The Marc Steiner Show

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Get Up Stand Up

Fast Food StrikeAugust 30, 2013 – Segment 2

It’s another installment of our new weekly segment about social movements and protests across the country: Get Up Stand Up! featuring Rose Aguilar, host of Your Call on KALW in San Francisco. This week we talk about protests against coal in Massachusetts, nationwide fast food worker strikes, and “singing protests” in Wisconsin.


July 12, 2010 – Hour 2

This hour we speak with artists, musicians, and activists from different parts of the southern Appalachian region about the intersections between their art and activism.  Our guests are all taking part in the Common Ground On the Hill festival, taking place right now in Westminster, Maryland.

Walt Michael – Musician, Founder and Director of Common Ground On the Hill

Art Menius – Former Director of Appalshop, bluegrass musician

Derek Mullins – Chairman of the Board of Appalshop, musician

Ellen Elmes – Artist, teacher, and activist from southern Virginia

April 22, 2010 – Hour 1

This hour we feature two perspectives on transitioning to cleaner sources of energy.

First, we speak with Grist staff writer Jonathan Hiskes about his trip to Wales to explore the transition Wales has been making since its coal-based economy bottomed out in the mid ’80’s.  Check out his article Save the Wales: ‘Britain’s Appalachia’ Engineers a Brighter Post-Coal Future.

Activist Maria Gunnoe, winner of the 2009 Goldman Prize for her work fighting to protect her homeland in West Virginia from the devastation of mountaintop removal coal mining, joins us for the second part of the hour.

Click here to find out where your energy comes from and what your connection to mountaintop removal is.

July 16, 2009 – Hour 1

As part of the stimulus package, the federal government has invested $3.4 billion in carbon capture and sequestration projects. Advocates say this investment could demonstrate and expand the usefulness of "clean coal" technologies and make them an important part of managing climate change. Meanwhile, critics warn us that carbon capture and storage is too expensive and wasteful to even begin to counterbalance its unquantifiable health and environmental risks.

Coal isn’t going away any time soon, so what are our options?

This hour’s panel included:

This show is a rebroadcast. Click here to listen to the podcast on the original show page.

May 11, 2009 – Hour 1

Today’s show began with another look at the future of journalism. Senator Ben Cardin discussed his bill that would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits. Then Walter Isaacson, the former Chairman and CEO of CNN and former managing editor of Time, shared his take on the future of news.

To finish the hour, Maria Gunnoe spoke about her work fighting to stop the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. She was recently awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work to save her Appalachian community. Floods in West Virginia and Kentucky this weekend have highlighted the terrible consequences of mountaintop removal coal mining.


Senator Ben Cardin was elected to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate in 2006. He previously served 19 years in the House. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, Judiciary Committee, Environment and Public Works Committee, Budget Committee and Small Business Committee.

Walter Isaacson is the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute and formerly serves as the Chairman and CEO of CNN and the Managing Editor of TIME.

Maria Gunnoe is a native of West Virginia who advocates for the end of mountaintop removal coal mining.  

April 14, 2009 – Hour 1

As part of the stimulus package, the federal government has invested $3.4 billion in carbon capture and sequestration projects. Advocates say this investment could demonstrate and expand the usefulness of "clean coal" technologies and make them an important part of managing climate change. Meanwhile, critics warn us that carbon capture and storage is too expensive and wasteful to even begin to counterbalance its unquantifiable health and environmental risks.

Coal isn’t going away any time soon, so what are our options?

This hour’s panel included:

November 12, 2008

Kayford Mountain, West Virginia (photo: Justin Levy) 

One point of agreement between the McCain and Obama campaigns was their support of the coal industry, or what they call "clean coal."  Have you been wondering what "clean coal" means?

Today, we discuss our energy future.  What are the costs of our dependence on coal, and what alternatives are we developing?

We’ll be joined in studio by Dave Cooper, a resident of Kentucky and the host of the Mountaintop Removal Road Show.  We’ll also be joined on the phone from West Virginia by Lorelei Scarbro, an organizer working on the Coal River Wind Project, a wind farm proposed by the community as an alternative to the mining company’s plan to open another mountaintop removal site on Coal River Mountain.

Also featured this hour is a short interview with Larry Gibson that we recorded on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia, where he lives, last spring.  We walked through the woods to a steep precipice where we could see the active mountaintop removal mining site that has destroyed the land his family has lived on for centuries.

For more of our coverage on coal issues, click here.

July 23, 2008

The Marc Steiner Show for Wednesday July 23rd will include three topics:

The show will begin with a conversation about the ACLU’s allegations that the Maryland State Police spent hundreds of hours in 2005 and 2006 infiltrating and spying on anti-death penalty and peace groups in Baltimore. Marc will speak to:

  • David Rocah, attorney for the ACLU
  • Max Obuszewski, peace activist
  • Maria Allwine, peace activist
  • The Maryland State Police were invited but have declined the invitation.

*After the show today, we recorded a short interview with Maryland Senator Ben Cardin that followed up on this discussion. Please click here to listen to his thoughts on the spying issue.

The show will then move to a look at coal mining and how practices like mountain top removal are changing Appalachia and the lives of the people who live there. Marc will talk to:

photo by Justin Levy
  • Debbie Jarrel, lifetime resident of West Virginia’s Coal River Valley and an anti-mountain top removal activist.

To learn more about mountaintop removal, go to our forum for a great list of links, as well as more info and discussion. Also, check out these posts on our blog from our trip to West Virginia: post1 post2 post3

Finally, we’ll broadcast an excerpt of Marc’s interview with a textile artist whose pieces made of hair are currently being exhibited at the Walters Art Museum. Marc will talk with:

  • Sonya Clark, Chair/Professor in the Craft and Media Studies department at VCU School of the Arts in Richmond, VA.

This is what mountaintop removal looks like

These are photos I took looking out across an active mountain removal site on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia.  It’s hard to get a feel for the size of the mining site without being there.  It’s even harder to imagine what it looked like in its natural state, but look at the dark green, tree-covered hills all around it to get some idea.

We’ll be bringing you more about what’s happening on Kayford Mountain soon, but I wanted to get these images out there right away.  Larry Gibson showed us around here.  He grew up on Kayford Mt. and now the land his family and others lived on for generations is being irreparably destroyed.  He came with his cousin that day to mow the grass in two family cemeteries that are here.  We walked past them on the way to what is now a cliff over the mining site where I stood and took these pictures.  Another of their cemeteries has already been destroyed by the mining company as they’ve blasted the mountain apart and carted away ton after ton of coal from inside of it.

Larry told us not to waste his time.  He wasn’t showing us around for no reason; he wanted to make sure we were going to do something about what we saw.  Larry is for abolishing the use of coal altogether, despite having family members who work in the industry and are upset by his stance.  Unlike many people we spoke to who expressed support for continuing mining in a responsible, less destructive manner, Larry told us he doesn’t believe it’s possible to mine and use coal in a way that is not harmful.

Over and over again last week, people mentioned supporting the Clean Water Protection Act as the most important thing anyone can do right now to help bring an end to mountaintop removal.  Contact your Congressmen and make sure they support it!

Please also check out our new forum on mountaintop removal, and these two blog posts from West Virginia last week – 1 & 2.


Day 2 in Coal River Valley

Butch & Patty Sebok at home in Seth, West Virginia. photo: Antrim Caskey

We spent our first full day in West Virginia visiting people in their homes, taping interviews. People shared incredible stories with us that we’ll be bringing back. I recorded about 6 hours of audio today alone. We saw a 90 year-old woman’s fingers turn black with coal dust from running them across her tv screen. Again and again, people expressed their respect for the old ways of underground mining. At the same time, they spoke with outrage about mountaintop removal and the unprecedented level of destruction coal companies have caused in this area over the past 25 years or so.

Antrim took this picture of Patty Sebok and her husband Harry "Butch" Sebok in their kitchen. Patty is a community activist who works for Coal River Mountain Watch. Butch is a union miner who worked underground for almost 30 years. He was forced to retire when a doctor told him he risked paralysis if he continued working after an injury on the job that resulted in a herniated disk.

We’ll be up bright and early in the morning to tape some more interviews before heading up Kayford Mountain to see an active mountaintop removal site and meet the last man holding onto his home as the mountain is destroyed all around it. I encourage everyone to do their own research to learn more about mountaintop removal and the history of coal mining in West Virginia and beyond. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts to share.


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

4/09/08 from Vietnam, to Annapolis, to the Movies

This has been an interesting week. First, the Peabody Award comes for our work on the series we produced called Just Words. It was funded by the Open Society Institute and aired on WYPR for a little over a year. We submitted the work for the prestigious Peabody but had no expectations of winning one. It is a little overwhelming to be in the company of Steve Colbert, Planet Earth, Sixty Minutes, and other incredibly important national shows (including Project Runway, which I watch at my 11 year old daughter’s behest). It is quite an honor.

From 2005 to 2007 dozens of NPR stations around the country aired our six part documentary series, Shared Weight. I don’t know how many of you heard them (all six will be up on our new website for you to hear and podcast). They are six stand-alone hours produced with and about Vietnam veterans from both sides of the conflict. We spent six weeks in Vietnam recording and three veterans of that war went with us.

At any rate, we planned to return to Vietnam sometime in June or July to finish one of our stories. The first hour in our series was the story of Vietnam Veteran Homer Steedley and North Vietnamese soldier Hong Ngoc Dam. Homer killed Dam on his first day in Nam. They met coming around a bend in the road. There they were alone face to face. Homer got his gun our first. Dam died. Homer took the documents off his body. He kept them in his mother’s attic. For over thirty five years the image of that young man’s face and the documents he kept haunted him. He had to find Dam’s family to give them back that piece of him, of their son, husband and brother. We found the family. That first hour was called Wandering Souls because Vietnamese Buddhists believe that souls of the dead wander if their bodies or something of theirs is not returned home. Dam was one of 350,000 Vietnamese MIAs.

Now, Homer is going back to Vietnam for the first time since the war. He wants to meet Dam’s family and together they will journey to Kontum to find Dam’s body. We want to be there to finish this story of healing.

Well, we found out this week the trip is moved up to May. So, producer Jessica Phillips and I will be journeying to Vietnam. Hopefully, we will be sending back stories to you, with any luck with sound and pictures.

When we get back, we will head out in early June to the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They want to hear, and we want to tell, the story of what happened at WYPR. We want to tell the story of this community’s efforts to keep the public in public radio and to build and keep our sense of community. There will be thousands of people there who are dedicated to keeping alive and creating community non-corporate-controlled media. We will let you know what we find.

Then I am off for a week to the Pueblo Indian reservation in New Mexico to teach radio to a national gathering of Native American high school students. It is a camp called Native Visions started by the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. It is not my first time there over the last fifteen years, but I love teaching at the place. Hopefully, more stories for me to share.


OK, Annapolis is done. The session is over. So, what really happened?

The biggest crime was the Constellation Energy deal being ratified by a bullied State Senate and House of Delegates. It was 1999 deregulation redux. I know, I know, the reregulation debate can still occur. The Public Service Commission was not granted subpoena power. This is the single most important failure of that deal and legislation. Read Sun Business Columnist Jay Hancock’s column today. We still do not know why energy cost so much after the 2005 auctions or what goes on at the auctions. The control of the grid and wholesale electric market is opaque, at best, at the state, regional and national level. It is controlled by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is controlled by the federal government, which, as we found at the beginning of the Bush/Cheney administration, is controlled by big oil and coal. Remember Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force in 2001 that would not release its report and never did. Do you remember that it was made up of all his friends in oil and coal and their ancillary industries?

What we needed was a bill that put teeth in the PSC, that changed laws to allow full disclosure of deal making in that industry and encourage our elected Congressional representatives to demand reform at the national level.

We can have openness, honesty, and a strong energy future with Constellation or anyone else. These ideas are not mutually exclusive.


OK, enough blah blah … what I want to know is when will these clouds go away? I want sunshine.

We saw the film Stop Loss the other day at Hunt Valley. It was a powerful movie about the back door draft affecting the lives of so many American soldiers. It was by directed by Kimberly Pierce, whose previous film was Boys Don’t Cry. We went to a 5 PM show. We were the only two people sitting in the theater. I know Mondays at five may be a slow movie time but I think Americans don’t want to hear about this war. So few of us know people who serve, who died there or who were wounded in battle. What about you, do you know anyone who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan? After we saw the film I was thinking about my student’s brother who died in Iraq and another woman I know whose son was killed in Iraq. This war makes me angry.

We also saw John Sayles’ Honeydripper at the Charles. What superb acting, wonderful script, great music and uplifting. God, it felt good to walk out of a movie smiling.

And Thursday night, it is the Stones in Scorsese’s Shine a Light at The Senator. I can’t wait. Talk about feeling good. I am afraid to tell you all that I saw my first Stones concert in the spring of ‘64 in Albany, New York. I have been hooked ever since. I was always more of Stones man than a Beatle boy. Though I loved post 65 Beatles. OK, too much information.

See you at the movies.

3/28/08 Constellation Deal

So, what is up with this deal between O’Malley and Constellation? Where are the voices of dissent? Where are the voices in our state legislature, in print, on TV and in radio who are raising questions about this so-called settlement?

Martin O’Malley ran on a campaign to address consumers being shortchanged, over-charged and ripped off by Constellation and their home state company BGE as a result of the 1999 deregulation of the industry. A move pushed by Sen. Pres Mike Miller and one of the forgotten forces behind all that lobbying in Annapolis in 1999 – ENRON.

The state government and Constellation say this will allow us to deal with a looming energy crisis in the next few years that will lead to brownouts across the state. We don’t generate enough electricity for our growth. But how does this “settlement” address that issue?

OK, so now we are getting some credit and rebates and the state won’t have to pay the bill of deactivating Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plants. We all get back $175 if we are lucky and they get to profit millions or even billions. We are still saddled with at least a 72% increase in our rates. Governor and state leaders, tell that to our bank accounts every month!

Because of the settlement, there will be no more investigations into stranded costs paid to Constellation to compensate them for losses that never occurred when they took over BGE plants. What about the investigation into the corporate relationship between BGE and Constellation? What about the accusation that Constellation sells Maryland energy sources outside the state, then sells them back to us, to BGE for huge profits? No further investigations into the wholesale power auctions and our exponentially rising utility bills! Investigations in 2005 and 2006 clearly showed something amiss. It clearly appeared we were being gouged and huge profits were being made. We will never know the answer to what happened to us and what Constellation really did.

No subpoena power for the Public Service Commission! How will they get to the bottom of anything as they look at re-regulation of the industry and plan for the energy future of our state? Steve Larsen, Chairman of the PSC, on my show, said he wanted the answers to this and more. Now his hands are tied.

Constellation stock is now on the rise. They can have outside investors without state regulatory approval.

What about the future? Hydropower will have its end. Our dams can’t handle the load and the silt is building up. Solar, wind and nuclear will take years to make a dent in our total energy supply. Does this give Constellation the power and right to continue to mine coal, spew its death into the air, and make West Virginia look like a moonscape after the tops of our most ancient mountains are lopped off?

We need better answers to what de-regulation did and what was going on between Constellation and BGE. We need a better plan for our energy future than we are getting.

State legislators need to raise their voices and raise questions. Our local media needs to investigate and keep this discussion alive. We all need to be involved at whatever level we can to keep the pressure on.

Dealing with the power of Constellation Energy and the rates we pay was a central theme of Martin O’Malley’s run for Governor. This shows all too well the power that corporate giants have in our state political process. I know Governor O’Malley felt pushed against a wall. We have a very precarious energy future in the next few years. This settlement, however, was not the answer. It was not even close.


12/3 Google’s Energy Initiative


Recently Google announced its plans to spend tens of millions on research, development and related investments in renewable energy. Google believes it can produce electricity at scale cost less than coal. It also believes it can do this in years, not decades.
With Google taking the lead, what does this say about the future of energy development? Will Google’s initiative spur the government, and other businesses, to step up their efforts to find alternative, renewable and sustainable energy sources? Tune in and let us know what you think.
   – Marcus
Related links:

11/27/07 Mountaintop Removal Mining


*click here to listen to this show (might take a minute to load)

Ever wonder where the electricity in your home comes from?  Go to this website, type in your zipcode, and within seconds you can see the power plants on your grid.  They’ll also tell you if they use any coal taken from mountaintop removal mines, and show you where those mines are.

We have some pictures to go along with the show, because this is something you have to see to fully grasp, courtesy of photographer Antrim Caskey.  She took the picture above, and you can click here for more of her pictures from West Virginia.

Many of the guests who’ll be on this program will also be at The Charles Theater tonight (Tuesday) for a screening of Black Diamonds at 7pm.  The documentary, directed by Catherine Pancake, "charts the escalating drama in Appalachian states surrounding the increase in massive mountaintop removal coal mines that supply cheap coal to the US and Europe. The film documents one of the most radical, environmental grassroots movements in the US today as impoverished local citizens fight to end the destruction of their mountain vistas, communities, and culture."  It’s a fundraiser for Coal River Mountain Watch, and there’s more info here.

Here’s the rundown on the guests:


06/06/07 BGE and rate increases

So we all know that electricity rates went up on June 1st.

Some people say, “Yeah, this sucks, but electricity costs what it costs because that is what it costs!”

What if that isn’t true?

The Maryland Coalition to Stop the BGE Rate Hikes says that this is NOT true–that the rates we are now paying do NOT reflect the reality of what energy costs.  And furthermore, they are accusing some political leaders and officials of collusion-going so far as to request that State’s Attorney Pat Jessamy investigate Governor Martin O’Malley for collusion with BGE and acceptance of bribes from BGE/Constellation Energy.

We’ll speak with Delegate Jill Carter, who is calling for a special session to deal with these rate increases.  Chris Bush from the above-mentioned coalition will be joining us, as will Rob Gould of Constellation Energy and Marc Case from BGE. 

Join us on the air, through email, or on the blog. 

-Jessica Phillips