Last week, Rainforest Action Network and three allies testified at Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting, urging them to drop coal, to stop profiting from environmental destruction and human rights abuses. In the next two weeks, we'll be posting the statements of our three allies. Add your voice by telling Bank of America to stop funding coal -- and come clean on climate change.
My name is Elise Keaton. I am the Executive Director of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation and I am from southern West Virginia. I currently live in Charleston, West Virginia. I am here today to ask you to please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and my community.
On January 9 of this year, I came home from work, poured a big glass of water from my tap and drank it. As soon as I set my glass down I received a text message from my landlord stating, “Don’t drink the water! There has been a chemical leak!”
Over the next hours, I experienced acute symptoms from exposure to the coal-processing chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), including irritated eyes, nose and throat, nausea, and stomach cramps. If the spill had been immediately lethal, I thought, the authorities would have sounded the chemical valley alarms. So I monitored my symptoms and concluded that I did not need to go to the emergency room that night. I figured that the next day, we would know more about what had happened.
What we learned over the next week was that a Freedom Industries facility storing coal-processing chemicals leaked MCHM into the Elk River, contaminating the drinking water for 300,000 households. The first question a thinking human being should ask is, “Why are 300,000 households, spread across nine counties in a rural state like West Virginia on a single water source in the city of Charleston?”
The answer is: their local water sources have already been compromised by the mining industry. Their streams and springs have been destroyed or buried by mountaintop removal. Their wells have been compromised by blasting or polluted by coal slurry injections.
And instead of addressing the sources of this pollution, the political-industrial establishment in West Virginia decided that your quarterly profits were more important than clean water for our communities and they answered that loss of water by extending the municipal water source further and further out into those counties.
Four months later, we still lack access to guaranteed safe drinking water in West Virginia. Our esteemed congresspeople have insisted that they are drinking the water. But no public health official has declared the water safe to drink.
I am 34 years old and I am getting married this summer. I've waited a long time to start my family. Now, I have postponed my plans to have children indefinitely because no one can tell me the impact MCHM may have had on me and my reproductive ability.
I am here today to ask you to please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and my community. The minuscule profits you received as a result of mountaintop removal mining are incomparable to the catastrophic damage caused by the practice. It is killing us.
More than 20 peer-reviewed health studies have shown that living near mountaintop removal sites is deadly for the people of Appalachia. Please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and my community.
I will close with this: when you remove coal by blowing up a mountain to extract it you have destroyed a “water maker” for the equivalent of one hour’s worth of electricity for the United States. Let me repeat that. When you extract coal by mountaintop removal you kill a resource that will make water forever -- for the equivalent of one hour’s worth of energy for the U.S. How is that a good investment?
As shareholders of one of the largest financial institutions in the world, you are savvy investors and business minded individuals. How is destroying the mountains that create clean water for a very small, short term financial benefit a good investment? Please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and our communities. Your profits from mountaintop removal mean death for us.
Stand with Elise and RAN by telling Bank of America to stop funding coal -- and come clean on climate change.
85 Supporters of Mountain Justice gather at Natural Tunnel State Park for Spring Break Duffield, VA - About 85 young participants from coal communities in Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, as well as students from colleges and universities across the country, are convening this week at Natural Tunnel State Park in Duffield, Scott County, Virginia, to participate in Mountain Justice Spring Break (MJSB), a program of Mountain Justice. The week-long program features workshops on supporting local campaigns to stop mountaintop removal coal extraction. The event began Friday, March 12 and will end Saturday, March 20, and will include working closely with coalfield residents. "We're here, and we're all working together with the community to stop mountaintop removal coal mining and support sustainable economies," said Jessie Dodson of Richmond, Virgina, an organizer of MJSB. "Coal companies like A&G are destroying our communities by polluting our water and air and making people sick." Supporters are making trips to see mountaintop removal coal sites in the region, as well as lending a hand with area service projects such as weatherization. Participants hope that the weatherization will reduce the impacts of rising energy costs. Mountain Justice supports these efforts as part of the move toward a more sustainable community and economy. Participants in the program are taking classes in appreciation of Appalachian culture, the history of coal mining, the impacts of mining on mountain streams and rivers, alternative economic development, and community organizing. Local citizens concerned about mountaintop removal coal mining held a panel Saturday evening. One of the panelists was Dorothy Taulby, a former resident of Stonega, Virginia, who told her story of being flooded out of her house and being diagnosed with lung cancer. "As a resident of a major coal state, it's great to come together in a space with other young people from all over the country in order to work with the people of Appalachia in their own communities to create new clean energy economies and move away from mountaintop removal coal mining," said Beth Bissmeyer of Louisville, Kentucky, a participant in MJSB. Mountain Justice is an organization that seeks to stop mountaintop removal coal mining and build sustainable economies in the Appalachian region. It works to protect the cultural and natural heritage of the Appalachia coal fields by contributing with grassroots organizing, public education, nonviolent civil disobedience, and other forms of citizen action. To learn more about the organization Mountain Justice, please visit: www.mountainjustice.org To learn more about the week-long program, please visit: www.mjsb.org Contact: Marley Green, firstname.lastname@example.org