On Monday September 27, over a thousand Appalachian residents, former coal miners and environmental activists will gather in Washington D.C. to call on the Obama administration to stop mountaintop removal mining. They will also gather to pressure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to veto the authorization of the Spruce No. 1 mine, the largest surface mining operation ever authorized in Appalachia. The rally, called ‘Appalachia Rising,’ is anticipated to be the largest national demonstration against MTR to date. This type of mining removes millions of tons of rock to reach the thin seams of coal underneath and dumps the debris in nearby valleys—decimating ecosystems, watersheds and the health of those that depend on them. The destructive mining practices have obliterated over 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of streams in West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia, and put the residents of Appalachia at risk for displacement and increased rates of cancer. Despite being praised as a cost-efficient form of mining, five major American banks no longer finance companies practicing mountaintop removal coal mining, calling it a “bad investment” and “unprofitable”.
Coal Speaks for Itself
by Maria Gunnoe
Appalachia Rising is a movement led by the people of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. People from all over America will come together on September 27th 2010 to demand the abolition of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal extraction in Appalachia. We are not visiting DC to attack coal as its supporters would have you believe. We are a non-violent movement; I don’t see any of us attacking anything or anyone. Coal speaks its own truth and I believe that truth is spoken in catastrophes such as the April 5th mine disaster at Upper Big Branch Mine and the truth that every day Appalachian mountains are leveled and their valleys are filled by waste. Our communities are flooded and our water is poisoned just to “keep on the lights” in 25 countries.
Coal speaks its truths in what it leaves behind for the people that sacrifice so much for the coal companies’ bottom line. The people get nothing in return but destroyed ancestral, historic lands and communities such as Blair, the battleground for today’s United Mine Workers Association. “We the people” get the poisoned water, the polluted land, the silica-laden air, the bad health, and the diminished hope of ever having a future. This is what we have to show for 200 years of mining coal. Where is the preached prosperity? We have no desire to bash coal. Coal speaks for itself.
There are nearly 3.5 million pounds of explosives used EACH DAY in West Virginia alone. People throughout Appalachia couldn’t find the political support to stop the attack on our homeland and we began to organize. While our county, state and federal leaders turned a blind eye and deaf ear to us…We formed a movement. Appalachians have depended on our democracy (the American people) to help defend us as our politicians and regulatory agencies have not.
The previous administration’s Environmental Protection Agency rubber-stamped MTR mining permits in the name of “homeland security”. Currently there have been new guidelines set within the EPA to seriously curtail MTR. As Appalachians and Americans we say this is not enough. We work daily to ABOLISH mountaintop removal. We’re not after another piece of legislation to justify or excuse it. The practice of blowing up mountains to supply electricity MUST stop. Our very lives depend on it.
These mountains are the lifeblood of our existence. Our ancestors are veterans of ALL world wars. This is the part of our country that they fought to defend beginning over 200 years ago. Our soldier’s resting places are often at the peaks of these mountains. Their cemeteries are now surrounded by miles of nothing but rubble and are left inaccessible to families. Where majestic, breath taking views use to overlook the nearby valley towns, it is now devastation as far as the eye can see. One thing to think about is the fact that mountaintop removal and communities CANNOT co-exist. This type of mining will never benefit communities nearby. The areas that Katrina hit are rebuilding. There is NO rebuilding after MTR. The towns are simply erased.
Maria Gunnoe is from Boone County, WV where her family has lived for generations. Her house and land now sit below a mountaintop removal mine site; it has caused continual flooding and many other problems that led her to take a stand and begin to work against mountaintop removal. Through the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, she works on educating her community about the effects of mountaintop removal and what they can do to stop the practice. In 2009, Gunnoe was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, awarded annually to six grassroots environmental heroes from around the world.