Petition demands WVU reject gifts from coal execs
by VICKI SMITH Associated Press Writer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Student environmental activists demanded Wednesday that West Virginia University reject future donations from coal executives Bob Murray and Don Blankenship, arguing their mining operations endanger lives.
Leaders of the Sierra Student Coalition delivered a petition with 1,000 signatures to WVU President James Clements, who told the students he understands their concerns.
Our school should set a good example for its students, the coalition argued. If our university forms a buddy system with the crooked, then which institution can be expected to do the right thing?
WVU spokesmen said that gifts are not made directly to the administration but to the WVU Foundation, the schools private fundraising entity. They also noted Murrays $1 million pledge to the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources in September was aimed at showing appreciation for the school where his three sons earned degrees in mining engineering and geology.
Murray is president of Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. and owner of Utahs Crandall Canyon mine, where a series of collapses in August 2007 killed six miners and three would-be rescuers. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration fined Murray $1.6 million for violations that investigators say directly contributed to the miners deaths.
A Murray Energy spokesman said the company planned to issue a statement later.
Blankenship is chief executive of Virginia-based Massey Energy, which has been the target of multiple protests this year over mountaintop removal mining.
The coalition also pointed to a Massey coal silo and slurry dam built near Marsh Fork Elementary School, and underground injection of slurry in Mingo County that citizens claim ruined their wells and wrecked their health.
The Sierra Clubs agenda, of course, is to outlaw coal, said Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater, adding that the company is proud of its relationship with WVU and its ability to fund scholarships.
Murray, meanwhile, had pledged $1 million in September to fund research in mining methods and the use of fossil fuels. The Sierra coalition wants the chair created in his name to be renamed for the Crandall Canyon miners.
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