Appalachia is Rising Against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Karyn Strickler Sep 27, 2010

I am a coal miner’s great, great granddaughter. My grandpap Miller was killed in an Appalachian coal mine – and I am rising — along with Appalachia Rising, a group in Washington, DC today to protest the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.You’ve no doubt heard of “clean coal.”

IS mountaintop removal coal mining clean when coal companies clear-cut the trees and blow up our ancient Appalachian mountains using the same explosives that Timothy McVey used to blow up the Federal building, turning an area the size of Delaware into desolate moonscape?

IS IT clean when coal companies dump their debris into 2,000 miles of sparkling, mountain streams that are the headwaters for much of the East coast drinking water?

IS IT clean when they put us in jail for our non-violent protests against one of the most devastating practices known to human kind?

IS IT clean when the coal companies like Massey Energy own and control every branch of government – legislative, executive and judicial — and make all the rules?

IS IT clean when Appalachians must endure abject poverty, while the coal companies make billions in profits?

IS IT clean when mountaintop removal coal mining created far fewer jobs than would be created my building the infrastructure for clean, renewable, non-nuclear energy?

IS IT clean when mining regions get kidney disease, are eaten alive by cancer from fouled air and water, with coal mining regions enduring 578 more deaths per year than other regions of the country?

IS IT clean when elementary schools sit below multi-billion gallon slurry and coal ash pits that are prone to breakage?

IS IT clean when coal contributes almost half of the greenhouse gases driving the world’s climate to the breaking point?

Goldman prizewinner and Appalachian resident Maria Gunnoe said: “Go to the most peaceful, beautiful place in the word that you can imagine. And then watch somebody drop a bomb on it.” That’s, basically what’s happening with mountaintop removal coal mining.

On a recent episode of Climate Challenge, Debby Jarrell, Bo Webb, Chuck Nelson and Mickey McCoy, all long time residents of Appalachia, told of ancestral homes that have been destroyed by blasting. Gone are communities in Southern West Virginia, from Marshy Fork to Blair, from Lindy Town to Kayford and beyond into Eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and Eastern Tennessee.

Destroy life, property, mountains, streams, families, communities and the planet to obtain a filthy fossil fuel. Burn it for electricity, releasing poisons and driving the climate to the breaking point. Contain the resulting sludge and toxic ash in billion gallon ponds, until they break. Call it clean. Get the President to call it clean. Add alliteration and a multi-million dollar PR campaign. Voila, you have clean coal.

From the mining, to the toxic waste storage, to the burning — “clean coal” is a dirty joke that won’t wash. Staking our energy future on so-called clean coal is wise — in the same way that basing the entire U.S. economy on sub-prime housing loans was. Just stand back and watch it blow-up in your face like the exploding housing bubble did. Only this time humanity itself is at stake.

It is time for our politicians to listen to the people, our non-violent protests and genuine grassroots movement, and put an end to mountaintop removal coal mining. It is time to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, protecting the lungs and the life-blood of the planet.

We must stop building and feeding coal-fired power plants, destroying our mountains and driving our climate to the breaking point and instead build a wind farm on Coal River Mountain, West Virginia. That is but a single example of ways that the Appalachian economy could be rebuilt on a renewable energy economy.

IT IS time to shout it from the Appalachian mountaintops, before they’re gone: The miasma that is coal cannot be cleaned. We must trade mountaintop removal coal mining clean, renewable, non-nuclear energy, like wind, solar and geothermal — now. We cannot continue business as usual even for a few more years, if we are to have any hope of reversing climate change.

Won’t you join us?

Appalachia Rising Non-violent Action Schedule:

10 AM Rally begins on Freedom Plaza, at 13th and Pennsylvania NW

11:00 AM March begins

12:15 PM Arrive at White House/Lafayette Park

Karyn Strickler is a political scientist, grassroots organizer and writer.  She is a senior fellow with the Center for New Politics and Policy.  Karyn is the producer and host of Climate Challenge on MMCTV.  You can contact her at .

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