Another March 2009 bill never made it out of committee - S. 696: Appalachia Restoration Act, "A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to include a definition of fill material." If passed, it would have prohibited dumping mountaintop removal "excess spoil" into streams and headwaters. But it would have allowed other mining and industrial waste dumping into waters, practices once prohibited by the Clean Water Act.
EarthJustice and other committed groups also campaign to stop mountaintop removal mining. Former congressman Ken Hechler is involved. A feisty 96, his image is featured on Washington, DC area billboard ads saying:
"My name is Ken. I'm 96 and a fighter. And I'm fighting to save our mountains." He's part of EarthJustice's Mountain Heroes campaign, organizer Liz Judge saying:
"We also plan to go to other cities. Our purpose is to tell the stories of people who live in the coalfields, people who deal with the impact of mountaintop removal mining on a daily basis."
Representing West Virginia's 4th congressional district from 1959 - 1977, Hechler then served as its Secretary of State from 1985 - 2001, retiring at age 86. A Columbia University Ph D in history and government, he spent decades fighting for miners' health and safety laws.
Judge called his efforts "heroic," even coming out of retirement in 2010 at age 95 to run against then Gov. Joe Manchin in the Democrat special primary, solely on ending mountaintop removal.
Like others, he believes there's "light at the end of the tunnel. But the tougher it gets, the more exciting it gets when you can see victory," or a chance of getting what so far proved elusive. "I'm still hoping," says Hechler, "that before I leave this world I get to see that victory, which I'm sure is going to come."
On June 6, he participated in a five-day march commemorating the 90th anniversary of the historic 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain when 10,000 or more coal miners courageously participated in the largest US rebellion since the Civil War. Struggling to unionize for basic rights, including decent wages and working conditions, they confronted a coal operator-backed army of police, strikebreakers, and US Army troops.