West Virginia Supreme Court Chooses Coal Over Children

07/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

West Virginia loves coal. That became painfully obvious last week when the state's Democratic governor signed a resolution making the dirtiest rock on the planet the official state rock. As David Roberts rightly noted at the time, the coal economy hasn't been so good for West Virginia.

Incredibly, the state supreme court has now upped the ante, handing down a decision that will allow yet another coal silo to be built directly adjacent to Marsh Fork Elementary School. Everyone involved -- from the folks at Massey Energy, to the W.V. Supreme Court justices - should be ashamed. The new coal silo will be less than 300 feet, or the length of one football field, away from the elementary school. The school already has a coal silo 240 feet away and a mountaintop removal site 400 yards away. Directly uphill from the school 2.8 billion gallons of filthy coal sludge are held in place by a 385 foot tall earthen barrier.

An independent study conducted in 2005 found that seven of seven samples taken at the school were contaminated with coal dust. Coal dust is known to cause respiratory problems in children. Exposing the children of Marsh Fork elementary school to additional byproducts of coal is criminal, and should be treated as such.

Here is an aerial shot, showing just how close this elementary school already is to various activities associated with coal:

This photo, taken from directly in front of the school, gives additional perspective:

This is not the first time Marsh Fork's proximity to the coal industry has caused concerns. Check out this clip of Ed Wiley of Pennies of Promise talking about the elementary school:

And here is some footage of protests that took place outside of the school in 2007:

Want additional background information? Ken Ward at Coal Tattoo has it:

For more background, see previous posts here, here and here, or read earlier Gazette stories, here, here, here, and here. The Supreme Court ruling is posted here, and the briefs are available here.