no clean coal, and no clean coal executives either

I sometimes wonder if anyone associated in a management capacity with a coal company is anything other than a venal, corrupt, and evil presence seeking to pollute, cheat, rape, and otherwise destroy the environment and the health and safety of local communities. I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary. But there is a whole lot of evidence that they will lie and cheat even in the face of known dangers to health, all to make a buck.

Here is a recent example--the just-released evidence to show that Dominion Virginia Power executives knew that fly ash was not "as safe as dirt" as they claimed when they used it to build a community in Chesapeake. Quite the opposite:

"The executives anticipated public questions, and rehearsed and parsed their answers. They drew lines on what to share with regulators and what to hide.

In one memo about preparing for a public hearing, a participant wrote, “Do not mention hazardous vs. drinking water. Just say 'completely non-hazardous.’”

It worked. State regulators raised little resistance. Local officials trusted the energy company’s judgment and granted approval.

But court records show the trust eroding as the 1.5 million tons of coal ash, containing hazardous materials, flowed into the rural community by the truckload.

More than 400 people have sued Dominion, the golf course developer and owners in Chesapeake Circuit Court this year for more than $1 billion in damages. Residents contend that the energy company ignored consultants who told them hazardous materials would leach into drinking water wells. They called the development a “toxic waste site masquerading as a 'golf course.’”

In handwritten notes of a March 2001 meeting among golf course developers and Dominion officials, the team frankly discussed an arsenic problem in the groundwater under the Chesapeake plant. Officials needed to practice answers for residents’ queries.

The author of the handwritten notes is not identified in the lawsuit. The person attended several high-level meetings involving company officials from public relations, legal and environmental engineering departments. The notes were filed with the court by attorneys for the residents. They were found among more than 1,300 pages of documents filed in two suits since March.

Lawyers who brought the lawsuit on behalf of the residents declined to comment for this story.

Before an early 2001 public hearing, officials prepared a list of sample questions.

For example, to answer whether the ash was a danger to the wells that supplied water to all the residents, the memo suggested that in a probable worst-case scenario, the groundwater leached from the coal ash would meet six of eight federal standards for drinking water. In a handwritten aside, the author warned not to mention the material was “hazardous vs. groundwater.”

In a final note preparing for the hearing, a practice question asked, “How will the golf course help this community?”

The answer included another question: “A golf course also increases the property values in the area.” It was punctuated, in parentheses, with a question mark.

In another meeting about environmental issues, Dominion and CPM officials discussed deeper problems.

“If public thinks ash is benign, what happens if/when citizens find out what may be different?” an April 2001 memo noted. The author noted that Dominion has given DEQ some information, “but they don’t have all info (have some worse).”

Max Bartholomew, a spokesman for Dominion, attended many of the planning meetings, along with officials from CPM, according to the notes.

In June, Bartholomew assured then-Mayor William E. Ward that the company monitored the fly ash and there were no environmental concerns that the city should be aware of. The City Council approved the project."


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