Calling on their campus to move beyond coal — and use previously donated coal company contributions to honor fallen Crandall Canyon coal miners, not MSHA-fined coal barons Bob Murray and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship — the West Virginia University Sierra Student Coalition presented over 1,000 petition signatures to WVU president Jim Clements today. 

The petition called on the WVU president to “reject future donations from coal corporation CEOs Bob Murray and Don Blankenship, and demand that the WVU College of Engineering and Mineral Resources chair be named in honor of the miners who made the ultimate sacrifice, and not Murray, whose criminal negligence caused their death.”

You might recall a post in September:

Thanks to Charleston Gazette/Coal Tattoo journalist Ken Ward, we learned last week that West Virginia University quietly announced on September 11 that it had established the Robert E. Murray Chairmanship in Mining Engineering, “in honor” of a $1 million donation from coal baron Bob Murray. (The donation went through the West Virginia Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 tax-deductible organization.) 

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According to WVU President James P. Clements, the contribution is part of the state’s Research Trust Fund that “will support research on safer, more efficient, and cost effective ways to use fossil fuels.”

Should the Crandall Canyon mine disaster be uttered in the same sentence as “safer ways to use fossil fuels?” Does the WVU president understand Murray’s history of mine safety violations in Utah and across the country?

A few months ago, West Virginia University also collected a cool $500,000 from infamous Massey CEO Don Blankenship to demonstrate “the company’s commitment to ensuring a bright future for young West Virginians.”

Bright future of mountaintop removal and coal sludge, really?  Even on the heels of the NY Times investigative report on coal slurry violations and subsequent disease among coalfield children, and the continuing agony of Massey’s mountaintop removal shadow over Marsh Fork Elementary School students?

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The WVU Sierra Student Coalition has been actively involved in the mountaintop removal fight. On Oct. 15, at the Army Corp of Engineers hearing on the Nationwide Permit 21 in Pittsburgh, WVU student Joe Gorman and other Sierra coalition members took the lead in addressing the issue of mountaintop removal at the public forum.  Gorman declared: “Given the wording of Nationwide Permit 21, the illegality of Nationwide Permit 21 for mountaintop removal is irrefutable.” WVU student and SSC member Surya Manivannan made remarks that “clean, safe drinking water is a human right.”

Thanks to some bitingly funny videos and effective actions, the Sierra Club’s Campuses Beyond Coal campaign has spread across the nation. Here’s a glimpse:

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