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Citizens, organizations march on W. Va. Capitol for E-Day

On February 17, 2014

Citizens, lobbyists and environmental organizations from across the state gathered at the State Capitol building Monday to call legislators’ attention to environmental problems occurring across the state.

Environment Day, or “E-Day” at the Capitol has been hosted and organized by the West Virginia Environmental Council since 1990. This year, the event is focused on the current water crisis with the theme “Water is life, keep it clean,” along with promoting Senate Bill 373, which deals with updating water resource protection laws.

“The council had a big legislative agenda for this year, and then on the second day of the session, there was this tragic spill into the Elk River, of a nasty coal washing chemical, and that changed things here at the capitol,” said WVEC Board President Bill Price.

Price was one of many speakers at the event. Others included representatives from environmental organizations as well as Delegates Don Perdue, Mike Manypenny, Nancy Guthrie, Barbara Fleischauer, and Senator John Unger.

“I’ve never seen the legislators get so united in being behind something. I think they really want to fix this,” Vicki Wolfe of WVEC said.

“It’s been good that there’s been consistency here for the past 25 years,” said Denise Poole, director of WVEC. “There’s no lack of issues in the state.”

Jim Kotcon of the Sierra Club WV led a group to deliver a proclamation to Governor Tomblin’s desk.

“Don’t you think it would be a good idea to ask those experts and those advocates who have been promoting clean water, or do you ask the polluter?” Kotcon said to the group. “We’re going to ask Governor Tomblin to reconsider his approach.

The proclamation was intended to make Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin “pledge to include independent representatives from the health and environmental communities” in meetings concerning job creation, because of the high priority Tomblin places on creating jobs throughout the state.

The demonstrators walked down the hallway toward Governor Tomblin’s office shouting “Who’s a stakeholder? I’m a stakeholder.”

Tomblin invited representatives from various industries that are “stakeholders” when it comes to environmental regulation, according to Kotcon.
Kotcon and his group were denied permission to deliver the piece of paper by Tomblin’s press secretary, who said it was against protocol and the best way to deliver the proclamation was through the mail.

One demonstrator dressed as “clean water” was escorted out of the governor’s office because her costume included a mask.

“The governor invited people from the coal industry and the chamber of commerce, but no one from environmental organizations,” Wolfe said.

Poole said it’s important to promote legislation as well as “play defense” to stop bad legislation from going through.

“We encourage everyone to meet with their delegate,” Poole said.

Megan Osborne can be contacted at osborne115@marshall.edu.

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