Deep in the heart of the southern West Virginia coalfields, one of the most important environmental and social empowerment battles in the nation has been waged for the past decade. Fought by a heroic woman struggling to save her tiny community through a landmark lawsuit, this battle, which led all the way to the halls of Congress, has implications for environmentally conscious people across the world.Read more...
Deep in the heart of the southern West Virginia coalfields, one of the most important environmental and social empowerment battles in the nation has been waged for the past decade. Fought by a heroic woman struggling to save her tiny community through a landmark lawsuit, this battle, which led all the way to the halls of Congress, has implications for environmentally conscious people across the world.
The story begins with Patricia Bragg in the tiny community of Pie. When a deep mine drained her neighbors' wells, Bragg heeded her grandmother's admonition to "fight for what you believe in" and led the battle to save their drinking water. Though she and her friends quickly convinced state mining officials to force the coal company to provide new wells, Bragg's fight had only just begun. Soon large-scale mining began on the mountains behind her beloved hollow. Fearing what the blasting off of mountaintops would do to the humble homes below, she joined a lawsuit being pursued by attorney Joe Lovett, the first case he had ever handled.
In the case against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Bragg v. Robertson), federal judge Charles Haden II shocked the coal industry by granting victory to Joe Lovett and Patricia Bragg and temporarily halting the practice of mountaintop removal. While Lovett battled in court, Bragg sought other ways to protect the resources and safety of coalfield communities, all the while recognizing that coal mining was the lifeblood of her community, even of her own family (her husband is a disabled miner).
The years of Bragg v. Robertson bitterly divided the coalfields and left many bewildered by the legal wrangling. One of the state's largest mines shut down because of the case, leaving hardworking miners out of work, at least temporarily. Despite hurtful words from members of her church, Patricia Bragg battled on, making the two-hour trek to the legislature in Charleston, over and over, to ask for better controls on mine blasting. There Bragg and her friends won support from delegate Arley Johnson, himself a survivor of one of the coalfield's greatest disasters.
Award-winning investigative journalist Penny Loeb spent nine years following the twists and turns of this remarkable story, giving voice both to citizens, like Patricia Bragg, and to those in the coal industry. Intertwined with court and statehouse battles is Patricia Bragg's own quiet triumph of graduating from college summa cum laude in her late thirtie and moving her family out of welfare and into prosperity and freedom from mining interests. Bragg's remarkable personal triumph and the victories won in Pie and other coalfield communities will surprise and inspire readers.
- ISBN-13: 9780813124414
- ISBN-10: 0813124417
- Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
- Publish Date: September 2007
- Page Count: 328
- Dimensions: 9.16 x 6.42 x 1.05 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.27 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 47.
- Review Date: 2007-06-18
- Reviewer: Staff
Investigative reporter Loeb compassionately chronicles 10 years of grassroots efforts by citizens of southern West Virginia to protect their homes from coal-mining damage. The story centers on the efforts of Patricia Bragg, who in 1998, together with attorney Joe Lovett, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection for their failure to regulate the waste from mountaintop mining, a practice in which hundreds of feet are sliced off mountaintops and the leftover rubble is dumped into streams and narrow valleys. This case, which resulted in a ruling for a two-year moratorium on mountaintop removal by a judge who had not previously favored environmental causes, is the high point of the book. Though the judge’s ruling was later overturned on appeal, the Bragg case led to some improvements in coal-mining procedures. Unfortunately, Loeb overloads her account with too many stories of other people struggling for fair treatment by the coal company. She’s very effective, however, in pointing out the heartbreaking dilemma of these West Virginians: the industry that threatens their quality of life is also the lifeblood of their economy. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)