wv: miners vs nra, dupont appeals, eminent domain & santa

miners union slams nra over film crew
from examiner: The United Mine Workers of America is crying foul over what it says was an attempt to get miners to badmouth Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for a camera crew. UMWA President Cecil Roberts plans to hold a news conference in Charleston at 12 p.m. Monday with miners from Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 2 mine in Monongalia County to criticize the National Rifle Association. Roberts says the NRA hired a film crew to get miners to criticize Obama’s record on gun rights. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said Monday the crew was on the property with the mine’s permission and had no troubles with the miners it interviewed. The NRA is sharply critical of Obama, calling him a “lying rabble rouser” on its Web site. The UMWA has endorsed Obama.

umw plans work stoppage over nra filming

despite campaign denials, mccain supports ‘the elimination of mountaintop removal mining’
from thinkprogress: Wonk Room broke the story that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining, a process in which “coal operators blast off hilltops to uncover valuable low-sulfur coal. Leftover rock and dirt is shoved into nearby valleys, burying streams.” In response to a question at a town hall meeting in Orlando, Florida whether he supported ending mountaintop removal, McCain said, “I do.” Watch it:

When the Charleston Gazette pursued the story with the McCain campaign, they “initially denied that the candidate favored an end to mountaintop removal, but backed off that when confronted with video of his remarks”: “Initially, McCain spokeswoman Gail Gitcho repeatedly said the candidate did not support a ban on mountaintop removal. But when video of his remarks in Orlando was posted on YouTube, Gitcho confirmed McCain’s support for ending the practice and issued a short statement.” More at the Wonk Room on McCain’s lobbyist ties and incoherent defense of coal companies.

residents win over power company eminent domain threats
from ap: Allegheny Energy Inc., bowing to intense community opposition in southwestern Pennsylvania, has agreed to reroute a proposed multistate high-power line and move its end point so that only one mile of it passes through the state. The 500-kilovolt transmission line was to originate in Washington County, continue for 37 miles in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and then cross into West Virginia on its way to Loudoun County, Va. The company has agreed to move the end point to the southern end of Greene County, about one mile from the West Virginia border, said Pam Snyder, the chairwoman of the Greene County Commissioners. In return, the county won’t oppose the project, Snyder said Monday.

wv court accepts appeals in $400m dupont case
from ap: West Virginia’s Supreme Court has agreed to a full review of appeals arising from a nearly $400 million judgment against DuPont. A Harrison County jury awarded the damages to residents last year, after finding the chemical giant downplayed and lied about health threats at a former zinc smelting plant in Spelter. The high court accepted DuPont’s appeal of the verdicts, and of the circuit judge’s order holding it liable for the conduct of the site’s previous owner. They’ve been combined with an appeal from the plaintiffs, who want more people compensated for private property cleanups. The consolidated argument hearing has not been set. Justice Robin Davis voted to refuse each of the appeals. Gov. Joe Manchin had urged the justices to accept the case, citing its $196 million punitive damage award.

feds blame tank & training in fatal wv blast
from ap: Federal inspectors are blaming a fatal explosion at a West Virginia convenience store in part on a propane tank being located too close to the building. The blast in January 2007 killed four people and injured six. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board also found there was too little training for propane company technicians and for emergency crews. The board’s preliminary report (1.7mb PDF) said the 500-gallon propane tank was located next to the back wall of the store in violation of a 10-foot rule. The escaping gas filled the Flat Top Little General store in the town of Ghent before exploding. The report recommends that emergency responders receive better training on how to handle propane leaks and that the state adopt training standards for propane handlers.

wv write-in candidates include santa claus
from ap: Yes, West Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he’s running for president. This jolly old elf, though, doesn’t live at the North Pole but near Lake Tahoe, and was known as Thomas O’Connor until 2005, when his resemblance to Father Christmas helped persuade him to legally change his name.

Claus is one of 14 write-in presidential candidates registered with the West Virginia secretary of state’s office, a veritable bumper crop thanks to the state’s easy registration rules. “All they have to do is file a form at least 42 days before the election,” said Jason Williams, manager of the elections division in the secretary of state’s office. “Santa Claus filed his form and it was notarized, so he’s registered along with everyone else.”

“Everyone else” in West Virginia includes Keith Russell David, currently an inmate at Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas, and Pennsylvania resident Ron Hobbs, whose platform includes requiring all public businesses to have restrooms. All told, there are 25 write-in candidates for statewide or congressional office in West Virginia this year. Their names won’t appear on the official ballot, but votes for them will be tallied, while writing in an unregistered name will mean an uncounted vote.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many write-in candidates in a presidential election,” said Kanawha County Circuit Clerk Vera McCormick, whose workers will count every write-in ballot on election night by hand. That kind of joyous plurality isn’t available to voters everywhere. Most states put a number of hurdles before write-in candidates, ranging from requiring dozens of forms to identifying presidential electors for the candidate.

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