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Kasper reports: "Testifying in front of the House Natural Resources Committee on the impact of coal mining, activist Maria Gunnoe intended to show a picture of a five year old child bathing in polluted water from mountaintop mining. But House Republicans censored the image, calling it child pornography."

Erica and Rully must bathe their daughter, age 5, in contaminated water that is the color of tea. Their water has been tested and contains high levels of arsenic. (photo: Katie Falkenberg)
Erica and Rully must bathe their daughter, age 5, in contaminated water that is the color of tea. Their water has been tested and contains high levels of arsenic. (photo: Katie Falkenberg)



GOP Censor Photo Showing Impacts of Mountain Top Removal, Calling It Child Porn

By Matt Kasper, Climate Progress

08 June 12

 

t a House hearing last week, witnesses were intending to focus on coal mining. Instead, a photo of a five year old child is getting all the attention.

Testifying in front of the House Natural Resources Commitee on the impact of coal mining, activist Maria Gunnoe intended to show a picture of a five year old child bathing in polluted water from mountaintop mining. But House Republicans censored the image, calling it child pornography.

The photo was taken by photojournalist Katie Falkenberg, who wrote this caption about the image:

Erica and Rully must bathe their daughter, age 5, in contaminated water that is the color of tea. Their water has been tested and contains high levels of arsenic…. The coal company that mines the land around their home has never admitted to causing this problem, but they do supply the family with bottled water for drinking and cooking. Contaminated and colored water has occurred in other coalfield communities as well where mountaintop mining is practiced.

Members of the committee were not able to see the informative image, because Republican committee staff barred Gunnoe from displaying the picture during her testimony.

Gunnoe complied with the request, but after the hearing was escorted into an empty room by Capitol Police and was questioned for 45 minutes about the photo at the request of an unnamed GOP senior committee staffer to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO). Gunnoe is a renowned activist against mountaintop coal mining, who has testified before the committee three other times.

Intimidation tactics against coal activists are nothing new, especially against Gunnoe. She has faced threats and intimidation directed at her and her family for her environmental justice work:

In return for her passionate activism, mine managers have singled out Gunnoe as an enemy of mine workers and their jobs. She has received threats on her life and her children are frequently harassed at school. Her daughter’s dog was shot dead, wanted posters featuring her photo have appeared in local stores, and she has had to take serious measures to protect her family and property.

It is not difficult to see why the Goldman Environmental Prize winner is seen as a threat. As Gunnoe pointed out in her testimony about the Spruce coal mines in West Virginia, mountaintop removal is an extraordinarily destructive process that the coal companies don't want the public to know about:

  • Selenium discharges downstream from Spruce No 1 are already much higher than EPA standards according to recent water testing. The Spruce 1 permit will allow more selenium to be released into this stream. This is the making for life threatening levels of selenium.
  • The community of Blair has NO municipal drinking water available to them. The only water in these communities is the well water which in some cases has already been polluted. The community of Blair needs water infrastructure to supply their homes with healthy water before any area permits are even discussed.
  • From what we see on the ground the coal companies have already moved forward in preparing the permit area as if they had an approved permit.
  • The Spruce permit is in the Coal River watershed. Mountaintop removal is why American Rivers placed the Coal River on our America’s Most Endangered Rivers list this year – because the river is at a decision point – not because it’s the most polluted. We can save these precious headwater streams that also serve as drinking water to our communities but we must act now before it is too late.

A 21-peer reviewed study confirmed that people living near the mountaintop removal cites are 50 percent more likely to die of cancer and 42 percent more likely to be born with birth defects compared with other communities in the Appalachia region. Local communities near such projects have a 70 percent increased risk for developing kidney disease, and there are 313 excess deaths every year from coal-mining pollution.

Sadly, these are not the issues being discussed after the hearing. Instead, we're talking about why a powerful photograph was censored by a House Committee.

Capitol Police have not found Gunnoe guilty of any wrongdoing.

Matt Kasper is a Special Assistant for Energy and Environmental Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

 

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+43 # 8myveggies 2012-06-08 20:43
It sickens me to think that anyone could consider that sad photo to be child porn.

Porn is in the eye of the beholder.
 
 
+23 # Glen 2012-06-09 06:29
They don't think of it as child porn. It is a method of preventing evidence against a vested interest of these particular GOP members. They are capable of anything, including killing citizens, to protect their income.
 
 
+31 # Bigfella 2012-06-08 21:16
Thanks for letting me know I prob died from cancer now as I am getting surrounded by open cut coal mines in my once beautiful valley here in down under land COAL is king and nothing =fish kills , disappearing ground water, lead and asenic..the lot! And we depend on tank water here in the bush...we as citizen must also become international as minning Companies are and share information and facts as well as protesting at share holder meetings.
 
 
+22 # Maxwell 2012-06-08 22:31
When you're asked about being in bed with someone who profits from doing really evil things, make sure you

1. ignore the problem as long as possible,

2. make some token amends for the situation without admitting any culpability,

3. change the subject whenever possible, and

4. vilify the messenger.

If, in addition to those tactics, you're also rich and powerful and you govern over an ignorant or apathetic constituency, you just MAY not have to answer any inconvenient questions at all!

Next lesson's topic: How long is the public's memory?
 
 
+18 # Archie1954 2012-06-08 22:42
Republicans are beneath contempt!
 
 
+16 # angelfish 2012-06-08 22:58
The ReTHUGlicans are the biggest purveyors of Porn in the United States today! It is their Stock in Trade! They have no problem abusing and horrifying children like the on in the picture for filthy lucre but wouldn't give a nickel for this same child to be able to bathe in CLEAN Water or enjoy a healthy meal or have decent Housing! It is THEY who are the OBSCENITY!
 
 
+25 # Texan 4 Peace 2012-06-09 00:24
There's definitely something obscene here, but it's not the child. Every time I think the GOP can't get any more cynical, they exceed my expectations.
 
 
+31 # SundownLF 2012-06-09 01:23
The GOP is right. That IS a pornographic photo - but the obscenity is in the water, not the child.
 
 
+18 # fdawei 2012-06-09 04:44
The Republicans and their financial backers are, in fact,the pornographers. They should all be banned at the polls during the next election.
 
 
+22 # The Saint 2012-06-09 05:56
The real porn is found in pictures of denuded, raped and violated mountains. Funny how congressional staffers, famous for their own sexually explicit vocabularies and sexist attitudes, suddenly become defenders of purity when filthy water caused by wealthy corporate types pollutes the bodies of children.
 
 
+15 # tedrey 2012-06-09 05:57
One would think that knowingly committing mass murder for profit would be against the law . . . but this is America!
 
 
+16 # riverhouse 2012-06-09 06:09
No one in the Republican Party can get their paltry minds off pornography long enough to deal with the destruction of the environment and the attack on the health of the locals being caused by the coal companies' rampage through mountain communities of West Virginia. It is quite telling that the Republicans did not see the environmental disaster caused by their support of raging mountain top removal for coal, the dirtiest fuel known to man, but did focus on the photo of the child in the bathtub. That says mountains about where their heads are.
 
 
+8 # Glen 2012-06-09 06:26
The power of members of government in many countries can eliminate the "problem" of protesters and legitimate complaints and testimony. We all know they get paid nicely to protect the interests of industry.

Where I live, local citizens fought against lead mining just north of here in a wilderness area, and won. The issue did not go to state or federal hearings. When enough local people can maintain order and present legitimate complaints and concerns, they can win. Let that give other folks hope, but don't take it to higher levels if it can be avoided.
 
 
+14 # RMDC 2012-06-09 06:54
I doubt if a republican would know pornography if it bit him in the ass.

Mountain top removal coal mining is a huge crime against humanity and against nature. It along with fracking and oil shale recovery are just bad technologies that should be completely banned. They are far too destructive to ever be used.

The only thing obscene in this story is the behavior of the republicans.
 
 
-24 # Raymond Dean 2012-06-09 07:07
Such photographs often are posed. Is this article based on personal knowledge of how,where and why the photo was taken; was it from a helicopter?

I can't help but remember Dan Rather in Afghanistan.

Also are there only GOP members of the Committee? Mountain top mining has been in progress for decades.
 
 
+11 # GeeRob 2012-06-09 10:08
Gunnoe would never compromise her integrity by staging a photo...NEVER. However, since Lamborn and his committee staffer have no integrity, they have banned the truth and replaced it with a ridiculous label of child pornography.
 
 
+17 # othermother 2012-06-09 10:23
How do you get a helicopter into a bathroom, Raymond?
 
 
+6 # Regina 2012-06-09 15:57
Yes, for decades these corporate hogs have been wrecking mountaintops and sliming water supplies. That doesn't make the process clean or valid or desirable. Yes, I said process; it isn't "progress"!
 
 
+5 # Maxwell 2012-06-09 17:50
Raymond Dean, f course this photo was posed. Did you mean you think the photo was faked? I don't think the people who live in this area think so.

I'm pretty sure the photo was not taken from a helicopter.

As for "personal knowledge of how, where and when the photo was taken" it would be worth your while to reread the article about which you just commented.

The photo was taken by photojournalist Katie Falkenberg, who also wrote about the families she has been documenting. Part of what she wrote is in the article.

As the article states, Maria Gonnoe has testified before the House Natural Resources Committee three times before this incident. She has been investigating the results of mountaintop removal and other abusive mining techniques for years. She has received the Goldman Environmental Prize. She does know what she's talking about.

I think you're right that both Dems and Reps have allowed this kind of horror to go on, but the GOP HNRC members are the ones who started the kiddie porn business. It looks like an attempt to evade the real issue.

I'm not sure what Dan Rather has to do with this.
 
 
+15 # Sandy 2012-06-09 07:23
One of the most urgent messages in this article is the heroism of Maria Gunnoe, and how she needs many allies so she and her family can be protected and less of a focal target. Also, if there's any way to build coalitions with the mine workers (who's health, safety, and longevity of employment is probably also at risk), that can help.
 
 
+8 # othermother 2012-06-09 10:16
@Raymond Dean - no doubt the photo was posed in the sense that the parents must have permitted it. The question is whether the water was 'posed' - doctored to make it look like the runoff from mine tailings, which it does. My personal answer to the censorship would be to post it on Facebook with the background and urge others to re-post and to inform the committee members by email attachment of what they were stopped from seeing in Ms Gunnoe's testimony.
 
 
+13 # Old Man 2012-06-09 10:22
Don't you just love what big money and narrow mindedness can do?
 
 
+11 # Painter Wells 2012-06-09 14:32
A NEW TWIST ON THE OLD JOKE:

A Republican Congressman goes to a Psychologist and says, "Doc, I can't stop thinking about sex."

The Psychologist pulls out his ink blots. "What is this a picture of?" he asks.

The man turns the picture in all directions and states, "That's a boy and a girl in a bathtub making love."

The Psychologist says, "very interesting," and shows the next picture. "And what is this a picture of?"

The man looks and turns it in all directions and says, "That's a boy and a girl in a bathtub making love."

The Psychologists tries again with the third ink blot, and asks the same question, "What is this a picture of?"

The patient again turns it in all directions and replies, "That's a boy and a girl in a bathtub making love."

The Psychologist states, "Well, yes, you are obsessed with sex."

"Me!?" demands the Republican Congrssman. "You're the one who keeps showing me the dirty pictures!"
 
 
+5 # davehart 2012-06-09 20:55
Republicans seeing porn in this photo is interesting. It's as if they are so focused on nudity of the human form as a scary issue while at the same time they aren't in the least bit concerned about the brown water that we are left to conclude that porn really is in the eye of the beholder...
 
 
+5 # asbpab1966 2012-06-09 21:58
Would somebody cite the law passed changing the definition of child pornography. It used to be mere nudity did not make a picture a a child pornographic. It required sexual activity or lewd display of genitalia. This is not the first time I have heard recently of a picture of a nude child being called pornographic despite it not meeting the above conditions.
 
 
+3 # shraeve 2012-06-10 20:06
Calling someone a child pornographer or pedophile in the 21st century is the same as calling someone a communist or homosexual in the 1950s. It is a conversation stopper. It is a way to change the subject and put the accused on the defensive.
 

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