The Marc Steiner Show

CEM Goes to West Virginia

When we flip on a power switch in our homes, where does the electricity come from? How is it generated? There’s a good chance it’s from a coal-fired power plant. Click here for an easy way to trace your power source with nothing more than your zip code. With all the talk of developing new, sustainable energy sources, we’re still relying heavily on the old standbys like oil and coal.

Last November on The Marc Steiner Show, we had a coal industry spokesperson and a group of West Virginia residents as guests on the show to discuss coal mining. The conversation centered around mountaintop removal, one of the most widespread and quickly growing methods of mining coal in use today.

We were all blown away by what we learned in the process of putting that show together, and since then we’ve been wondering why this issue hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves. So, we decided that it’s something we should keep an ongoing focus on. Look for us to have continuing coverage both on this website and on the air.

Rather than covering the issue from afar, we decided to go straight to the source. This morning, I set out for the coal fields of southern West Virginia, along with photojournalist Antrim Caskey, who’s been working for the past 3 years to get people to pay attention to and do something about the environmental, including human, destruction caused by modern day coal mining practices in Appalachia. We’ll be spending this week down here lining up as many people as possible to contribute first-hand coverage to CEM on an ongoing basis. We’ll also be coming back with tons of new audio, photos, and video.

We’re spending the night in the Coal River Valley with Debbie Jarrel and Ed Wiley. You’ll hear a lot more about and from them if you stay with us here, for now check out one of the major projects they’ve been involved with, advocating for the safety and health of the students, teachers, and staff of Marsh Fork Elementary School. This site is full of info on that; briefly, it’s a school down the road from them sitting right down the hill from a huge, leaky sludge impoundment, or what Ed describes as a 2.8 billion gallon toxic waste dump.

The picture at the top is from this afternoon, during a beautiful hike Ed took us on in the woods behind his home. The pictures below are from this evening. They’re taken from the road, as we drove past an area being cleared by a coal company to put in a new beltline to transfer coal from the mining site to the processing plant.

all photos by Antrim Caskey

Written by Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner

The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday thru Friday from 10AM to Noon on WEAA 88.9 FM. The show covers the topics that matter, engaging real voices, from Charm City to Cairo and beyond. Call us at 410.319.8888 or email us to participate live in the show, or share your comments on our site! Aren’t in Baltimore but want to listen? Stream the show live.


  1. Justin, just a thank you from Ed and I in you attempt to spread the word about what our government is allowing to happen here in the name of progress.
    I hope you felt welcome here, our door is always open.
    Safe travels to you and Antrim as you journey other parts of WVa.

  2. Debbie, thanks for the note. Your home is beautiful, and I felt more than welcome and comfortable there. It was a rough transition staying in a motel the night we left.
    I’m back home in Baltimore now, realizing how much I learned from everyone I met and everything I saw over the past week. It was great meeting you and Ed. I’m looking forward to staying in touch and hope you’ll find this a useful place to spread information.

  3. Just wanted to extend my thanks to everyone involved in covering this issue. Many thanks to Antrim, Justin, and everyone working at Center For Emerging Media… The help could not be more appreciated.

    It’s good to see a few shots of the current clear cutting for the new belt line. As you can see they do not send the trees they are destroying off for logging or any other purpose. They have been simply tossing them into a pile and burning them all. Shame on top of shame. I pass this current operation almost daily. It is a hard thing to watch the land you have known for so long be destroyed forever…

    Thanks again for posting this story …


  4. Thanks, ya’ll got some great pictures. I can’t believe how fast Birchton is progressing…it makes me want to vomit.

  5. Thanks for getting the word out about what is happening here in the war zone in Appalachia.

  6. Justin, I was thrilled to get the update from CEM and see that you have just returned from West Virginia. Thank you for helping to keep this issue in front of people. Last October when you did the show on mountaintop removal, Marc said that he would do a follow up. As usual, you, Marc and the others at CEM can be counted on to keep your word and to also shine a light in corners that others would prefer remain dark.

    I also wanted to let you know that I’ll be showing the documentary Black Diamonds: Mountaintop Removal and the Fight for Coalfield Justice at my home in Lutherville on Monday evening, June 30th. The filmmaker, Catherine Pancake, will be there to take questions and give an update after. If you know anyone who might want to view this powerful film, please have them email me.

    My deepest gratitude. Ginny Robertson

  7. Thanks Justin. Anyone who wants to attend the screening of Black Diamonds: Mountaintop Removal and the Fight for Coalfield Justice can email me at It will be Monday, June 30th at my home in Lutherville. We’ll mingle and have some snacks from 5:30-6:30 and we’ll start the documenary at 6:30. It runs 90 minutes. After the movie the filmmaker Catherine Pancake will take questions and update us on some of what’s happening there.

    I’ll respond to emails with directions.

    Justin, if you’re available and would like to come and talk about your experience there last week I’d love to have you. Let me know.

  8. Glad you had a chance to see this and took a minute to write. I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you (and Catherine, amongst others) to let you know about our new project.

    Do you want to post your email here so that those who are reading this and would like to see the film can contact you directly?

  9. Hey Justin, Thanks for your efforts to help save Appalachia. It was a pleasure to meet you.

  10. Thanks, Bo. It was a pleasure to meet you, as well. I’ve been wondering if you caught up with that turkey?

    For those of you who don’t know Bo Webb, he’s a resident of Coal River Valley who Antrim introduced me to during our trip last week. He’s done a lot of work to help protect the community and land around him from the destruction being wrought by the coal industry. We taped a short interview in his home which we hope to have available here soon, along with many other interviews we recorded last week.

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