Governor Joe Manchin of West Virginia has taken a lot of heat these days, all for the love of coal. Protesters in the State’s Capitol insisted that the two-time Governor could arrest the violent surface mining of Coal River Mountain, situated in the South-West of the state, if he wanted to. However, the only thing arrested were the protesters.
Our friend and fellow videographer, “FluxRostrum” posted this video today showing local and student activists with a burning desire to speak truth to power squatting in the Governor’s way.
Manchin has said that he does not have the authority to overstep the federally granted rights of the out-of-state corporations who conduct surface mining in his state. A legal opinion called Dillon’s Law which instituted, the rights of property owners ( read “corporations”) over the right of individuals (read “communities”), provides the necessary veil behind which the Governor can defend his inability to protect his citizens. However, the opinion can be challenged and that would be a strong statement from the pro-death penalty, anti-choice Democratic Governor of West Virginia for his constituents. Where the Governor’s pro-corporate cards may be more apparent is in the lack of prosecution of errant coal and drug companies whose accidents have often cost local communities their survivability and have compromised the health of its residents.
West Virginia residents concerned with demanding local rights within their state may have to model themselves after other communities seeking to dominate local control. In Spokane, WA, a town under the oligarchical control of a few families, a nexus of organization have created Envision Spokane. Guided by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), Envision Spokane has placed an initiative on their November ballot calling for a community bill of rights that could challenge Dillon’s Law.
Lawyers are the new soldiers in the war against environmental degradation, according to Breean Beggs, Chief Catalyst and Counselor for the Center for Justice who spoke at the 2009 Bioneers.
“We have a democracy deficiency in this country.” Beggs said as he addressed an eager crowd that had gathered describing that the lack of democracy is apparent “When the whole status quo system comes after you for putting up your hand and saying, boy, this just doesn’t seem right.”
CELDF Executive director Thomas Linzey said, “The game is up all over the country…A crisis of jurisdiction has to happen.” It is perhaps time for West Virginia communities to consider building its own coalition throughout the hallows.