Written by: Dan Radmacher
April 17, 2012
Over the years, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition has been one of our most consistent clients in the cases we have brought against mountaintop removal mines. With members across Central Appalachia, OVEC knows many people who have been directly hurt by mountaintop removal mining.
“OVEC organizes communities, which helps us understand the problems of those communities,” said Appalmad Executive Director Joe Lovett. “They live in the coalfields. They’re from there.”
While Appalmad values the organizing work that OVEC does, OVEC founder and co-director Dianne Bady appreciate the value of the legal work Appalmad has done.
“I can’t imagine how, collectively, the stop-mountaintop removal movement could have achieved what we have without the litigation Joe has led,” Bady said.
OVEC project coordinator Vivian Stockman agreed. “If it weren’t for the lawsuits, DEP and Army Corps of Engineers would have nothing holding them up from rubberstamping these permits and pretty much ignoring what the citizens are saying,” she said.
OVEC organizer Maria Gunnoe credits Appalmad with saving her home not once but twice. First in a 2007 lawsuit and then in a recent selenium settlement with Patriot Coal.
“You can’t put words to what that means to our family,” Gunnoe said. “We can stay on our native homeland. It’s where we belong. That means a tremendous amount.”
OVEC taught Gunnoe that she had an important role to play in the battle against mountaintop removal mining.
“As an impacted community member, OVEC made me realize I could bring strong [legal] standing to these lawsuits,” she said.
The lawsuits, Gunnoe said, have had lasting results. “I think about areas that are still there that otherwise wouldn’t be: Dry Branch – if it wasn’t for the lawsuit in 2007, that little hollow would be a valley fill. It’s just so powerful to go back to these areas and know that the only reason they’re still there is because of the lawsuits. I can’t think of anyway we could have saved some of these valleys and peaks if not for this litigation.”
Lovett also credits Stockman for her major role in calling attention to mountaintop removal mining. Her communications work, especially, he said, “has been essential to getting this issue out statewide.”