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KRC Director Receives 14th Heinz Award In Environment Category Posted: October 24, 2008
STATEMENT OF TOM FITZGERALD ON RECEIVING THE 14TH ANNUAL HEINZ AWARD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
OCTOBER 21, 2008
Ms. Heinz, Directors of the Foundation, colleagues, and family, thank you all so much.
It has been my privilege and great honor these past 30 years to have represented thousands of individuals and community groups who live downhill, downwind and downstream, and who have borne the burden of our failure to fully cost production of energy and goods.
As an activist, I cut my teeth in lobbying for what would become the 1977 Surface Coal Mining Act. As a Senator from a coal producing state, John Heinz authored two important amendments to that law – the first, to allow homeowners near mining operations to request a pre-blast survey of their homes, to assist in documenting blasting damage; and the second, to create state research institutes, to improve mining and reclamation practices, and train mining engineers and scientists. The Senator was both candid and somewhat prescient in noting, as he introduced the amendment, that “the use of coal, at once, despoils our land and pollutes our air. It is our most precious and our most dangerous mineral.“
It is unfortunate that the implemented law has failed to accomplish what Congress intended. The rich human and ecological capital of the Appalachian region is being squandered by mining methods that impoverish human and ecological communities. The twin promises that mining would be a temporary use of land and that full protection would be accorded coalfield citizens, have been honored in the breach. The deferred debt of ”cheap” coal-fired power has come due in the form of dramatic climate change, and demands that we honestly price energy to enable informed policy choices. We have our work cut out for us as we transition beyond our current dependence on coal and oil.
I have been blessed with family, clients and mentors that have shaped in me the belief that people of good faith can create in themselves and their communities, durable positive change. John Heinz, in his time, and Teresa, in hers, have led by example, and have made enduring contributions to the restoration and achievement of justice in its many facets, and to improving the economic, social, cultural, and moral health of our nation and its many communities. I am humbled beyond words (an occurrence that is indeed rare for me) to be in the august company of the previous Heinz Foundation environmental award winners and to be among this year’s honorees.
After 30 years, I have worked long enough in this field to understand that Margaret Mead was right when she said “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does!”
May we aspire to be less acquisitive, less aggressive in our relationships with each other and our environment. May we face our tomorrows with hope and humility and continue together in struggle and in fellowship to create an environmental legacy worthy of our children and theirs. Thank you for helping to assure that my work with KRC can continue for another thirty years.