On June 1st, 2012, Maria Gunnoe, 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winner and tireless champion of Appalachian environmental and human rights, arrived at the Capitol building in Washington, DC. She was there at the invitation of Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) to testify before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources about the environmental impact of mountain top removal coal mining on her Appalachian community.
To support her testimony, Gunnoe prepared a presentation of poignant photos, including an image shot by professional photographer, Katie Falkenberg, showing a child sitting in a bathtub full of rust colored water, polluted by heavy metal contamination from nearby mining operations.
Rep. Lamborn, chairman of the subcommittee, demanded that the bathtub photo be removed from the presentation because of its inappropriate content. The content he was referring to, however, was not the reprehensibility of a child having to bathe in toxic filth, but that the bathing child was, in fact, nude.
Republican panel members alerted the Capitol Police and following her testimony, Gunnoe was questioned for 45 minutes on child pornography allegations – a completely unfounded and humiliating experience. U.S. Capitol Police who questioned Gunnoe found no criminal wrongdoing.
Douglas Goldman, the President of the Goldman Environmental Foundation, issued a letter to Rep. Lamborn calling for a public apology to Gunnoe. So far, Rep. Lamborn has refused saying, “I’m not going to issue an apology, and I don’t think the staff members involved are going to issue an apology.”