Oct 19, 2011
We at CRMW are inspired and excited by the ongoing "Occupy" protests. We stand in solidarity with those who are protesting corporate power and calling for a more just society.
Corporate greed and the unchecked power of corporations in our democracy are some of the most important issues of our time. Although geographically far from Wall Street, southern West Virginia is deeply and painfully familiar with the power it represents. The people in the streets of New York understand this too. During last Saturday's Occupy Wall Street march, some demonstrators detoured to Bank of America's New York Headquarters to stage a "die-in" protesting Bank of America's financing of MTR. Carrying signs that spoke to the devastating health effects from MTR, the protesters took B of A to task for financing companies like Patriot and Arch Coal, the second and third largest practitioners of MTR.
What are some of the underlying factors that allow mountaintop removal to continue, despite its devastating effects on communities and public health?
Corporate land ownership. Corporations literally own West Virginia – the last study of land ownership (done in 1981) found that nearly 60% of West Virginia's land is owned by landholding corporations and the percentage is even higher in coalfield counties. These landholding companies don't pay their fair share of property tax, leading to lower tax revenues and social services in these counties. Corporate land ownership also makes it impossible for communities to have access to the mountains for community energy development and other economic alternatives.
Corporate control of politics and regulatory agencies. Politics in West Virginia is dominated by the coal industry, and our state Department of "Environmental Protection" is notorious for turning a blind eye to violations and ignoring community concerns. As one example, Massey Energy violated the Clean Water Act more than 4500 times between 2000 and 2006, according to its own self-reported data. Some pollutants were discharged at levels more than 10 times over the permit limits. The DEP issued no citations.
Wall Street financing. The increased mechanization of the coal industry that has been primarily responsible for the loss of mining jobs over the past several decades while enabling increasingly destructive forms of mining has been funded by Wall Street. In 2010, the top ten banks financing mountaintop removal mining provided more than $2.5 billion in financing to companies that are engaged in mountaintop removal.
Until there is enough organized citizen pressure to counter the power that corporations hold in our democracy and our economy, our work will continue to be undermined by corporate greed and corruption. Find an Occupy protest near you: www.occupytogether.org