West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Members Running for Public Office

By Carter Zerbe

Two members of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy are running for political office. Carroll Jett, a member of the Conservancy for approximately twelve years and a Director at large, is running for the legislature from Jackson County. Roger Foreman, a long time conservancy member, is running for Kanawha County Circuit Judge. Both were successful in the primary.

Prior to moving to WV in 1980, Foreman was a legal Aid attorney in Iowa. After he moved here, he became an attorney for the United Mine Workers of America, representing coal miners on black lung and other issues. He entered private law practice in June of 1982, and has established a successful law practice in Charleston. Roger has developed a well-deserved reputation for defending the civil and legal rights of indigent and low income people of West Virginia.

Jett on the other hand was born in Sissonville in northern Kanawha county, and remains here for the same reason Foreman chose to move here. In 1968 Carroll took a trip throughout West Virginia which included Elkins, Seneca Rocks, and Seneca Creek areas. He was astonished at the beauty of the state.

Initially, Jett worked as a lab tech for Union Carbide, spending considerable time staring out the window of the lab wishing he was outside. Realizing he couldnít continue to work inside, he changed his career, and from 1970 through 1992 worked as a state policeman. (How many environmentally active law enforcement officers do you know?). Carroll says that most of the officers graduating from the academy, including himself, wanted to be assigned to Southern WV because that is where the action was, criminal action, i.e., murder, robberies, etc. Wanting to explore his likely assignment area, he packed up his family and started to the southern coal fields. A few miles south of Madison, after passing strip mines, gob piles, and polluted streams, he turned around and headed back north. He managed to get assigned to Elkins.

Jett spent a number of years at various sites in the eastern panhandle before his transfer to Charleston and finally to Jackson county, where he lives now. While a state policeman, he attended Shepherd College, the University of Charleston and Marshall University, graduating from Marshall in 1990 with a Regentís degree.

Both Foreman and Jett have strong environmental records. Foreman represented the "Save the Greenbrier River Coalition" and was able to enjoin the Pocahontas County Commission from selling the old Howes leather property on the banks of the Greenbrier River to Joe Manchin, who wanted to operate a tire burning plant. Unfortunately, it was a temporary victory. In the last election, the voters approved the sale.

Rogerís law firm also represented the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) in its challenge to the air permit for the infamous Parsons and Whitmore pulp mill. The case involved six months of hearings before the Air Quality Board. Typically, Rogerís firm took the case pro bono. Now his firm, again representing OVEC free of charge, has sued the Department of Environmental Protection (an oxymoron if there ever was one). The suit seeks to prevent the newly appointed Director of the DEP, Michael Miano, from handling any permitting, enforcement or regulation on the grounds that his long-term involvement with the coal industry creates a conflict of interest.

Jett, who had been interested in Conservancy activity for some time, joined the organization during John Purbaughís tenure as president. Since then he has been an active member of the conservancy and board. He has taken a special interest in solid waste issues and was highly involved in the fight against proposed land fills in Barbour, Berkeley, McDowell and Mason counties. Apart from solid waste issues, Jett is deeply concerned about the drain Corridor H funding will have on the funds for repairs and improving roads elsewhere in this state, and especially Jackson county.

Mountain top removal is another hot issue for Jett. He is amazed at the depth of anti-mountain top strip mining sentiment in Jackson county. It is especially strong in those who have moved to Jackson County from the southern coal fields.

Finally, Jett is committed to protecting the Black water Canyon and supports acquisition of this forested jewel by the state for incorporation into Black Water Falls State Park.

Carter Zerbe is a Charleston attorney and a member of the Board of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy _