Jun 18, 2010
Yesterday, coalfield residents and organizers from across Appalachia gathered on the West Virginia state capital steps in Charleston, calling for an end to mountaintop removal and surface mining.
Here, they announced Appalachia Rising, a mass mobilization set for September 27th in Washington, DC and issued a rallying call for thousands to join in demanding the Obama Administration abolish surface mining and invest in sustainable economic diversification in Appalachia.
While local officials and the legislature are kissing the sooty ring of King Coal, West Virginians are losing their homes, their health, and their jobs.
Speaking an uncomfortable truth to power about the destruction wrought by surface mining, Boone County resident and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition organizer Maria Gunnoe yesterday said, “Lindytown, Sharples, Mifflin, Jack's Branch...I've literally watched throughout Boone County as places have disappeared forever, erased.”
Surface mining is destroying the Appalachians and everything that relies on them, including Appalachian communities. The mining practice releases cancer-causing particulates into the air and contaminates water. Giant reservoirs of toxic coal slurry loom over schools and community spaces. Coal companies are required to restore mountain elevations after their mines are used up, but they do little more than hydro-seed the gravel where mountaintops used to be. Nothing can grow or live on these “restored” mountains thereafter.
And the numbers of miners in West Virginia have fallen from over 60,000 to less than 20,000 in the past thirty years while in the same time period, coal production has nearly doubled in West Virginia. These divergent trends are partly the cause of mountaintop removal, which, despite its massive footprint, kills jobs.
Solutions exist. West Virginia's Mountaineer Wind Energy Center is the largest wind farm on the eastern seaboard. But there's no time to wait; when a mountaintop is blown to pieces, the lower the wind speeds are at the top, generating less electricity and less potential for more wind energy development. As the days pass, the opportunity to enact these alternatives is literally being blasted away.
Appalachia has paid a heavy price to provide a mere 7 percent of the country's coal. That's why residents of these communities who have for years cultivated a symbiotic relationship with the mountains, from which they've derived centuries' worth of culture and livelihood, are rising up.
From the Appalachia Rising Vision Statement:
“Appalachia Rising declares that we are not a national sacrifice zone. We will not stand idly by as we see our past and future blasted to rubble, our communities and mountains eliminated, and our neighbors poisoned as coal executives and their shareholders grow rich. Appalachians are not, and never will be, collateral damage. We are proud of our coal mining fathers, hard-working neighbors, and Appalachian past, present and future!”