I’m hiking with my dog, on our 45 acres in Ritchie County, WV. The beautiful acreage is why we moved here: for the acreage, certainly not for the tumbledown house.
The wild asters are blooming. Are they wild asters? I think so. Whatever they’re called, they attract honey bees, so I have to be careful.
I have to be careful because I’m allergic, and I can’t afford an epipen. I’m a regular person, so I have to live with the risk, like most people. While my reaction is severe, luckily it’s localized rather than systemic. I’d probably be okay unless I got stung on the face or throat.
I consider myself lucky that I don’t have to weigh the safety of an allergic child, like many parents do. I can’t imagine their fear and frustration.
Interstingly, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch says she’s more frustrated than anyone, right? So perhaps we should all feel for the challenges facing poor/rich Heather Bresch—she’s so frustrated. No one could be more frustrated than she, she protests.
While I hike among the bees and flowers, I think.
Of course she’s mistaken. What a bizarre thing for her to say. Did her PR people think that was a great answer, I wonder? Did they think that would soothe parents worried about their children? Because it comes across sounding like this: “I’m frustrated that this step was necessary in order to raise my salary to $19 million. I’m frustrated that you think I’m wrong for placing more importance on my own obscene profits than on the lives of people. I’m frustrated that the MBA thing is coming up again, frustrated you’ve made the connection about how much we pay my dad, Senator Manchin, for his lobbying efforts on our behalf. I’m frustrated that people are noticing again that we found a way to dodge taxes in the US. I’m frustrated that I’m being asked questions about my reasoning, rather than being shown the deference my affluenza demands. No one is more frustrated than I am!”
But she’s using the wrong word. “Frustrated.” That’s wrong.
That feeling she’s having is called “shame.” It’s SHAME, not frustration. She’s ashamed, embarrassed, mortified. Substitute one of those words for “frustrated” above, and she starts sounding as if she recognizes that people who need medicine are more than profit centers: they’re also human beings. And her profit-seeking can literally kill people.
But perhaps she’s not there, yet. Perhaps she’d rather judge her actions by their effects upon herself, rather than on the way they may affect others. It’s a convenient way to think. Comfortable. Because wondering if anyone died to get her the $19 million a year rather than only $9 million can’t be an easy thing. I can’t help but wonder if some self-evaluation on a solitary hike would help her. Or her PR people.
Claiming she’s frustrated is a little like sipping a bottle of water and complaining about your long, hard day to the people you’ve just poisoned. In fact, there are about 168,000 children in this state who struggle to get enough to eat, much less to afford medicine. What world does she live in if she believes claiming frustration is a sensible rationalization for taking financial advantage of people who are facing potentially life-or-death situations?
Whatever world she in, I’m not in that world. I’m in this one.
I’m on out on the mountain with my dog Reggie. It’s hot, and the spots of afternoon shade feel sweet. The sunny flowers grow tall, taller than I am, and at this time of the year, they’re long enough that they nod into the path, partitioning it into many chambers, as if they’re separated with curtains of gold-and-green. The bees serve as buzzing sentries, blissfully indifferent to the passage of giants. Indifferent, unless I lose concentration and accidentally crush one against my skin.
So, I’m careful. And I think.
As I walk, I raise the stiff stems out of the way and duck beneath, then let the “curtains” fall behind me again in a pleasing puff of petals and buzzing bees. My dog is happy, gazing up at me with soft eyes and a lolling tongue, waiting for the way to be opened. Every so often, when the breeze blows a certain way, it’s carrying a subtle hint of honeysuckle, and he lifts his nose to the air and walks in circles trying to locate the source.
Off we go into the next chamber. Being out here is an opportunity to think, to regroup. It’s quiet enough that I can hear the changes in my dog’s panting behind me as he pounces at a some insect he’s flushed from the grasses. I am surrounded by green, and a cardinal calls up ahead..
Green Mansions, I think to myself.
It’s been a while since I read that book: Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson. Years. It suddenly strikes me that I have Green Mansions in this forest, too. The trees are my walls, the nodding asters are the arching doorways, and the leaves are a canopy. With twists and turns in the path and the shape of the land, I have rooms upon endless rooms, some closed off and private, and others with a sunny view.
Eventually I come upon a resting spot I set up on a shady overlook, with a little table and a chair. I carried them down for when I climb the mountain; it’s a spot to catch my breath before ascending the last leg, to the top of the ridge where our house is. Sometimes I come here with coffee, too. I sip and enjoy the morning birdsong and watch the light shift over the ridges for the duration of my cuppa.
Below the table, down and to the east, is a little clearing where I dream of parking a little camper one day. There’s an even better view there, but at that distance, my coffee gets cold before I reach it. From the lower clearing, the path goes down, down, down again to yet another little clearing in the trees.
I don’t have seats down that far. Maybe in the future. For now, there’s a low, flat rock, like a foundation stone, and I sometimes sit there for a while, usually in spring or fall, when the stone is warm and the air is cool. Today, it would be too hot to enjoy.
Were you to continue on from the rock-seat, you have to beat through the brush for 30 feet or so, but there’s a path down to the creek that follows alongside the flow of some springs further up.
But I’m not going that way, today.
No, today I linger at the table watching some butterflies, while my dog sniffs what appears to be a path through the long grass–more like a tunnel–frequented by rabbits, I’d guess. He pees on some choice grasses, then sits nearby and grins up at me, pleased with himself. I scratch his ears, and his whole body inclines to me in contentment.
And as I sit, I dream about improvements… progress.
For me, that’s adding my little camper, or maybe a “she shed.” It’s also working on drainage along the path so I don’t struggle with the mower in wet spots. It’s building a little gazebo and picnic table, with one of those in-ground grills, like you might have in a state park. I dream about putting a little foot bridge across the creek somehow, so it will be easier to camp on the other side. I dream of being able to reduce the multiflora, and deepen or enlarge a little pond we have–and stock it! I’d love to be able to catch some sunfish. A deer stand would be nice–I know just the place. And I’d like to clear more hiking paths. My eyes are full of “some day” improvements, and I briefly wish I was a forester, or a carpenter–or both.
Some envision something different for places like this. The CEO of Antero Resources–just 9 mil per year–is not walking along the hiking trails enjoying the spots of shade, or the wildflowers, and butterflies, and tail wags. That’s not their West Virginia.
Antero executives are not watching the fireflies blink or listening to katydids. They’re not thinking about good hunting prospects in the fall, or places to gather morels or ramps in the spring. They’re not thinking of persimmon jam.
Sadly, they’re also not thinking too much about containing the multiple spills a few hollers over. Ken Ward reported:
“Antero provided preliminary reports [on four spills] in January 2015, and then told WVDEP that final plans [outlining impacts and cleanups for each of the spill sites] would be submitted by April 1. On April 7, Antero asked WVDEP for an extension of the deadline — which it had already missed — until May 15.
“In the meantime, though, Antero had reported at least four other spills at the site.
“‘It had gotten away from them,’ said Jeremy Bandy, chief inspector for the environmental enforcement section at WVDEP’s Division of Water and Waste Management. ‘It was just continual. They had some problems out there.'”
That’s just a few miles from here, washing into someone’s creek. Mr. Ward explained:
“The company had reported that the spill was contained and that cleanup was complete.
“But when WVDEP got there, here’s what they found:
“[Excerpt from the WVDEP probe] ‘During the inspection, however, WVDEP personnel observed and documented that the reported spill from a leak in the frac tank was in progress, cleanup was not completed, and the wastewater was leaking outside of the dedicated container system.'”
So Antero Resources wasn’t thinking about containment. Or maybe they were thinking about containment of a different sort: How can we contain the scandal related to what we do with all that radioactive waste?
We do know that much of it is disposed of illegally–this despite the fact that this orphan waste isn’t much regulated, anyway. For instance, Antero Resources produced the 400 tons of radioactive sludge here in WV that was dumped illegally in Irvine, Kentucky by Fairmont Brine, a company Antero hired to dispose of the waste. Where is the rest–still here, somewhere? Is it leaching into your well… or your neighbor’s? Is it being sprayed on our roads?
So far, they haven’t provided any answers to these questions. “Not our fault,” they contend of the waste they dumped on folks in Kentucky. It’s a little bit like saying you’re not at fault for murder, while paying a hit man to “take care of” your spouse. If you’re wealthy and powerful, though, that can work. KY attorney general failed to bring criminal charges. However, he’s has also been implicated by the FBI in a scheme to taking illegal campaign contributions.
The crazy campaign finance train stops in WV too. Mylan is one of Manchin’s top donors. Woody Ireland got a BEAUTIFUL deal from Antero to lease his rights, while pushing for legislation Antero desperately wanted.
Businesses we invite here should reflect the community we love, not threaten it. They should be good neighbors; they shouldn’t be trying to buy legislation to allow them to trespass without our permission. They shouldn’t be trying to remove our ability to legally protect ourselves from the noise and nuisance, from the transformation of our peaceful Green Mansions into despoiled industrial zones. They shouldn’t be suing us for not leasing our mineral rights to them, and they shouldn’t be trying to force us to lease mineral rights at a price they name, without allowing us the power to negotiate. That is not the free market. The free market permits property owners to make the economic decision to hold out for a better price, or to decide that you value the property for more than just money. You may not want to sell your grandmother’s engagement ring, or your dog, for any price.
Yet they keep trying, and they keep pouring money into the political process. Several WV lawmakers, like “Coal Ash” McKinley, are among their top recipients.
Their argument is essentially that extraction companies are businesses and need to make profits.
“We’re a running a business” is not an excuse we’re accepting from Mylan.
“My investors expect me to maximize profits” is not something we accepted from Shkreli, either.
The truth is that our representatives should be protecting us from those guys–not enabling them. The truth is also that I’d much rather be thinking of something else. I’d rather be thinking of my Green Mansions. I’d rather be planning new paths, or figuring out a way to get a glider into the holler. I’d rather be feeding my chickens.
But this is what it’s like out here. There’s a sense that something wicked this way comes, and I have to look out for what might be coming down the road. And no one is going to notify me of any impending doom. Voting is not enough. And neither is calling my legislators, or writing them. I wonder if it will be enough when I run for office? Will that even help?
Shoot, WV DEP Secretary Randy Huffman actually admitted :
“If I start pounding my fist, it is going to be a fruitless effort. I would become ineffective. There are too many entities at play in Charleston. If I did that, they’d laugh me out of the capitol building. It would limit my effectiveness.”
So when Antero claims, essentially, that “I know we haven’t been trustworthy before, but you can believe us now. We have your best interests in mind.”
You’ll forgive me my skepticism.
I’ll be going to the public meeting tomorrow.
Answers? I don’t expect them. But I WILL have questions:
What: Antero Landfill Project Public Meeting
When: September 13, 2016 6:00pm
Where: Harrisville Women’s Club, 121 W. Main St., Harrisville WV 26362
UPDATE: Read how the meeting went, and learn what “Landsplaining” is.