My letter to Senators Voinovich and Brown

Our country is in desperate need of citizens who rise from the malaise of work and mindless television to play an active role in shaping the future of our society.  We are cynical, jaded people about the problems of the world primarily because we haven’t had a way modeled for us to find joy and meaning in working together for common goals that contribute to the common good. And when we have been riled up by perceived problems in the system, it’s primarily been led by buffoons like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and the like who don’t shape us to be wise citizens, but knee-jerk sheep obeying their command.  I’m struggling to leave that prior life of the cycle of work and distraction to contribute to my society in a meaningful way, and this is one way I’m working to shape our society..

The following is a simple letter I wrote to my Senators from Ohio.  The second half of the letter is a form letter set up by the ilovemountains staff, but the first half is my own construction. I’ve heard from groups that form letters, while better than nothing, have less effect because the congressmembers know you haven’t spent time to sit down and thoughtfully engage the issue at hand.  I am engaged, learning, and wanting to act.

Senators Voinovich and Brown,

My name is Nathan Myers, a relatively recent resident of Ohio, but already a proud one! I am writing you for two reasons.

First, and most important, there is a region in West Virginia known as Coal River Mountain which has become an area where big business, sustainable industry and energy, the needs of the common person, and environmental concern are smashing together to create a terrible situation. Big business, specifically Massey Energy, is concerned exclusively with the coal seams under the area that can feed their bottom line. This is their overriding concern. In terms of sustainable energy, this is a prime spot for a different form of energy generation for America’s future; a wind farm. In terms of the common citizen, the actions of Massey and other coal giants are shredding their way of life and utterly destroying the area for sustainable, healthy human habitations for centuries to come. And in terms of environmental concern, the destruction of these mountains, resulting coal dust, slurry impoundments, valley fill, and toxic chemicals and metals that will be released into the ecosystem, will have an effect not only on living things in the immediate area, but areas further down the watershed from Coal River Mountain.

Please stand up and be counted as a leader willing to combine a concern for industry with a concern for people and environmental issues.

Second, I am writing to ask you to become a co-sponsor of the Cardin-Alexander “Appalachian Restoration Act” (S 696). This bill is critical for protecting Appalachia’s waters from being polluted and buried by waste created during mountaintop removal coal mining.

Mountaintop removal mining involves clear-cutting native hardwood forests, blowing up entire mountaintops, and dumping millions of tons of debris into nearby streams in order to get at coal seams that lie deep beneath the surface. Already, more than 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been destroyed by mountaintop removal mining operations. For 25 years, the Clean Water Act (CWA) allowed for the granting of permits to place “fill material” into waters of the United States, provided that the primary purpose of the “filling” was not for waste disposal. As such, the CWA prohibited mountaintop removal operations from using the nation’s waterways as waste disposal sites. That changed in 2002, when the Army Corps of Engineers, under the direction of the Bush administration and without congressional approval, altered its longstanding definition of “fill material” to include mining waste. This change accelerated the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining and the destruction of more than 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams.

To stop this devastation of the nation’s waterways, Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Alexander (R-TN) have introduced the Appalachia Restoration Act (S 696)—a simple piece of legislation that restores the original intent of the Clean Water Act to clarify that mountaintop removal mining waste can not be dumped into streams. Passing this legislation would help end the destruction of the Appalachian Mountains, home to our nation’s most diverse forests and streams, the headwaters of the drinking water supply of many eastern cities, and a unique and valuable American culture that has endured for generations. Please sponsor the Appalachia Restoration Act (S 696). Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Yours,

Cincinnati resident Nathan Myers

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