In January of this year, a coal-cleaning chemical leaked out of a tank less than mile from the intake for West Virginia American Water Company. Some 300,000 West Virginians lost their water for drinking, cooking, bathing or cleaning. For quite a while, the liquid flowing through our taps had a weird, licorice-like odor. Even after it was declared safe, many people did not trust that it was, and continued using bottled water. (Some of us still are using bottled water.)
Politicians—including many who collect big money from their coal investments, and including our governor—skittered to distance themselves from any responsibility to protect West Virginia’s environment or the citizens who depend upon it. As I took my daily walk around Charleston in the weeks following the chemical spill, my thoughts were angry as well as sad. A melody and some words began to take shape in my mind: a from-the-heart, straightforward message.
In early February, there was a public hearing in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Although the prospect terrified me, I decided to “speak” at the hearing by singing my song. Many legislators were absent, but I sang my song anyway. Many other citizens also stood up to express their outrage and to beg our so-called public servants to quit serving extractive industries at the expense of public health.
Now my friends Julie Adams (producer), George Castelle (guitarist), and Paul Flaherty (sound engineer) have helped me record the song, and yesterday I successfully uploaded it to CD Baby as a single (for download only). It’s deeply satisfying to me to send my song out into the world on the same day that the EPA proposes new, stricter standards for water and air quality. Our politicians will no doubt scream bloody murder over the new standards, the way they should be decrying the mining and fracking methods that are fouling our state. They will declare the new standards as a “war on coal” instead of what it really is, a plan to protect public health and safety from the ones who only use us for the riches they can steal.
You can download or listen to a 30-second snippet from the song at CD Baby. You can read the lyrics right here:
If you love my West Virginia, you will keep her waters clean
If you love my West Virginia, you will keep her mountains green
If you love my West Virginia, love her Wonderful and Wild
You’ll respect her like your mother and defend her like your child
If you love my West Virginia, you would suffer for her sake
If you love my West Virginia, you will give more than you take
If you love my West Virginia, you would grieve to see her kneel
To the ones who only use her for the riches they can steal
If you love my West Virginia, you will hold her in your soul
If you love my West Virginia, you won’t let her mountains fall
If you love my West Virginia, you will fight to see her stand
With her summits bathed in glory like our Prince Immanuel’s Land