WASHINGTON-- Hundreds are participating today with Mountain Justice, Rainforest Action Network and other environmental groups in nationwide protests demanding an end to mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. As part of the national day of action, 14 people staged a sit-in at the EPA headquarters in Washington, DC. They were joined by approximately 50 coalfield residents and allies who held a rally in front of the building. Those in attendance represent a coalition of environmental groups and Appalachian community members who are asking the EPA to take immediate action to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. In particular, the group is asking the EPA to intervene in the destruction of Coal River Mountain, WV, the site of a potential 328-megawatt wind farm, which Massey Energy began blasting this week.
While President Obama spent the week touting his administration’s support for clean energy, Massey Energy began dynamiting Coal River Mountain in West Virginia, a national flashpoint in the battle to replace destructive mountaintop removal coal mining practices with clean energy and green jobs.
“The fate of Coal River Mountain and our clean energy future is in the EPA’s hands,” said Kate Rooth of the Rainforest Action Network who took part in the sit-in. “By intervening to stop the blasting of Coal River Mountain and to protect our nation’s clean energy resources, the Obama Administration has a chance to show that it will stand up for the nation’s new energy priorities and green jobs even against persistent dirty coal interests; this is how we protect the economy and the planet.”
In recent months, the EPA has set out a number of new restrictions on mountaintop mining practices, including a recent decision to revoke a permit for the Spruce Mine in West Virginia due to water quality impacts; the first time since the passing of the Clean Water Protection Act that the agency has revoked an already approved mining permit. Environmentalists believe that the urgency of the Coal River Mountain case necessitates that the EPA intervene, and follow the Spruce Mine precedent.
Coal River Mountain gained national notoriety after a study showed that its peaks and ridges have enough wind potential to provide 70,000 households with electricity, support 700 long-term green jobs and give back $1.7 million in annual county taxes. Over the objections of the local community, the site has been granted permits for mountaintop removal. Massey Energy began dynamiting peaks this week, which will destroy any hope for the proposed wind farm unless the EPA intervenes.
"Every day, more than 3 million pounds of explosives are detonated in our state to remove our mountains and expose the thin seams of coal beneath,” said Bo Webb, a resident of Coal River Valley WV and a participant in today’s rally. “President Obama, I beg you to re-light our flame of hope and honor and immediately stop the coal companies from blasting so near our homes and endangering our lives. As you have said, we must find another way than blowing off the tops of our mountains. We must end mountaintop removal.”
If the blasting at Coal River Mountain is allowed to continue, mountaintop removal coal mining will destroy one of the last intact mountains in Appalachia. In the process, it will endanger hundreds of people living in the valley below, as the project requires blasting dynamite less than 100 yards from the largest coal sludge impoundment in the country. Massey Energy’s own assessment indicates that if the impoundment, an earthen dam, is breached more than eight billion gallons of coal slurry will spill out endangering hundreds of people who would have less than five minutes to evacuate.
Called the worst of the worst coal mining, mountaintop removal decapitates Appalachian peaks, denudes lush forests, and dumps debris into valley streams -- destroying or damaging more than a thousand miles of mountain waterways to date.
For more information on the Coal River Mountain wind project:
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org