John Kerry touched my shoulder earlier tonight in Denver.
It was in the basement of the strange-looking, modern-pyramidesque Renaissance Hotel, where the Maryland delegation is staying, which isn't too convenient for them because it's on the other side of the city from all of the action. Congressman Elijah Cummings hosted a reception there tonight, while the Massachusetts folks were partying upstairs.
Shortly after entering the large ballroom, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around, thinking it was someone I knew, only to see the distinctive looking former presidential candidate right behind me. It looked like he was trying to shake as many hands as possible, while leaving the room at the same time... very presidential.
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.
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.
In preparation for Wednesday night’s Community Advisory Board meeting, it is time for a little history to set the record straight.
Tony Brandon and Barbara Bozzuto had already been trying to remove me as a force at our station prior to its official founding in February 2002.
In March of 2001, I along with Martha Rudzki, and our attorney, Scott Johnson, formed a non-profit to buy WJHU from Johns Hopkins University.
We urged listeners to contribute to the effort. We raised $750,000. This has become a bone of contention. Tony Brandon claims we raised less than $250,000. While the money itself is unimportant, in light of the effort I led to unite a community to build a new station, its disagreement is emblematic of the problem.
But here’s the reality:
Now we come to the station purchase.
Jonathan Melnick, who became a guarantor, said to me that we can never raise all this money. We needed a bank and guarantors for a loan. He offered to become a guarantor.
It was then that I met Tony Brandon, through a mutual friend. He offered his help. Tony and his brother own American General Media, the largest family-owned radio business in America.
Tony brought in Mercantile Bank. They had been involved as the bank of record for many of his business dealings.
He then brought in Charlie Salisbury, one of his business partners, to be a guarantor. So, we had four people (two of his and two I brought in) and the cash I had raised.
Marilyn Powel introduced us to and brought in as guarantors the Daniels family and Albert Williams.
Charlie Salisbury brought in the Linehans and the Bozzutos.