Upon beginning a New Year, people often make lists. I have made one myself. It is a list that would be too long if it contained only one name.
The number of West Virginia's leading politicians who remain silent on the health crisis exploding along with the 5.5 million pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil explosives going off every business day in Southern West Virginia's Mountaintop Removal zone is a shameful reality: Shelley Moore Capito, Joe Manchin, Jay Rockefeller, Nick Joe Rahall, David McKinley, Earl Ray Tomblin.
None of these politicians have ever dared publicly ask why people living in Southern West Virginia suffer disproportionate levels of heart disease; why they die from shocking levels of cancer in their Mountaintop Removal communities; why unconscionable numbers of birth defects afflict them; why excess deaths stalk our towns and "keep the lights on" in our funeral homes.
We know by her own silence regarding the scientific reports showing all the toxic horrors inflicted upon Mountaintop Removal communities that Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the presumptive Republican nominee for the seat being vacated at the end of the year by Sen. Rockefeller, cares not the least about disease, suffering and death in the southern West Virginia Mountaintop Removal zone. Her silence is ample evidence of her disdain.
Will her likely Democratic opponent, Natalie Tennant, join in Ms. Moore Capito's silence? More hopefully, does Ms. Tennant have the strength and courage to lend her voice to those who have none?
If elected, will Ms. Tennant commit to introducing a Senate version of HR 526, the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency (ACHE) Act? This critically important bill provides a way for people to find out why and, more importantly, how they are being poisoned in communities near Mountaintop Removal sites. It would also have no impact on anyone currently working on MTR sites already permitted to operate. How could a person of conscience NOT support such a bill?
In the Senate, Joe Manchin has run from the ACHE Act as fast as his coal-beholden legs will carry him. We are still waiting for him to publicly acknowledge that the host of scientific studies regarding disease in the MTR zone even exists.
Jay Rockefeller, to his credit, talks a lot about miners' health and safety. Still, he has also thus far refused to speak for people who are daily poisoned merely because the coal industry's profit centers moved in where they already live. As he nears the culmination of a long and storied political career, why Senator Rockefeller, with nothing left to fear from Big Coal, remains silent on an issue of such obvious urgency is baffling. It's also just plain sad.
Ms. Moore Capito, along with Mssrs. Rahall and McKinley have steadfastly remained as silent as the tombs to which MTR area victims too often proceed.
History is written about the past, but in the present. In their deafening silences, West Virginia's current crop of A-list politicians have written histories for themselves that will not be kind to their memories. Here, then, is the question for Ms. Tennant: Will she join Capito, Manchin and the other members of the Coven of the Craven, or will she speak out for human rights, human health and human dignity by endorsing and vowing to introduce the ACHE Act?
I am certain I am not the only voter who anxiously awaits Ms. Tennant's answer.Kincaid is a nationally known broadcaster, co-founder of the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Campaign, president of Coal River Mountain Watch, a father, grandfather and resident of Fayette County, where his ancestors settled in the mid-18th century.