Charleston (W.V.) Gazette, December 14, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: A grass-roots campaign is under way to "reframe" the debate over coal. Someone (a PR firm hired by the coal industry?) dreamed up the phrase "clean coal" -- on the George Orwell newspeak principle that "war is peace" -- and the media has spread this catchy, bogus phrase everywhere. It's time to retire the phrase "clean coal" and replace it with something closer to the truth.]

By Ken Ward Jr.

[DHN introduction: We have added the links you find in this article. --Editors]

More than 70 grass-roots groups from around the U.S. and 12 other countries are launching a crusade to end the use of the term "clean coal."

Coal River Mountain Watch and other West Virginia groups say the phrase is misleading and hides the true effects of mining and coal- related air pollution.

"Coal is dirty when you mine it, dirty when you transport it, dirty when you burn it and dirty when you dispose of the ash," said Vivian Stockman, project coordinator for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. "And it sure dirties up politics."

This morning, the coalition and the Coal River group will join the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and others to announce their campaign at a state Capitol press conference.

Over the last few months, local environmental groups have become increasingly concerned about calls from state and national politicians for renewed backing of various government "clean coal" programs.

Earlier this week, Gov. Joe Manchin held the first meeting of his own such effort -- a plan to build a coal gasification plant somewhere in West Virginia.

Supporters say this can help make coal burn with less air pollution, and use an abundant domestic energy to make the nation less dependent on foreign oil.

"It's something that I think is very doable for the state of West Virginia," Manchin said during the Public Energy Authority meeting.

In a letter circulated internationally, Coal River Mountain Watch also calls for an end to "destructive coal mining practices."

The group cited a slurry spill over the weekend from a Massey Energy preparation plant near the Boone-Raleigh County line.

The 10,000-gallon spill caused a five-mile long slug of black slurry, and forced the shutdown of the drinking water intake for the local water plant.

The incident Saturday morning occurred at Massey's Marfork Coal operation near Whitesville.

For more than four years, Massey has been fighting efforts by the DEP to suspend permits for part of the operation because of repeated spills. The case is back before the state Supreme Court.

Among those who signed the Coal River group letter was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance.

"There is no such thing as clean coal," said Kennedy, whose book "Crimes Against Nature" contains a chapter critical of the coal industry and mountaintop removal mining.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.