America's best newspaper writing on energy and the environment in 1998 was The Charleston Gazette's disclosures about mountaintop removal mines and their huge valley fills, the National Press Foundation in Washington announced Saturday.
Reporter Ken Ward Jr. will receive the foundation's annual Thomas L. Stokes Award, which carries a $1,000 cash prize.
Judges commended his "hard-hitting series of articles on the controversial practice of mountaintop removal."
The foundation's announcement said:
"Ward's reporting, titled ëMining the Mountains,' led to concessions by five agencies, four federal and one state, that mining laws were not being properly enforced, and their promise to give courts a plan to remedy the situation.
"West Virginia officials had even argued they did not know how many mountaintop mines existed.
"The Army Engineers have now reversed a policy of granting permits to cover streams without first studying potential impact on the environment."
Ward, 31, is a native of Mineral County and a graduate of West Virginia University. He is a two-time winner of the Scripps Howard Foundation's Edward J. Meeman Award for Environmental Reporting, and a winner of the Scripps Howard Roy W. Howard Award for Public Service Journalism.
Runners-up in the Stokes competition were Peter Eisler of USA Today for articles about unsafe drinking water, Solveig Torvik of the Seattle Post Intelligencer for reports about nuclear waste, and Wesley Loy of the Knoxville News-Sentinel for an article about an idle nuclear plant.
The foundation said the Stokes entries "demonstrated the ability of the daily press to focus responsibly on major environmental issues and highlight them for a public that may otherwise have its attention diverted to private scandal."
The award was founded in 1958 to honor the memory of Thomas L. Stokes, a longtime nationally syndicated columnist who covered energy issues.
Gazette investigative reporter Paul J. Nyden is the only two-time winner of the Stokes prize.
Nyden received the award in 1989 for articles about pollution and safety violations by mining companies, and in 1993 for a series about abuses by coal contractors. Nyden received honorable mention for the Stokes award in 1987 and 1988.
The Gazette's "Mining the Mountains" series on mountaintop removal mining is available on the Internet at http://wvgazette.com/mining.
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