MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When the conservation chair for the Mon Group of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Jim Kotcon criticized county commission members for a lack of transparency during the Longview Power Plant expansion process he didn’t know the commissioners were thinking the same thing.
“I’m particularly concerned about the lack of information and lack of transparency that has come from the commission since we first approached you in March of last year,” Kotcon said. .
A provision in the original deal in 2011 directed Longview Power to pay $500,000 per year to the Sierra Club to establish the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation, intended to provide environmental education and support stream and forest remediation. Unconfirmed reports from commissioner indicate the group has received $4 million and has spent $355,400 on remediation activities.
The unconfirmed report says the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation has spent another $1,244,609 on attorneys and maintains a bank balance of $1,600,106.31.
Commissioner Tom Bloom immediately pushed back on Kotcon’s claim.
“I believe the citizens of Monongalia County need to know what’s going on, all three commission members are conservationists,”Bloom said,”Where did that money go? What we’re seeing is it went to lawyers and other activities to fight what we’re doing now and that was not the purpose of the money.”
Kotcon was invited to return to the next regular meeting and provide information and he accepted.
Still, commission members remained very concerned about the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation.
“$4 million was given to them and less than 10 percent was used for remediation and that was the agreement,”Bloom said,”I believe there needs to be an answer.”
Commisoner Bloom says this was a real shock for commissioners.
“I was hoping for education and other areas,”Bloom said,”This was real shocker, we’re following the rules and the legislation to do what’s in the best interest of this community.”