Cyber-Law firm litigating on behalf of anti-MTR activists getting SLAPP sued by Massey and its successor company

Law Firm

Short Bio:

Larry Hildes and Terry Lodge-both civil rights lawyers representing demonstrators generally and in the Coal Fields of WV. Fighting the coal companies.

My/our needs are:

Environ experts, research asistants, law students, lawyers and $$

My/our wishes are:

Rresearch on Fiasr A law, obecure legal theories and effects of MTR

Coal waste focused group in WV looking for researchers, water testing resources

Environmental Group

Short Bio:

The Sludge Safety Project is a collaborative effort of concerned and affected residents of West Virginia, Coal River Mountain Watch, and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Since 2004, the project has worked to improve the health and safety of residents living in the vicinity of coal waste storage sites. Through a combination of data collection, grassroots community organizing, reasearch, media events, and lobby work, we have made signifigant gains in protecting communities and bringing attention to the dangers of toxic coal sludge.

Together we have won a moratorium in the West Virgina State Legislature prohibiting the issuance of new permits for underground injection, gained emergency alert systems in communities near impoundments, and worked with communities to gain access to clean drinking water. We have brought together community members and scientists to test water across the southern coalfields and investigate the connections between coal slurry and contaminated water.

We are committed to continuing to fight for an end to the production of toxic coal sludge in West Virginia!

My/our needs are:

We have a constant need for certified water testing.  The primary parameters of concern are heavy metals, sulfates and sulfides, and organics testing where possible.

We have an urgent need for scientists willing to write formal critiques of science published by regulatory agencies and industry consultants on well water contamination.  In particular, we need a critique of this report by Triad Engineering:…

An area of particular need is research into the toxicology of chronic low-dose exposure to a spectrum of heavy metals.  Traditional dose-exposure relationships are very limited in cases of slurry contamination due to the wide range of exposure at fluctuating levels over long periods of time.  Health impacts in communities with contaminated water need much greater professional documentation.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that health impacts are greater than can easily be explained with our current understanding of dose-exposure.

Another area is in groundwater hydrology, particularly looking into the movement of contaminants from unlined impoundments into downstream alluvial aquifers.

My/our wishes are:

The Sludge Safety Project is always looking for the expertise and assistance of scientists, researchers and students who are willing to engage the issues surrounding coal sludge disposal and its impacts on human health and the environment.  One of the biggest obstacles we face is bad science from regulators or industry or simply no science at all on critical issues.  Work is needed in a wide range of disciplines including geochemistry, geohydrology, GIS analysis, epidemiology, toxicology, public health, and civil and environmental engineering.  Large knowledge  gaps provide a unique opportunity to conduct groundbreaking research that has immediate impacts in Appalachian communities.  The Sludge Safety Project facilitates participatory research by connecting researchers with communities.


Sludge Safety Project

Judge rules corps can ignore mining health studies

by Ken Ward Jr., Staff writer

A federal judge in Charleston ruled this week that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not have to consider scientific studies linking mountaintop removal to public health problems when the agency approves new Clean Water Act permits for mining operations.

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. on Monday turned down an effort by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and other groups to force the corps to consider potential adverse human health effects as part of the review of applications for “dredge-and-fill” permits from strip-mining operators.

The case concerned a permit application from Raven Crest Contracting for its proposed Boone North No. 5 Surface Mine, a 725-acre site in Boone County, near the communities of Peytona and Racine.

Citizen groups had urged the corps to look closely at four specific studies that examined that increased risks of adverse health effects experienced by residents who live near mountaintop removal mining operations.

Those studies were among more than two dozen peer-reviewed reports that found increased risks of cancer, birth defects, and premature death among residents living near large-scale surface coal mining in Central Appalachia. Industry officials have dismissed the findings, and elected officials and regulators have for the most part ignored them.

In a 57-page ruling, Copenhaver concluded that the corps was “not unreasonable” in excluding the studies from its permit review because the articles “do not contemplate that the health effects were caused by the type” of water discharges authorized by the corps’ permit.

Five months ago, the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals issued a similar decision concerning a surface mine permit in Kentucky.

Citizen groups are pushing for federal legislation that would require the health effects of mountaintop removal to be considered before permits can be issued.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

– See more at:…

Grand Opening of our Mountain Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership School!

The public is invited to celebrate the grand opening of the Mountain Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership (SOL) School on Sunday, September 7, 1 – 5pm.  Located on the campus of Morgantown Learning Academy (MLA), the event will feature hands-on activities that will be part of Mountain SOL’s curriculum, guided hikes on the nature trail, kids’ crafts and face-painting, harvest activities in the MLA school garden and a presentation by the Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) Youth Advisory Board about how kids can get involved in mapping their own watershed.

The grand opening is an opportunity for the public to learn about not only Mountain SOL programs, but also the school’s mission, philosophy and vision for the future.  Mountain SOL School is opening as a partnership between Aurora Lights, a state-wide environmental non-profit, and Morgantown Learning Academy (MLA).

The event will also highlight other partnerships, including:

  • The new Wild Yards! area of the MLA campus, a partnership among MLA, FODC and Master Naturalists of Morgantown
  • The MLA School Garden, a collaboration with MLA Friends of the Garden and Aurora Lights
  • The Youth Watershed Connections project, developed by FODC’s Youth Advisory Board

The Mountain SOL School is a brand-new, outdoor education program focused on nature awareness, stewardship and outdoor leadership.  For the 2014 – 2015 academic year, the school is offering in-class environmental education programs to all students at MLA and afterschool, outdoor education classes to all local students ages 2nd grade and up.  Future programs will offer high school students the opportunity to mentor younger students, as well as internships for youth and young adults.  Adults can get involved, too, through Clean up the Creek!, a group of youth and adults working together to clean up the MLA stream.

Mountain SOL is about connection – connection to self, connection to friends, to community and to a greater circle of life.  Classes are hands-on and allow for unstructured time in the woods as well as experiences in stewardship and self-led exploration.  Classes are more than just lesson plans taught outside — they’re fun, fully immersed experiences.  The emphasis on passion, personal responsibility and leadership skills equips Mountain SOL students with the tools to make real changes in their communities and the world at large.

In addition to the values of stewardship and outdoor leadership, Mountain SOL classes and programs also teach the values of environmental and social justice.  In every class, walk and conversation, students learn the importance of equality and rights of all peoples to health and happiness.  Older students have the opportunity to be mentored in community organizing, and provided internships with local non-profits.

Morgantown Learning Academy is a non-profit, non-church affiliated, private school for children from preschool to 8th grade.  Since 1998, Aurora Lights has supported educational opportunities, locally-based projects and collaborations between academia and activism that strengthen the connections between human communities and their natural environment.

Partnerships and projects highlighted at this event were made possible with funding from GreenWorks! and Project Learning Tree, the Whole Kids Foundation, and the WV Geological and Economic Survey.

Come learn more about Mountain SOL School’s innovative programs on Sunday, September 7 from 1 – 5pm!  Morgantown Learning Academy is located off Easton Mill Rd at 123 Discovery Place.

Contact Info:

Elizabeth Wiles, PR & Operations Manager

Mountain SOL School


2007 Project: Morgantown Music


By: Sam McCreery

In the Fall of 2006, I moved to Morgantown, West Virginia to attend West Virginia University. Having grown up in a small town in Ohio, Morgantown was a big place and I was excited to meet many new people. At the time I was an English major and had signed up to take a class entitled American Culture and Folklore. I was looking forward to taking this class because I had always enjoyed ‘old time’ things and I thought that this class would be a great way to learn more about the things I was interested in.

After reading the syllabus on the first day, I saw that a rather large project was going to be worth 40% of our grade. We didn’t discuss the project in detail until a few weeks later. The assignment was to collect the folklore of a specific group of people, preferably your family. Music being one of my passions, I asked the professor if I could collect the folklore surrounding the great music scene in Morgantown. She agreed and after much discussion, I embarked on a very enlightening journey. I interviewed people, attended shows, listened to countless hours of folk music, took hundreds of pictures, and searched through old books to find old lyrics. The result of this work is a binder about 70 pages thick, filled with lyrics, information about the process of collecting folklore, pages of interviews, pictures, and the love and dedication of countless people who live and breath music.

Related articles:

2007 Morgantown Music: Interviews

By: Sam McCreery

These are excerpts from a few of the interviews I did. Most of the musicians are speaking about from whom or what they learned the music that they play, the reason they play folk music, and their favorite part of playing music.

When/why did you start listening to folk music?

Well, at some point, you get tired of the radio and you get tired of your moms Michael Jackson records and Led Zeppelin and you get tired of the rock and roll trend and you discover something a little bit cooler. There is just something about it…its just captivating, its real music. It’s not bought and sold on a large scale, industrial basis.

-Ross Bishop

What is your favorite part of playing – performing, jamming, etc?

My favorite part is the rush of good feelings it can give you. Sort of indescribable. How good music can make you feel. The biggest thing I get out of it is feeling good, making other people feel good, telling a good story, turning other people onto music that they might not of heard. But I guess the biggest thing is just making people feel good.

-Ross Bishop

Why do you like to play this specific type of music?

It depends on how you like to listen to music. I like to listen to words and folk music has a lot of good lyrics and meaning to the people at certain times. There are a lot of songs about unions where people are getting treated badly and they want unions. These songs are about people getting treated bad and wanting better lives for themselves. To me folk music is more real than most music, at least lyrically.

-Ben Harki

Why did you start listening to folk music and playing it?

Kate: When I listened to it, the words were amazing, the melodies were really beautiful compared to other stuff on the radio. It was so much more deep and thoughtful.

Corey: It was like going somewhere. It takes you places, telling stories, just different. Real music.

Kate: Like poetry, a lot of it’s poetry.

Corey: You know, it wasn’t out for glam.

Kate: Not commercial.

-Kate Jaworski and Corey Bonasso

What is your favorite part of playing? Do you like performing or jamming, hanging out playing music?

Corey: I like jamming, working up songs. Performing is fun. Kate’s a performer.

Kate: I like both, very, very much. I like performing because there’s like definitely two sides to it. You can feel your friends all around you, but then there’s the audience that’s all around you, just jetting out all of this energy to you. I love jamming because there’s so much more sharing and communicating.

Corey: Yeah, it’s like having a conversation and you know, talking through a different language. And it’s fun, there’s no pressure of an audience.

Kate: And you can experiment a lot more.

Corey: And playing with different people, you know, hearing different takes on things. A new approach. We like new things, all the time. Constant refreshing.

-Kate Jaworski and Corey Bonasso

Related articles:

2006 Ecuador Trip


Second Annual trip to Ecuador Rainforest which included one week in Quito and one week with the Huarani tribe.

Students from SIU, Shepherd, Marshall and West Virginia University met at the West Virginia Energy Gathering Feb 11-12, concentrating on WV days of action.

Related articles:

2005 Ecuador Trip: Personal Narrative

Dear Jen,

So, the time has come to deliberate on the outcome of our infamous trip – Ecuador. I suppose I will take this letter by point, nice and organized!

First, the preparations for this trip were intense. The meetings twice a week were great for organizing and planning.

Second, our time with cemproc was probably the most “scholastically” educational part of the trip. The lectures were informative. Learning the local culture and customs from Jack and Diana was genuine and all the more special because of the special people we were blessed with. From salsa to problem-solving and negotiations, what I took from them was useful and applicable to life, which, in my opinion, is the best type of learning. Cumanda had the best view of the mountains, cascades, and the river and I felt at home, even with the bats and bugs. Our problem solving within the group during our first week really impressed me, too! There were times when I saw a problem and assumed certain people would either hold a grudge or they would give up on the situation. To my pleasant surprise, people did step up when necessary, and that was great.

Thirdly, the jungle. Probably everyone’s favorite part. Who knew you could absorb so much culture in so short a time. Seeing the toxic tour after spending such a refreshing time in the jungle – wow, is all I can say. It made me even more angry to think about how poorly people get treated day in and day out, all over the world. “Why?” sprang to mind so many times, walking around Coca, and the only answer I could come up with was $ $ $. But big corporate companies are part of what makes the world go round. There has to be a solution somewhere, but when or who will find it, I’m not so sure we will ever know; before it’s too late. But I expected to see devastation when I got there, just like I expected to see poverty and rebellion. Some of these things we did see, but I had trouble feeling sorry for them. Many of these indigenous groups have been abandoning their culture one generation at a time – choosing an easier life over a hard one, or over no life at all. It’s tragic, but a true depiction of how cultures change, willingly or not. It was almost easier to see because of the small scale of these societies the number of Ketchwa people over the number of say Swedish people throughout history is different, therefore the changes were different to see.

I loved being medic for our group. Pretty ironic that the people I thought would get hurt the worst didn’t, and those I did assume would get bumps and scrapes get very few or none and I got to provide some follow-up care for some pretty cool patients. I wish I could have had more supplies and better skill so that I could have treated that sick Hrouani boy, but I guess that is a lesson, too.

I can’t be everything to everybody, but I can be something to someone. It made me feel useful to be able to help out in that way on this trip.

So, anyway – some great memories, some great friendships. Lots of love,


Related articles:

2005 Ecuador Trip: Full Article

By: Shannon Reaves

Special thanks to Mylan Pharmaceuticals for their 2005 sponsorship.

On May 15, 2005, eight students and one professor from a Salem University class, International Perspectives on Environmental Issues, boarded an airplane bound for Ecuador . The trip was to be the culmination of months of study in the areas of environmental impact, environmental activism, and group conflict resolution.

Professor Jennifer Osha, Director and Founder of Aurora Lights, Inc., summed up the group’s two-week mission to Ecuador : “I wanted the students to gain an international perspective on issues of both environmental and social concern. I also wanted to get my students out of the country.” Aurora Lights is an environmental/social action group that promotes a healthy relationship between human communities and the natural world they occupy.

In preparation for the trip to South America, the group of soon-to-be travelers worked very hard to ensure their goals would be met. Two camping trips and a hiking trip were arranged where they practiced group work and survival skills. For some members of the group these were first experiences with camping. Osha and another member of the team received Wilderness First Responder training in order that they might be better prepared for medical emergencies in the isolation of the deep jungle. And to help raise funds, the creative bunch organized stromboli sales on and around the university campus.

During the trip each of the students was to conduct a project related to his or her major. For example, Danielle Henry, a junior majoring in biology, concentrated her studies on alternative clean-up methods for oil spills caused by Texaco in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Helen James, also a junior in biology, chose five medicinal plants and researched their use by both the local Huarani people and modern doctors.

The first phase of the trip took place in the Sierra, the mountainous Andean region where the capital, Quito , lies. The team traveled to Baeza, a small town about two hours to the east of Quito . There they met with the group CEMPROC, an organization whose purpose is “to promote peaceful conflict resolution and train local leaders in Latin America and the USA with the skills to become peacebuilders within their communities.” The class spent a week learning about the flora and fauna of the cloud forest. They also visited the site of a major oil spill and interviewed the local people about the consequences of the spill on their land and livestock.

Salem University student Amanda Nichols said, ” I can apply the conflict resolution skills we learned from CEMPROC to the similar environmental circumstances in West Virginia . The time spent with CEMPROC in the mountains was beneficial…because I was able to learn facts, statistics, and problem solving methods directly related to the decaying environmental well-being of the Ecuadorian rain forest.”

The educational aspects of this first half of the trip were not without their moments of beauty. The group took field trips to take in mountain vistas and the surrounding cloud forests. As Danielle Henry put it:

“We hiked through rivers and streams, sought rare birds in their habitats, observed lush greenery that hardly fit my imagination of what the rainforests surrounding the mountains should be.”

During the second phase of the trip, the Aurora Lights “ambassadors” took a journey into the low Amazon Basin jungles where they were to meet up with the native Huarani indians. The Huarani had invited the Aurora Lights members to come to their home because of the similarities that exist between the indians’ long-standing struggle against the oil industry in the Amazon and Aurora Lights’ continued efforts against mountaintop removal in the U.S.

A small propeller plane needed two trips to carry the group and their guides. The flight itself was a breathtaking event. Flying over the unbroken blanket of lush green trees, it took a moment for the passengers to see the small field that was cut into the greenery. The pilots prepared the aircraft for landing and plunged down into the forest, where water and grass splashed up, momentarily hiding the plane from the world. When the airplane came to a stop and the team had disembarked, the Huarani men, who had been waiting, pressed out from the shadows of the trees. They stood only as tall as the shoulders of most of the group, and were tightly muscled, quiet men wearing old t-shirts and bermuda shorts. Their feet were bare.

In the Huarani camp, the men and women live separately. The men were the hunters and fighters of the camp while the women looked after the children. It became obvious on the team’s treks through the woods and paddling in dugout canoes on the Shiripuno river how much of a man’s stature in the Huarani community was based on his strength and ability to provide.

The team visited two different Huarani communities, and in each community the travelers and their hosts shared stories. The Huarani told the team about their community’s growing anger over oil spills and the lack of proper clean-up procedures. Many of the Huarani elders were absent, having already left to put themselves physically in the path of the growing Texaco-Shell road, to prevent it from pushing further into their territories. In return, students described mountaintop removal in West Virginia , making models in the mud to illustrate the tragedy that claims entire mountains and valleys.

Throughout the trip the students were learning valuable individual lessons they could carry home with them. The team slept in tents during their week in the hot, humid jungle. They were outside their normal realm of operation and witnessing how other lives impact the world and are impacted by it.

In the second village, before parting with their new friends, each member of the group was gifted with a Huarani name. The perceptive names the travelers were given made it very clear that their hosts had paid close attention to the character of each team member. One student, Zach Welch, was dubbed Iteka, which means “tree” in the Quechua language. Jennifer Osha was called Yero or “mother of jaguars.” Amanda Nichols was named after bamboo.

After spending seven days in the Amazon, the group finished their journey with what they called a Toxic Tour: They saw oil pits that were considered relatively “clean” but continued to dangerously pollute the surrounding land and water. They saw farmers unable to grow their crops, fish floating dead in their rivers, and children whose growth had been stunted by living in such close proximity to hazardous materials.

This last aspect of the adventure put everything into perspective, ensuring that, long after they boarded the plane bound for the U.S., the ambassadors would not lose sight of the very real effects of industry gone unchecked in the world abroad and potentially so at home. Since their return, the Aurora Lights team members have made presentations showing what they witnessed and learned from their excursion. Even now they are still in contact with the Huarani.

” The time I spent in the jungle was a firsthand look into the lives of the people who are being affected most by the oil company’s rampage,” said Nichols. “The time spent with the Huarani meant much more to me than facts and statistics, however, and the lessons I learned from them can be applied to fighting big business as well as living life. “

Salem student Helen James summed up the adventure best, saying, “The overall value was the cultural aspect. Being able to connect and interact with people whose lives and dreams are so much different than yours is a unique experience.”

In the end, the Ecuador trip proved to be an immense success. Our nine travelers ventured outside themselves and their own priorities to achieve an understanding of environmental issues at work on a global scale. The saw how even the legendary green strength of the Amazon has great need of its human protectors and they recognized new value in the roles they can play, even working to protect small towns in rural West Virginia. Best of all, the lessons they learned during the trip are already beginning to reach far beyond themselves as they begin to share what they learned with others.

Related articles:

2005 Ecuador Excursion


The summer of 2005, Aurora Lights sponsored an environmental education trip abroad, taking college students in a 450 Environmental Law Perspectives class to various parts of Ecuador. While there, students had first hand conversations with activists, environmentalists, and educators that live and experience the effects of environmental abusers. Students researched and produced an array of projects involving everything from the Texaco Valdeze Oil companies and their affect on the locals, to indigenous peoples and their use of endangered environmental items. Students were also given the opportunity to teach and experience with other student peers, the relationship between the MTR issues in southern WV, and the oil destruction in Ecuador.

Related articles: