THE HIGH COST OF STRIPPING

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9c1d/1238527865-gee.jpgOSU boss Gordon Gee talks a good game about whipping America’s energy consumption into shape with a renewable revolution, about using university know-how to divorce us from our love affair with that dirty-ass, low-down coal. The self-ordained environmentalist was even named co-chair of a national movement of 15 colleges to help America become more energy independent.

But for how long will he be willing to walk the walk?

Gee has long held a seat on the board of Massey Energy Inc., a company that compensated him nearly $193,000 in 2007 alone, according to the Columbus Dispatch. And what’s the big deal about that? Massey has drawn some of the loudest criticism from Rust Belt environmentalists opposed to its practice of mountaintop removal for coal extraction, particularly in West Virginia. As if burning the coal isn’t bad enough, Massey uses the most environmentally detrimental method to find it.

Why don’t they just ask Mr. Smithers to be the other co-chair?

Mountaintop removal damages water quality, threatens native species (including humans) with 4732/1238528000-mountaintop.jpgairborne contamination, and hacks away at forests, giving many a mountain a buzz-cut appearance. (Photo: University of Maine's Climate Change Institute.) Now that Bush Jr. has flown the coop, the USEPA is taking a gratifyingly deliberate stance by studying the practice and holding up nearly a thousand permits for mountaintop removal until the results come in.

Get a look for yourself at one of the area’s latest removals on a trip south to Kayford Mountain in West Virginia with OCA. Liz Ilg, Cleveland’s Ohio Citizen Action program director, says anyone interested in tagging along with staffers for an April 11 inspection of the site can call 216.861.5200 for details. The drive will not include a trip past Gee’s pricey estate to throw eggs.

As of press time, Gee hadn’t relinquished the seat. “We’re working on it,” said Kate Russell of the Columbus chapter of OCA.

But don’t be too hard on the old Gee. He’s frail and cute, as can be seen in this recent video of him dancing on stage at OSU with Soulja Boy. — Dan Harkins

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