Monday, October 26, 2009

Call to Action: Mountaintop Removal Has Begun at Coal River Mountain

Disturbing news out of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal coal mining has begun at Coal River Mountain in the southern part of the state. Here's the breaking news alert from

Just last night, we confirmed reports that Massey Energy has begun blasting on Coal River Mountain in southern West Virginia. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has stated that the mining operation on the mountain is "actively moving coal." Workers were seen throughout this past week moving heavy equipment up to the mining zones, and blasting and plumes of smoke were seen and heard near the Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment on Friday.

The Brushy Fork impoundment is an enormous retention pond holding 8.2 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry waste. If the impoundment were to fail due to the blasting, hundreds of lives will be lost and thousands more will be in jeopardy from an enormous slurry flood.

A 2006 study confirmed that Coal River Mountain—the highest peaks ever slated for mining in the state—is an ideal location for developing utility-scale wind power. Local residents have rallied around this proposal as a symbol of hope, a promise of a new and cleaner energy future, but that hope may be destroyed unless quick and decisive action is taken right now. (bolding added by me for emphasis)

Moreover, this is a clear example of the old energy regime attempting to quash its competitors in the new energy economy. A proposed mountain wind farm that is gaining support could have a tangible impact on the local economy:

A wind assessment study conducted by Coal River Mountain Watch and Downstream Stategies revealed that Coal River Mountain has enough wind potential to provide electricity for over 150,000 homes and create stable, well-paying jobs—forever.

The proposed wind farm would help diversify the local economy in an area historically dependent upon sparse, temporary coal mining jobs, pumping $20 million per year in direct local spending during construction and $2 million per year thereafter. Destroying the mountain will also be destroying one of the best wind power sites in West Virginia.

Aside from being positively garish, the results of mountaintop removal are incredibly toxic for the local environment and surrounding communities. Here's a quote from a local Eyewitness News story about the effects of mountaintop removal:
"Twenty-two year old Josh McCormick is dying of kidney cancer. Twenty-six year old Tanya Trale has had a tumor removed from her breast; her husband has had two tumors removed from his side and both have had their gallbladders taken out. Rita Lambert has had her gallbladder removed; so has her husband and both parents. Jennifer Massey has a mouthful of crowns and so does her son after their enamel was eaten away, and six of her neighbors - all unrelated - have had brain tumors, including her 29-year old brother, who died. Bill Arden is one of those neighbors. He survived his brain tumor, but Arden's eight-year old boxer named Sampson did not. What do all of these people have in common? They all live within a 3-mile radius of Prenter Hollow in Boone County, West Virginia. And all have well water."
Pretty damning. But of course it's not the coal companies' fault. Matter of fact, we're mere moments away from perfectly clean coal which will solve all of our problems.

This is a call to action. Mountaintop removal has to be stopped, not just because of the wind farm that won't get built if this mountain is destroyed, but because of the poisons these local residents will consume if the mining is allowed to continue.

Last November, we voted for change. Call President Obama and tell him to live up to his promise to hold special interests accountable and move America forward with a new energy economy: 202-456-1111.

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