Assistant Commonwealth Attorney
Joins Commonwealth Attorney's Office as Its New
Cathy St. Clair
Letsen has joined the Buchanan County Commonwealth
Attorney's Office as an assistant commonwealth
a 2005 graduate of the Appalachian School of Law, will
be responsible primarily for prosecution of cases in
General District Court.
native of Northern Virginia, he is a son of Carl and
graduate of Liberty University, he holds a bachelor of
science degree in government. He earned his juris
doctor degree at ASL and passed the Virginia State
Bar. He has also passed the Washington D.C. Bar and
will be licensed to practice in D.C. within the next
graduating from ASL, Letsen returned to northern
Virginia, where he practiced family law in the
Fredricksburg area. He also worked as a youth minister
like the area and the people are friendly,"
Letsen said about his decision to return to Buchanan
County when the assistant's post came open.
is engaged to be married later this spring.
Director Issues CONSOL Permit Review Decision
Will Be in Big Stone Gap; No Changes in Parties to Appeal
Cathy St. Clair
recent review of a Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy hearings
officer ruling related to issues surrounding an appeal on the state
agency's approval of a discharge permit for Consolidation Coal
Company upheld the hearing officer's decision.
results of the review and reconsideration of the decision were
issued by DMME Deputy Director Benny Wampler in a brief six
paragraph letter February 9 in which Wampler indicated based on his
review of the hearing record, "I cannot find that Hearings
Officer Thomas J. McCarthy Jr. erred in his findings."
result, Wampler affirmed and adopted McCarthy's ruling which will
leave the location for the formal administrative hearing in Big
Stone Gap and which denies Big Rock resident Wade McNeely status as
either a party to the appeal or as an intervenor.
hearing officer issued his decision in January, both McNeely and
Buchanan County appealed the findings.
hearing officer's decision followed
a pre-hearing conference in Big Stone Gap and denied Mickey
McGlothlin, Buchanan County Commonwealth Attorney Sheila Hale
Tolliver and McNeely -- all three of whom filed timely appeals to
the initial permit discharge decision as individuals -- either party
or intervenor status in the case.
two-page written opinion on the issues brought up at the November
pre-hearing conference, McCarthy said McGlothlin, Tolliver and
McNeely had not shown "an immediate, pecuniary or substantial
interest in the litigation" and further that they
"appeared to base their requests 'on a wish to redress some
anticipated public injury when the only wrong (they) have suffered
is in common with other persons similarly situated'."
objected to the ruling when he received the decision in January.
feel they they (the hearing officer and hearing coordinator) just
want to silence the general public to what's going on with the
permit application," McNeely said then. "They banned me from speaking because I wasn't a lawyer,
or that's what they say. Maybe it's because they don't want to have
the facts about pollution brought out at the hearing.
not representing any coal mining interest or have an economic
interest or where I can make a profit like the majority of the ones
that was at the pre-hearing who was against the permit,"
McNeely continued to note in announcing his intent to file an
appeal. "I'm only out to stop this permit purely for the
interest of the environment, which will be for the benefit of our
children, grandchildren and future generations; we must leave
something for them."
questioned if the discharge was planned for the Cheasapeake Bay area
if it would "even be considered?"
ruling, McCarthy stated that the only parties to the appeal of the
DMME decision to issue the permit as it goes forward will be the Big
Vein companies, the Town of Grundy, the Buchanan County Board of
Supervisors, Wellmore Coal Company LLC,and Levisa Coal Company.
Coal Company asked to intervene in the case and its motion to
intervene was granted.
in his ruling, also limited the matters to be considered at the
formal hearing to the application, with matters pertaining to
previously approved applications not to be considered.
McCarthy ruled that the burden of proof would be on those seeking to
set aside the DMME decision to grant the permit, instead of on the
agency to prove why the action to grant the application was proper.
also denied requests to move the venue for the formal hearing to
date for the hearing had been set at press time.
Would Make Colleges More Affordable for Many
legislation that would make it more affordable for community college
students to transfer to major universities is gaining support
approved, the Community College Transfer Grant (Senate bill 749,
House bill 1681), would freeze the community college tuition rate
for the junior and senior years of students transferring to public,
four-year colleges or universities, or at reduced rates for private
is a tremendous step forward as far as education in Virginia,"
said Jason Hayes, president of the Southwest Virginia Community
College chapter of Virginia 21, a student lobbying group.
the legislation would provide higher education grants to Virginia
residents who have completed an associate degree program at any
state community college and have been admitted to a public or
nonprofit private institution.
eligible, a student must have maintained a cumulative grade point
average of at least 3.0 on a scale of 4.0, or its equivalent, while
enrolled in an associate degree program at a Virginia community
college. Also, he or she must have applied for financial aid, and
have financial need, defined by
having a family income of equal to or less than 150 percent
of Virginia median family income, or 150 percent of the median
family income of their home locality, whichever is greater.
has been a healthy, growing awareness of the importance of higher
education to the future of both the Commonwealth and her
citizens," Senator Walter Stosch (R-Henrico), co-sponsor of the
legislation, said in a press release regarding the grant. "I am
convinced that for the system needed to drive Virginia's economic
engine to be successful it must be accessible and affordable for
all. That will require extraordinary cooperation between the
community college system and our four year institutions, public and
private. This measure is one more step down that path."
Vincent Callahan (R-Fairfax) is also sponsoring the bill.
Hayes, another SVCC Virginia 21 representative, is urging the local
community to speak out in support of the proposed program, asking
for state representatives to be contacted and for letters to be
written to legislators and newspapers asking that the bills gain
need the community's involvement," he said. "The more
support we have, the better chance we have of getting this thing
support this measure because it will reduce the cost for Virginia
families who struggle to pay for a college education," said
Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia's Community College System.
"We also believe this would encourage more Virginians to pursue
a higher education by using the community college as the on-ramp to
a four-year degree, saving themselves -- and Virginia taxpayers --