents in Pennsylvania, New York and elsewhere are revealed in the newspaper. On page 3, under the headline, “Not Your Grandfather’s Oil and Gas Industry,” a new fracking well pad dwarfs an older well. With that startling contrast catching your attention, readers are informed, “To learn what this oil and gas rush would mean for our communities, we look to our northern neighbors. Explore these pages to learn more about what our region faces, about fracking-related activities, and about cleaner, healthier alternatives.”

A number of topics are covered, including the growth of renewable energy. There is also a section on the Rogersville Shale field – 12 to 14 thousand feet under about 12 counties in West Virginia and several more in Kentucky – which is in the sights of the gas industry. The Marcellus Shale, in contrast, is about 5,000 feet below the surface. The publication asserts, “If the Rogersville Shale is extensively developed, the Huntington/Wayne County area would be harmed by unprecedented deep fracking, with much of the oil and gas apparently slated for export overseas.”

OVEC Well pad flaring

A modern well pad. Note the flaring. Dangers also include storage tanks for explosive, volatile natural gas condensate. Courtesy of OVEC.

Additionally, the publication points out that much of the gas being extracted from the West Virginia shale fields are earmarked for export, despite federal regulations designed to prevent that. It shows how a state court victory for citizens could thwart industry plans to export the gas they seek to extract. The ruling prevents gas companies from accessing private property. Hence, depending upon other factors, the ruling could severely limit construction, and hence production and, ultimately, export of the fracked gas. Consequently, the construction of pipelines and compressor stations, not to mention the many adverse impacts of fracking, could conceivably be severely restricted by West Virginians firmly standing for their rights.

In that decision from a case in Monroe County, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a ruling by Monroe County Judge Robert A. Irons ruling that landowners do have the right to prevent pipeline surveyors from coming on their property to survey for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). This was a clear win in checking gas companies’ abuse of eminent domain. He ruled what MVP’s attempts to get on private property without permission based on the premise of eminent domain is illegal because it was “private taking for private use.” In other words, the pipeline is not for public benefit, affirmed the court, but for the profit of the energy companies building them.

Other issues explored include public health and environmental complaints in Pennsylvania; the impact upon water supplies from depletion of lakes to pollution through leaching; earthquakes occurring where none had before the fracking boom; public health impacts, ecological risks, and overall nuisances of fracking well pads; and, a review of the impact of nine proposed pipelines, many of which would run under or near the Ohio River.

OVEC cluster of trucks

Fleets of various large trucks, oversized for the two-lane highways of West Virginia, many hauling hazardous and radioactive materials, clog the northern counties of West Virginia, as well as part of other central Appalachian states. Courtesy of OVEC.

Readers are also encouraged to know and defend their rights. “Folks in West Virginia living along the paths of these proposed pipelines are advised: If pipeline land men come looking for you, know your rights! OVEC can suggest knowledgeable and trustworthy lawyers.”

The dangers of compressor stations are illustrated vividly through the photo of a child who was part of a health study in New York. As noted in the caption, residents suffered from asthma, nosebleeds, headaches, and rashes. On the same page, readers learn. “The Pennsylvania Medical Society has called for a moratorium on new shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing.”

OVEC child with bloody nose

A child that was part of a health study in New York about the public health dangers of fracking. Photo: Minisink, N.Y. health study.

In-depth reporting is provided on the “typical steps” for a Marcellus Shale gas operation. Numerous photos tell their own stories. Radioactivity in fracking well waste is explored. The paper notes, “In December 2016, the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters reported on a study that found some well waste from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania contained radioactive material not previously reported, with the potential for leaching from landfills into the environment.” Over two pages, Renew West Virginia thoroughly reviews the science that proves fracking creates radioactive waste. Furthermore, they note that disposal of it is barely, if at all, regulated.

The newspaper also includes news of grassroots victories against pipelines; points out that the clean energy economy employs four million people in the United States; and, provides extensive analysis of solar energy.

Informational Meeting

OVEC will distribute copies of Renew West Virginia at an informational meeting at 6 p.m. on Wed., March 15 at the Main Cabell County Library, 455 9th Street (at the corner of 5th Ave. and 9th St. in downtown Huntington).

Learn more

To contact OVEC or to learn more about Renew West Virginia, click here.

What is fracking?
Fracking is a slang word for hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting a fluid consisting of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale. This fractures the rock, releasing natural gas, which is then extracted. In West Virginia, the Marcellus shale, a layer of rock 3,500 – 8,000 feet below the surface, is the object of fracking. The vertical depth of the formation is about 150 feet. Whether recovered or left behind, the frack fluid presents problems. The wastewater contains not only the chemicals added to the water, but also heaving minerals and radioactive materials recovered as part of the extraction process.

OVEC fracking process

Source of graphic: ProPublica; used with permission. Use does not imply ProPublica’s endorsement of any content of this newspaper.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2017

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Group: Proposed ACP Pipeline Poses Undue Risks to the Blue Ridge

Too many questions remain for FERC to approve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline says monitoring coalition

By Rick Webb


In-stream blasting would be used for crossing the South Fork of the Rockfish River, a native trout stream in the pipeline corridor below the proposed drilling operation.

MONTEREY, VA. – The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (CPMC) has submitted a report to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the proposal to drill through the Blue Ridge Mountains under the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the National Forest.

The information provided in the DEIS is insufficient to support evaluation of the proposed Blue Ridge drilling operation. The scale of excavation is not fully disclosed or considered, and the results of critical geophysical investigations have not been provided. Identification of geohazards and evaluation of mitigation measures have been deferred until later, precluding a meaningful opportunity for informed review of the project. The published DEIS fails to meet the information needs of the public or the governmental agencies that have responsibilities related to the ACP project.

FERC must release a revised DEIS to:
1)  prove that boring through the Blue Ridge is a practicable option, by providing reliable and complete geophysical data
2)  disclose the extent of land disturbance and water quality damage the proposal would create
3)  include detailed, site-specific plans and pollution control measures for all alternatives for crossing the Blue Ridge.


The Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo by Michael M. Barrick

The DPMC Report:
A High-Risk Proposal – Drilling Through the Blue Ridge for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Story Map Version
Facebook Announcement 

To learn more about the DPMC, visit their website: Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition or contact Rick Webb, Program Coordinator at

The Eyes of a Child


If we all looked at the world through the eyes of a child, we would see only beauty.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2017

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Creating Generation Whine

Trump won; get over it and keep fighting for justice

By Michael M. Barrick

Oh my. It appears some college students (and professors) were so distraught over the election of Donald Trump as president that some of the nation’s supposedly most prestigious Ivy League institutions cancelled classes and exams the day following the election. You can read about it here.

According to the report, a Yale administrator told faculty “to be sensitive to students at this moment …” Hurry, somebody please pass the smelling salts. I hear a collective moan of, “I believe I have the vapors!”


Penn, too, cancelled classes, exams and heard from distraught students. I hope somebody in a position of authority told them to “get over it.” However, I haven’t read anywhere where anyone of authority came remotely close to challenging them to react and live as adults. Instead, the coddling began.

If the election of Donald Trump is enough to put “leaders” of universities and their students into a spiral of despondency, our adversaries – such as North Korea – will rightfully determine we are a hopelessly weak society. Indeed, one student said, “Putting exams after elections is irresponsible. If the University wants students to be involved in politics they shouldn’t force them to study instead.”

Please tell me I’m not alone in shaking my head in disbelief at that point-of-view. You have to study in college? Jesus Christ, whose idea was that? You still have to be part of society and vote? Oh no! The masters of multitasking can’t study, research and take an hour or so to go vote? Bless their hearts.

Perhaps some in academia need a refresher course of the example set by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who returned to Nazi Germany from the safety of the U.S., only to die in a concentration camp.

Instead, they are creating a Generation Whine that just wants to grab their electronic devices, curl up on the bed, and use social media to whine to one another. Never mind that social and digital media gives them the power to change the world. First, they must be aware of the world beyond their concerns. This reaction to Trump’s election shows they are not. This song by Chicago might help with that.

Or, consider a brief story. While working for six years right out of high school, I met my wife, Sarah. Then, I went to college while she worked. It was in my junior year of college that she became pregnant with our first child. Lindsay happened to arrive on the same day that a major paper was due to my history professor. A weekend came between Lindsay’s arrival and my return to campus. In short, my paper was about four days late, and the grade reflected it. I was upset and told the professor I thought he was being unfair to penalize me. His response: “You have to choose priorities. You want to make a life for your daughter? Then attend class and turn in your work. That’s how you graduate.”

He accepted no excuses. To this day, I admire him for it. You see, I knew that paper was due. I had it done. Though I commuted 35 miles one-way over a West Virginia mountain road every day, it was the professor’s argument that I could have sent the paper with a friend when it was due (this was before email). He was right. He did not expect me to miss my baby’s birth, but he was trying to teach me that sometimes in life, we have multiple, simultaneous responsibilities.

In other words, life is hard and quite complicated much of the time.

As a grandfather, father and retired teacher, I know some folks think I should be extending a little sympathy to our young college friends. Well, I simply can’t. It’s not good for them, as it is time they grow up.

I, too, had to put up with the hate hurled by Trump supporters as I campaigned and worked the polls during early voting. We saw first-hand just what kind of jerks support Donald Trump. We have seen the administration he’s putting together. It is too bad we don’t teach history anymore, or these college students really would be terrified.

And that is Trump’s hope: that he can terrorize everyone just as he did through the election. He is also hoping college-aged kids will become so disillusioned that they’ll not fight the forces within the Democratic Party that put their thumbs on the scale in their successful – but ultimately disastrous – attempt to hand the Democratic nomination to Hillary. He is counting on them to not look to third parties and improved ballot access.

I’m feeling old (no, 60 is not the “new 40”). I’m tired. I’m not well physically. But hell will freeze over before I give in to the forces of evil such as Donald Trump. That’s the lesson college kids need to learn. So, shame on those administrators, professors and students that felt the need to hit the pause button the day after the election. It was exactly opposite of what should have happened.

So, here’s my two cents worth to the students and others distraught about the election of Donald Trump. As the Eagles sang, “Get Over It.” And, then do something about it, like fight for justice, for what it’s worth.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2016

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In this Time of Mourning

To Orlando and to Everyone, on June 12th 2016. Note: While the horrific massacre in Orlando Sunday morning did not happen in Appalachia, it is essential for the survival of humanity that we stand in solidarity with victims of hate, wherever they may live — or die. 

By Abigail Taylor

I feel unworthy to speak
To such a tragic day.
But how must I channel
Such pure ANGER, and DESPAIR?
I STAND in solidarity.
I pray for, nay, DEMAND! peace.

LGBT flag

There are those among us
Who have lost their humanity
Who are blinded by hatred
Who seek an ignorant, self-serving, empty prize.
And use their violence
To extinguish your spirit
To interrupt your joy
To stomp on your PRIDE
To forcefeed you with fear.
But we must not buckle.
we must not let it numb us.
And let that ANGER lead us to
LOVE more urgently
HOPE more fiercely
And fight with PEACE.
Embrace your brother and sister.
Embrace your gay brothers and sisters.
Embrace a stranger.
Life is clearly too short
Not to LOVE
With every fiber
Of our beings.

As if the future
Depends on it.
It does.

© Abigail Taylor, 2016

Mountain Valley Pipeline Would Cost Impacted Communities Billions of Dollars Asserts Independent Study

Land values, natural benefits, and economic development could lead to losses of nearly $9 billion in just half of the counties that will be impacted if pipeline is approved 

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A new study by Charlottesville-based Key-Log Economics asserts that the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) would cost impacted communities billions of dollars. The study, “Economic Costs of the Mountain Valley Pipeline: Effects on Property Value, Ecosystem Services, and Economic Development in Virginia and West Virginia” – estimates that the total cost of the MVP to an eight-county region in southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia could range between $8 and $8.9 billion.

If approved, the MVP would go through 11 counties in West Virginia and five counties in Virginia. It would originate in Wetzel County, W.Va. and terminate in Pittsylvania County, Va. some 300 miles later.

FERC’s procedures and its track record show a blatant disregard for established economic principles as well as clear evidence that pipelines reduce property values, discourage business development, and diminish the capacity of the natural environment to provide clean water, beautiful scenery, and other valuable services to people.” – Dr. Spencer Phillips.

According to the Key Log report, the projected losses include between $65.1 and $135.5 million in the short term as construction strips forest and other productive land bear, and as private property values take a hit due to the dangers and inconvenience of living near the MVP route.  It also includes $119.1 to $130.8 million each and every year after construction due to permanent changes in land cover, lost property tax revenues, and dampened economic growth in key sectors.

A coalition of community groups and organizations from the eight counties (Greenbrier, Monroe and Summers in West Virginia, and Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke and Franklin in Virginia) commissioned the independent research to ensure that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would have more comprehensive and robust estimates of economic effects that are typically discounted or ignored in the pipeline approval processes. The coalition had previously debunked exaggerated claims that the MVP would provide benefits in the form of jobs and income in the region, and its new report provides at least a piece of the essential cost side of the benefit-cost evaluation.


Portion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline area included in the Key-Log Economics report. A map of the full route can be found here..

“FERC’s procedures and its track record show a blatant disregard for established economic principles as well as clear evidence that pipelines reduce property values, discourage business development, and diminish the capacity of the natural environment to provide clean water, beautiful scenery, and other valuable services to people,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Spencer Phillips.

Central findings of the Key-Log Economics report are that:

  • One-time costs (lost property value and lost ecosystem service value during construction) would total in the range of $65.1 to $135.5 million.
  • Annual costs (costs that recur year after year) would range from $119.1 to $130.8 million.
  • Present discounted value of all future annual costs (discounted at 1.5%): $7.9 to $8.7 billion.
  • One-time costs plus the discounted value of all future annual costs: $8.0 to $8.9 billion.
  • Purported financial benefits to local governments are based on exaggerated MVP economic benefits claims.
  • The need for the Mountain Valley Pipeline is not supported by economic benefits for impacted communities.

“Only if we count all of these costs (plus others our study did not get to, like the cost of damage to roads during construction or of heightened emergency response capacity after), weigh the full cost against reasonable estimates of societal benefits, and then ensure that the pipeline’s owners pay the full of the pipeline, could we possibly say that the MVP is a good idea, economically,” said Phillips.

Kirk Bowers of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club added that “Based on a comparison of even the exaggerated benefit estimates put out by the MVP’s backers with these very conservative cost estimates, it is hard to see this pipeline being worth it for the region.”

Related articles

Key-Log Economics report

Citizens Encouraged to Request Public Hearings about MVP

Virginia Officials Agree to Demands from Advocacy Group about Pipeline Deliberations

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