Ward is an outstanding journalist and tell things like they are, not like you may want to hear them.
Dianne Bady with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition was asking O’Brien about whether the pillars holding up the roof in underground mines beneath the impoundment basin were strong enough — or whether they might crumble and damage the basin.This is just one more example of how the agencies that are supposed to regulate industry end up regulating the public perception of the industry instead. It is not always easy because everyone want to make sure that they get heard and so tend to speak louder. Ward notes:
“You need to get your facts right,” O’Brien told Bady, shaking his head at her.
I was kind of surprised by O’Brien’s response, so I asked him: Are the pillars strong enough? What’s been done to test them? How are they being monitored?
Turns out that O’Brien, who works in WVDEP’s Office of Explosives and Blasting, was the one who didn’t have his facts right. He didn’t know the answers to my questions, even though he’d just chastised a citizen and environmental activist for asking those same questions.
Public hearings are a challenge, especially on issues that appear as divisive as mountaintop removal and when both sides are often gearing up to use the hearing more to get their message out to a larger media audience and less to actually provide meaningful input on the permit decision at hand.You might ask what this has to do with California? Just follow any of the meetings, hearing on CA Water and you get the same effects. In both cases, we need more citizen involvement, let's call it grassroots democracy, not less.