Saturday, September 29, 2007


Today I received an email message from John Bolton, M.D., a Southwest Virginia expatriate living in California. Much of his family remains in the St. Paul/Castlewood community which straddles the border between Wise and Russell Counties. I have reprinted below what Dr. Bolton has to say about the electric plant which Dominion Power proposes to build in Wise County. I welcome any opinions or insights about this hugely important issue, which will affect the region for generations to come.


The rape of Appalachia began in the late 1800's when wealthy entrepreneurs bought up the area's mineral rights for 25 cents or less per acre. This was possible after they had bribed the state legislatures to authorize the new "broad form" deed which allowed the mineral rights to be sold separately from the surface rights. It was only after this that the railroads were built, and the mining of Appalachian coal began.

The shaft mines employed thousands of miners and brought prosperity to the area, a prosperity which peaked in the 1950's. One after the other, the shaft mines began closing. Today, only a few remain active. Now, strip mining and mountain top removal mining allow wholesale destruction of the environment while employing only a handful of workers to harvest the exposed coal seams.

Unless citizens protest, the rape of the land will continue with unchecked strip mining, little or no restoration of stripped areas, mountain top destruction, holler fills, polluted water, and polluted air. My hometown of St. Paul, VA, could be be choked by rock and coal dust from thousands of trucks carrying waste coal from the old shaft mine gob piles in Russell County through the center of the town to the Virginia City plant two miles away.

If you think that having a coal fired power plant next door to your town will be an asset, drive up to what is left of the community of South Clinchfield,VA, in the shadow of AEP's Clinch River (Carbo) plant. Talk to the residents as I have. Listen to their stories of fumes from the smokestack flooding down to ground level when a cool night brings a temperature inversion. Hear how dust from the trucks coats the skin of their infants and blackens their bath water as if they had been working in the mines. Does it also fill their lungs? Sadly, only time will tell. I do not think that "black lung" benefits will be available to neighborhood children or adults who will be forced breathe rock and coal dust from the waste coal trucks. Add to this the fumes from a coal fired power plant and confine them in the small bowl that contains the town of St Paul. This could be a true witch's brew.

Please sign this petition and pass the link along to family and friends. We need to work together to save the air, water, and land of the Appalachian Mountains.

John Bolton, MD


Anonymous said...

It is a shame, really, that nobody has left a comment. Does that mean that nobody has read your blog post or does that mean that nobody who has read it agrees with the the MD, John Bolton? Interesting thesis. I can say the same thing for timber, fish in the sea, and water.

The only way Washington will get right with Nature is for somebody to cook the books and make all politicians "fair and legal game" for sportsman to hunt instead of wildlife.

Anonymous said...

I have also received this (and many other) email messages from Dr. Bolton. It's interesting that he has an anonymous mailing list where he can send his views out to many people many times, but nobody can present the other side of the issue.

John's note is a perfect example. Words like "rape" and images of "the evil rich" are designed to pull at our heart strings. Who isn't against rape, and who isn't for fairness? He conveniently ignores the fact that everyone recognizes the Carbo plant is a polluter, and the design and purpose of the Virginia City plant is to address this pollution. Even the above comment alludes to shooting politicians. Understand this - for better or worse, they are a reflection of their communities. The issue of the power plant is complex, and deserves better treatment.

John is right - prosperity peaked in the '50's. It's been a downhill slide since then. A power plant - or any ongoing enterprise for that matter - requires compromise. The economic benefit to this area would be huge. The jobs created will include high paying jobs our children could aspire to fill. The benefit to the local school system could stop the St. Paul High School from being consolidated. Do you want to see the area deteriorate? Do you want your children to have to move from the area in order to get a good-paying job?

Lastly, John is long on condemnation of the plant, but short on alternatives. What is the plan? There are only three options: A)Do we not build the plant at all? The world is starved for power. Demand for electricity increases daily. Should we go back to an age where we don't have TVs, computers, air conditioning, and refrigerators? B)Is the answer to build the plant somewhere else? Should we pass on this opportunity and send the jobs somewhere else? Is our position "it's OK, but I don't want it too near me"? The only other alternative is C)some other technology. What would that be? Oil? Expensive. Natural gas? Too difficult to transport. Nuclear? Not in the mountains.

If John is interested in a discussion of the issue, then the issue should be discussed. He certainly has a right to his opinion, but if he wants to provide a monologue on his personal views, then perhaps a blog would be a better choice than the weekly email newsletter he sends out now.

Matthew said...

Enjoyed the blog

Anonymous said...

Anonymous must indeed believe that the St. Paul School system and all the rest of us will be saved by the arrival of the Dominion Power Plant.

Question: Where does anonymous you see the students coming from? Will they flood the town of St. Paul and surrounding communities? Why will they want to come. What will the school now offer that it does not already? I don't believe for one minute that tons of people will be swarming to this area, as many people are already preparing their homes for resale inorder to leave.

Question: Good paying jobs? Those 75 jobs will be running a plant 7 days a week 24 hours a day. That means 24-25 people tops on a shift. Not 200 workers. I can only shake my head in disbelief at the perception.

Not only will this area be faced with more air pollution, it will be faced with ground-water problems also. Do your research. The fly ash is highly toxic, as it contains what is taken out of the air. The valley all the way to Sandy Ridge will be filled with ash, and the liner is only good for 20 years. What then? Even the dirt applied to the top of the ash pile can not EVER have trees planted on it for fear that the roots will pierce the liner and cause toxic runoff (This information was in The Coalfield Progress). Groundwater seeps into cracks and crevices both natural and manmade (Mined land). Finding its way into your water system may be easier than you might think. You as well as your grand-children or great-grandchildren may ultimately be drinking it.

AEP has not, nor will they say that the Carbo plant will be closed now or in the future. You will find yourself living between two power plants. AEP/Carbo has already had several spills into the Clinch River, and the river is dead to a certain extent downstream from the plant. Who is to say that many of our health problems are not related to living within this area. How many people do you know or have known that are, or have been affected by cancer. Isn't this area already known as a high risk health area?

The pictures that Dominion has shown to the community are artist renditions only, and do not depict the true look of a plant that deals with coal. The gleaming structure that you see is only a figment in an artists eye. Coal by nature is dirty. Coal piles, bio-mass piles, limestone piles will make a wonderful welcoming statement to all who pass on Highway 58 making their way into Wise County.

Remember, Dominion Resources and the stockholders are strictly business. They are interested in making and selling a product. They are looking at the bottom line, and that's making money. It's all about the money. They are just like you anonymous, money is the bottom line. Money to save your school, money to save your town. It is not going to solve your problems, you must look for more innovative ways to do that.

We will never agree on this issue. We will only agree to disagree. There are lots more just like me, who believe that the power plant will not be the "Savior" of St. Paul. Wise County may prosper, and there we have the money issue again, but St. Paul is too close to the center. I'm afraid we've both lost.

jboltmd said...

I find it hilarious that Anonymous #1 wants my email mailing list even though he did not post his own name on his blog. I do not know for sure who he is, but perhaps I could trade him my list for a tally of all the power company money he has received over the years plus the details of any current consultant status with Dominion.

Let's quickly (I hope) look at the falacies in his blog, moving top to bottom.

"THE EVIL RICH" Not said by me.

"DESIGN AND PURPOSE OF THE VA CITY PLANT IS TO ADDRESS THIS POLLUTION" Change the word "address" to "add to." Carbo will continue polluting, and VA City will add to that pollution.

"HIGH PAYING JOBS" I have reviewed listings for power plant technical employees. It is unlikely that local people would already have this training or certification. A job as a truck driver, gate guard or custodian can hardly be called "high paying." Will Dominion pay for and/or provide for the technical training of local employees? I certainly hope so.

"MONOLOGUE ON PERSONAL VIEWS" Last year I traveled to St.Paul High School to attend Dominion's open house. The auditorium was barren of chairs except for a few along the walls. Company spokesmen stood by a semicircle of poster exhibits. There was no podium and no public microphone. No shared group dialog or questioning was permitted. Now, there is truly a "MONOLOGUE."

In the end I had to buttonhole a couple of reporters to have them hear something other than the party (company) line. Fortunately I was joined in the interview by an environmental expert on waste coal plants who had come down from Pennsylvania for this meeting.

The same scenario was repeated at Castlewood High School a couple of months ago. I called Dominion to request public seating and access to a microphone for sharing of local citizens' comments. Denied. Monologues and displays again. Look at the pretty charts, people.

"THE ISSUE SHOULD BE DISCUSSED" On this we agree. Where and when? I know of many local folks and members of the environmental community who are eager to talk about this. Will Dominion meet with them.

I have posted my name, address, telephone number and email address in the Clinch Valley Times. Will ANONYMOUS #1 do the same?

CG said...

most telling is that Dr. Bolton chooses not to live here.

Capttrips said...

Last night (Friday, Jan. 12) a special "emergency called meeting" was
held by the Wise county board of supervisors. With less than 6 hours
notice they decided to vote on a resolution supporting the proposed
power plant in St. Paul.
In a court room filled with opposition they turned their back on the
people of wise county and voted in favor of the resolution.
I was there along with many of you. This is not how a democracy is
supposed to work. Here is my statement to the press...

It has become painfully obvious to me that the board of supervisors
for wise county are not acting in the best interest of their
The elected officials who continue to ignore the voice of the people
while supporting an unpopular proposed power plant should be subject
to recall and removed from office as soon as possible.
I would ask everyone in wise county to pay attention. When our leaders
take the hand of a large corporation ask us to follow them on the path
of destruction like lemmings marching over a cliff it is time to
choose different leaders.
Friday night the Board turned it's back on the people of Wise county
and endorsed a resolution supporting Dominion's proposed power plant.
Thursday night 3 people spoke in favor of the power plant, the rest
were apposed. On January 8th I spoke in front of the SCC and voiced my
concerns. Around 300 people filled 2 court rooms, I understand 29
people spoke in favor of the plant.
You have to ask yourself, why does the board continue to not hear the
people? What is motivating them to swim against popular opinion and
gamble with our children's heath?
I can not see any reason why the people of Wise county should bear the
burden of this board of directors bad decision making.
I ask that all the board members step down or be removed in a recall