Pages tagged "mtr"

Barclays cuts ties with mountaintop removal coal, says MTR will be “phased out” soon

Barclays was the world’s top lender to mountaintop removal coal firms prior to announcing new policy

Barclays PLC, the number one bankroller of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining worldwide in 2013, has announced it is ending its financial support to the controversial practice. Barclays ruled out future financing for mountaintop removal projects and companies, citing MTR’s negative environmental and social impacts, as well as market forces. In its policy statement, Barclays also forecast that MTR will soon be “phased out” entirely, as a result of increased market and regulatory pressures. The Barclays announcement comes just weeks after U.S.-based PNC Financial announced its own policy restricting financing for MTR coal producers.

Full Barclays policy available here:

Reacting to the news of the announcement, Rainforest Action Network Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner Ben Collins issued the following statement:

“It’s a big deal when the world’s number one bankroller of mountaintop removal announces it has rescinded its support to this destructive practice. We’re going to monitor Barclays’s future financing decisions very closely to see how this policy is implemented, but overall the announcement is a very good step in the right direction.

“It’s also a powerful affirmation of what we’ve been saying for years to see Barclays predict that mountaintop removal will be ‘phased out’ as a result of both market and regulatory pressure. That stark assessment points to just how toxic and risky this practice has become in the eyes of the financial industry. However, our work is not done yet; we won’t declare victory until mountaintop removal ends. Not only does mountaintop removal literally destroy entire mountains, but it leaves widespread devastation in its wake for communities across Appalachia.

“Following this news, we will continue to exert pressure on laggard banks that put their financial support behind a practice that has no place in a civilized society. Banks like Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs should take note of the decision by Barclays and adopt their own policies to end financing for mountaintop removal.”

Barclays was number one worldwide in financing for mountaintop removal coal producers in 2013, as documented in the 2014 Coal Finance Report Card,“Extreme Investments, Extreme Consequences,” released by Rainforest Action Network, the Sierra Club, and BankTrack. In 2013, Barclays financed $550 million in loan and bond transactions for mountaintop removal producers, acting as lead arranger in seven of these transactions.

RAN has campaigned to push numerous banks to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, UBS, RBS, Société Générale, and PNC Financial have all previously adopted policies restricting financing for MTR, under pressure from RAN and other groups. The 2015 Coal Finance Report Card will be released later this month.

For additional information on market trends in mountaintop removal finance, including summaries of various bank positions on MTR, please see the following background memo:


Claire Sandberg, (U.S.) 646-641-6431,

PNC Bank Policy on Mountaintop Removal a Positive Step


March 2, 2014

contact: Claire Sandberg,

Today PNC Financial Services Group joined the growing ranks of financial institutions that have officially sanctioned the coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal (MTR.) Citing concerns about the environmental and health impacts of MTR, as well as financial risks, PNC pledged to no longer extend credit to individual MTR mining projects or to firms with 25 percent or more of their production coming from MTR.

Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which has for years worked to push the financial sector to disavow MTR, hailed the new PNC policy as a positive indication that MTR is increasingly seen as being unbankable. “PNC took a big step in the right direction today by acknowledging the serious health and environmental impacts of mountaintop removal, and by committing to reduce its exposure to this toxic practice. We’ll be scrutinizing PNC’s future financing decisions to see how this new policy is implemented,” said RAN Climate and Energy Program Director Amanda Starbuck. “Overall, we see today’s news as indicative of a broader trend within the financial sector. Banks no longer want to be associated with a dangerous, abhorrent practice like mountaintop removal; there is an emerging financial industry consensus that these practices are unacceptable. Concretely, this means mountaintop removal companies will have a harder time securing financing to operate and expand in the future.”

With this new commitment, PNC joins the growing ranks of banks that have adopted policies to cut financing for top MTR producers. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, RBS, BNP Paribas, and UBS have all cut ties with firms that specialize in mountaintop removal.

PNC’s new MTR policy, released today as part of the PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report (available online here), reads as follows:

“Driven by environmental and health concerns, as well as our risk appetite, we introduced a mountaintop removal (MTR) financing policy in late 2010 and subsequently enhanced that policy in 2014. As a result, our MTR financing exposure has declined significantly and will continue to do so moving forward. Overall, PNC’s exposure to firms participating in MTR represents less than one-quarter of 1 percent of PNC’s total financing commitments. Under the policy, PNC will not extend credit to individual MTR mining projects or to coal producers with 25 percent or more of their production coming from MTR mining.”

In an introduction to the 2015 CSR report, PNC CEO William Demchak also wrote, “Our businesses implemented a number of important changes in 2014 to make environmental considerations a more prominent factor in PNC’s lending while still balancing those considerations with the economic needs of the communities we serve. As part of these efforts, we enhanced PNC’s mountaintop removal (MTR) financing policy. Due to environmental and health concerns, as well as our risk appetite, our MTR financing exposure has declined significantly over time, with current exposure to firms participating in MTR representing less than one-quarter of one percent of PNC’s total financing commitments, and it will continue to decline.


5 Photos That Show Why Barclays Bank Must Stop Financing Mountain Destruction

Barclays, the British banking giant, is the number one financier of companies engaged in mountaintop removal mining for coal.

Often referred to as MTR, mountaintop removal is a horrendous practice that destroys mountains, poisons water supplies and hurts communities. That's why more than 19,000 Rainforest Action Members have sent messages to Barclays demanding the drop MTR financing and is one reason protests confronted the banks annual share holder meeting in London this week.

Barclays executives should take a good long look at these photos. Maybe then they'll stop investing in mountain destruction.

Paul Corbit Brown MTR image

MTR uses explosives to literally blow off the tops of mountains and get the coal underneath.

MTR site

Hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful mountains and forest are being destroyed in central Appalachia by companies using MTR.

Contaminated Stream

The rubble from mountaintop removal mining is then pushed into valleys where local streams and water sources are contaminated.

Contaminate Well Water

Hundreds of families have had their wells destroyed by nearby mining practices. Cancer, birth defects, heart and long disease and shortened life spans plague communities near MTR sites.

Polluted vs. Clean

The difference between contaminated and clean water can be stark. It is time for Barclays to get on the right side of history and stop financing companies that poison water.

Photos by Paul Corbit Brown.

From Appalachia to London, Barclays Bank Takes Heat for Coal Financing

There is nothing quite like giving one of world's biggest banks a bad day. A bad week is even better.

Today, protestors swamped Barclays' annual shareholder meeting in London, calling out all sorts of nefarious deeds committed by the bank: speculating on food prices, supporting tax havens, ridiculous executive bonuses and its outrageous financing of the world's dirtiest fuel, coal. BarclaysEagle

Our friends at World Development Movement showed up as well-dressed eagles to spoof the bank's logo and call Barclays out for being the world's largest financier of mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR) in Appalachia.

Paul Corbit Brown, an Appalachian native and president of Keeper of the Mountains, drove the message home when he testified at today's Annual General Meeting about how MTR goes beyond just leveling mountains. It poisons communities and causes devastating health problems wherever it is practiced.

Since last Thursday, Rainforest Action Network members have sent more than 19,000 messages to Barclays and demanded the bank immediately start moving away from financing mountain destruction.

Our pressure appears to be working. World Development Movement reports that Barclays has agreed to meet with Paul for a further discussion of MTR.

Photo Credit: World Development Movement

I'm Visiting Barclays Bank and I Need You to Back Me Up

Paul Corbit Brown MTR imageThis is a guest post by Paul Corbit Brown, president, Keeper of the Mountains.

Tomorrow, I’m visiting Barclays and I need you to back me up.

In 2013 Barclays gave $550 million in financial support, more than any other bank, to companies destroying my home of central Appalachia with mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR).

That's why I've traveled all the way to England to speak at Barclays' annual shareholder meeting. I want to ensure that the bank's leaders and shareholders know about the true scale of destruction caused by MTR.

Will you help make sure Barclays can’t ignore the devastation? Click here to tell Barclays to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining!

MTR is destroying everything I love. More than just leveling mountains, it will pollute our water for countless generations. The health of all those around me is already suffering. Cancer, birth defects, lung disease, heart disease, and dramatically shortened life expectancies have sadly become normal in the communities where MTR is practiced.

The coal industry could not do its dirty work without the help of banks like Barclays. We need to make sure the bank and its shareholders hear that no corporation and no individual has the ethical right to profit from the destruction and sickness caused by MTR.

When people like us hold banks responsible for financing destruction, we can make a difference. We've already persuaded JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and BNP Paribas to move away from MTR financing.

Barclays bank's executive team will be under tough scrutiny at their shareholder meeting. If we act in unison today, we can ensure that the message I'm going to deliver to the meeting packs a powerful punch—and demands responsible and ethical action from the bank.

Tell Barclays to take responsibility for its investments and stop financing mountain destruction!

GFC-Paul-HeadshotPaul Corbit Brown is president of Keeper of the Mountains, a West Virginia-based foundation that aims to educate and inspire people to work for healthier, more sustainable mountain communities and an end to mountaintop removal. He is a photographer who has worked in more than a dozen countries and exhibited throughout the United States.

Extreme Coal - No Longer Business as Usual

Extreme Investments

For the first time since we began publishing coal finance report cards five years ago, we have an encouraging trend to report: Major banks have begun making noise about the growing financial risk associated with climate change—and specifically associated with coal, the top global contributor to carbon pollution.

On top of that, major banks have begun to cut ties with the biggest mountaintop removal (MTR) coal companies. This progress has exposed a growing gap between banks that are still sinking billions into coal, and those that are cutting ties with the worst-of-the-worst in the coal industry.

Today, RAN, the Sierra Club, and BankTrack released our 2014 Coal Finance Report Card, “Extreme Investments, Extreme Consequences,” which grades U.S. banks on their performance and policies related to coal-fired power and mountaintop removal coal mining. We also uncovered the top financiers of contentious coal export schemes like those in the Pacific Northwest and coal trains that transport dusty coal across the United States.

All told, banks sank over $31 billion into the worst companies in the coal industry last year, with $6.5 billion coming from Citigroup, the top funder of coal-fired power. However, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo began to phase out financing for MTR, earning our first ever “B” grades, and marking a positive trend away from the extreme mining practice.

Meanwhile, UK-based Barclays increased its exposure to MTR, financing $550 million for mountaintop removal coal companies last year, more than any other bank.

Environmental damage from mining, transporting, and burning coal—including health hazards like air pollution and water contamination from spills—doesn’t just harm communities and the environment, it costs banks money. In the report card, we highlight examples of this in case studies about the rising cost of clean-up for water contamination at mine sites, increases in coal company bankruptcies, and money-losing coal-fired power plants.

Download the 2014 Coal Finance Report Card

Download the 2014 Coal Finance Report Card.

The report comes on the heels of analyst publications from Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Citigroup last year, each of which challenged the case for continued investment in the coal industry. These and other banks have acknowledged that power plant regulations, a potential price on carbon, and competition from renewable energy sources could “strand” assets such as coal mining, transport, and power generation facilities. With billions of dollars in loans on the line, it’s not a question of if climate risk will translate into financial risk, but when.

Ironically, these very same banks maintain deep financial ties to the riskiest and most environmentally destructive companies in the U.S. coal industry. As credit ratings for some coal mining companies sank farther below investment grade last year, banks continued to place bets on risky loans to the sector.

The report card warns banks that before the carbon bubble bursts onto their balance sheets, it will irreversibly destabilize the climate. So while we are happy to report that a few banks took the first steps to cut off financing to the worst-of-the-worst of the coal industry, the banking industry as a whole must now cut its losses and forge a path away from coal, before it’s too late for both them and us.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Barclays, the number one banker of mountaintop removal, to end its support of destroying mountains and poisoning communities for coal.

Breakthrough: JPMorgan Chase Dropping Mountain Destruction

This could be the tipping point for the horrific practice of Mountaintop Removal coal mining. Just this week, JPMorgan Chase updated its environmental policy, revealing that it will be ending financial relationships with Mountaintop Removal coal mining companies. Wells Fargo and BNP Paribas/Bank of the West have recently taken similar steps. If the other major banks commit to stop financing mountaintop removal, fossil fuel companies will have no choice but to end the obliteration of mountains and poisoning of communities for coal. That's why thousands of people are joining Rainforest Action Network to tell Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to stop financing Mountaintop Removal coal mining! [caption id="attachment_23642" align="alignnone" width="500"]MTR Site Photo: Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition[/caption] Mountaintop Removal (MTR) is a mining practice that uses explosives to literally blow the tops off mountains for the coal inside. The rubble is then pushed into streams and poisons the water supply for thousands of people. This is morally unacceptable and why many, many local communities in Appalachia, along with activists around the world, are taking a stand against MTR. For more than five years, Rainforest Action Network members like you have demanded JPMorgan Chase and other banks drop MTR financing. And while we’ll have to remain vigilant to ensure JPMorgan Chase stays on the path away from MTR, the bank’s new policy demonstrates that your activism is working. JPMorgan Chase will no longer be doing business with companies like Alpha Natural Resources—the worst of the worst when it comes to MTR. Last month, the EPA issued Alpha the largest water pollution discharge penalty in the history of the Clean Water Act. The company also faces ten lawsuits over water pollution at its MTR mines.; JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States, shows that the smart money is leaving companies like Alpha Natural Resources. Other major banks do not want to be singled out for continuing to support environmental destruction and poisoning communities. TAKE ACTION: Tell the banks to drop Alpha Natural Resources and adopt a policy to phase out MTR financing. Our movement is truly turning the tide against MTR. Companies like Alpha Natural Resources need financing from big banks to continue the destruction. If we make sure the banks can’t hide their responsibility for keeping MTR alive, we can force them to act to protect their image. JPMorgan Chase is acting to protect its image right now by moving out of MTR financing. Let’s use that momentum. Send the banks a message today and help end Mountaintop Removal coal mining once and for all.

5 Ways Our Network Is Saving the Planet

nokxl sf vigilDear friends, Early in the New Year, I received a text concerning my two nieces that read, “We are all safe but leaving town—state of Emergency declared in Charleston as a result of coal chemical spilled into river.” Although I’m very aware of the impacts coal has on the health of people and planet, the reality of it hitting so close to home has me more fired up than ever about the work Rainforest Action Network has to do this year. So far the chemical spill in West Virginia is a story about a completely preventable accident, but it’s my belief that it will also be a story of organizing, resisting corporate control and bringing the end of coal even closer. It was a spill that happened just weeks before the release of the State Department’s final environmental assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline which gives President Obama all the room he needs to prevent the disasters that we will see should he approve the Keystone XL pipeline. I believe in my core that the only way we can tackle the challenges we face is by fully leveraging our entire network. This year, I’m committed and excited to share RAN’s thinking, listen to your input and find ways for you to engage more deeply in our work. In 2014 we will work harder than ever to keep fossil fuels in the ground, forests standing and communities thriving. This year we are resolved to focus on five key areas that are vital for our planet: 1) Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline We will not accept the development of a pipeline that threatens to lock in an estimated one billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime. Last year, RAN teamed up with CREDO and The Other 98% to launch the “Pledge of Resistance,” making clear their opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. To date, over 76,000 people have pledged to take peaceful direct action in their communities to resist the Keystone XL pipeline, and RAN has helped to train and build a community of hundreds of action leaders across the country.  And it doesn’t end with President Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. At RAN we believe this level of engagement must be the new norm for our movement to ensure that not only do we stop this project, but that we are prepared to stop dirty energy projects that would follow. 2)   Remove Conflict Palm Oil from our Food In rainforests half a world away, orangutans are making their last stand against extinction — scientists believe that they could be extinct in the wild in our lifetime. But the threat to their survival lies much closer to home. You’ll find it hidden in the snack food aisle of your local grocery store — and in your shopping cart. To grow cheap palm oil, America’s snack food brands are driving the last wild orangutans to extinction, enslaving children and destroying rainforests that are critical to maintaining a stable climate. As thoughtful consumers, we have the power to make them listen. Our strategy is working. This year we will continue negotiating with consumer brand companies to develop or improve palm oil procurement policies for 100% traceable and responsible palm oil and will continue to push for improvements from the largest U.S importer of palm oil, Cargill. Every time we sign a petition or sticker foods that contain Conflict Palm Oil, we bring more attention to this incredibly important issue, and we give more power to our movement. 3)   Challenge Bank of America to Stop Financing Climate Change. The five largest American banks are among the most significant global underwriters of the coal industry, and therefore global climate change emissions. In spite of the human and environmental costs of coal as well as the growing financial risks associated with investments in the coal industry, Bank of America alone has invested billions and maintained its position as the largest funder of coal. Bank of America and other U.S. banks have been slow to address this risk, lagging behind their European counterparts. We will work to pressure banks to account for their financed emissions by adopting climate policies at least as strong as the European banks. This autumn, we worked with students on 35 campuses to challenge Bank of America graduate recruitment programs. Hundreds of students showed up at 65 information sessions and interviews to declare, “We won’t work for climate chaos.” Now that we have the bank’s attention, we’re working to improve its policies and move funding away from climate-destroying enterprises. 4)   End the Use of Paper Made from Rainforests Last year, one of the largest paper companies in the world, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) released its rainforest protection commitments, a major first step for a company that has a history of destructive practices when it comes to rainforests and human rights. Over the past year, RAN has helped to strengthen APP’s commitments while working with groups on the ground to make sure that implementation is happening in the forest. While a policy on paper is an important step, we are working to make sure that the bulldozers remain idle and communities are given a voice in decisions about their lands. Until APP implements changes that can guarantee rainforests and communities are protected, we will use our market leverage to ensure large corporate customers understand that it is too soon to resume business with APP. 5)   Provide Small Grants to Local Communities Fighting for the Planet Over the past ten years, RAN’s Small Grants program has distributed more than a million dollars to Indigenous-led and local grassroots organizations to help secure protection for millions of acres of traditional territory in forests around the world and to help defend their communities and their environment from the fossil fuel industry. In 2014 we hope to expand our Small Grants program and increase the amount of money going directly to communities. This year our goal is to distribute $173,000 to communities fighting to defend our planet. At RAN we know we need to set ever-more audacious goals if we’re going to advocate for forests, the climate and communities. Which is why I’m asking you to join us on our ambitious journey into 2014, because we can’t accomplish any of these things without your support.  Visit our Take Action page to learn more about how you can be a part of this important movement. You are the Network that gives me strength to sit across the table from CEOs of corporate giants like Bank of America and Cargill and demand more than modest or incremental changes. This is the time for bold action, and I’m drawing you closer because you’re crucial to us accomplishing what is necessary for forests, people and planet. Now that I’ve shared what I want to fight for in 2014, I’d like to ask you to share what you are committed to doing for people and planet this year. Tweet me your ideas at @lrallen. I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities that lie ahead of us this year, and am honored to be on this journey with you. For people and planet in 2014, Lindsey

Investor Summit: Bank of America puts our Climate at Risk

RAN-Bank-of-America-re-nameThis post is by Yann Louvel, BankTrack Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator.

Earlier this month, Bank of America participated in the 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk as the “convening sponsor” of the event. While there was a lot of talk about the urgency of the problem of tackling climate change, there were a few things the bank didn’t talk about. For starters, their role in financing the coal industry.

The 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk took place at the United Nations in New York on January 14th. Among the speakers was Lisa Carnoy, Head of Global Capital Markets for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, whose bio tells us that she “leads 700 Capital Markets professionals across Equity Capital Markets, Debt Capital Markets, Leveraged Finance and Origination of Corporate Derivatives and FX across the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Emerging Markets.”

If the bank’s finance for fossil fuels wasn’t mentioned at all, what do you think Carnoy did talk about in her speech? You may be pleased to hear that she conveyed the great imperative felt by the banking sector on climate change. Bank of America’s approach to the issue would be “like a hockey team: we’re fierce, we’re fast, and we feel the urgency.” What’s more, the banking sector as a whole was coming together to “put aside its natural competitiveness,” because “this is incredibly important, the time is now, and we need to work together.”

Great! So how had this fierce, fast hockey team come together to tackle climate change? The one initiative Carnoy presented was the Green Bonds Principles, a set of voluntary guidelines for how banks can develop and issue bonds to support green industries, which she implored investors to get behind.

While we support any efforts to scale up finance for genuine alternatives to fossil fuels, Bank of America’s backing for green bonds is dwarfed by the activities that Carnoy did not talk about. These are the activities that we have been exploring in our most recent reports: its finance for the coal sector. Bank of America was ranked the number three “climate killer bank” worldwide in the BankTrack network’s 2011 Bankrolling Climate Change report, which covered investments in 70 of the largest coal companies between 2005 and 2011. And in BankTrack’s more recent Banking on Coal report, Bank of America again ranked world number three, this time in its finance for coal mining, based on an analysis of finance for 70 coal mining companies worldwide.

Among the deals Carnoy did not talk about are some (not remotely green) bonds issued by her Capital Markets team over the last two years, which helped to raise over $1 billion for Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal. These companies are pure-play US coal miners, and are being targeted by campaigners for their involvement in destructive mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. These bonds are toxic for our climate as well as for the investors who buy them, spreading climate risk through the financial markets in the form of potential future “stranded assets.”

While Bank of America is asking investors to back the Green Bonds Principles, it is investors who should be asking Bank of America to stop feeding them with these financially risky climate killer bonds. And now that Bank of America feels the “urgency” and “imperative” of tackling climate change, it would do well to stop financing climate change through issuing bonds for coal mining.

It is time for banks to come together, put aside their natural competitiveness, and agree to stop financing coal. Because this is incredibly important. The time is now.

Why You Should Give A Sh*t That Water In West Virginia Is Contaminated

Lindsey and nieces in West VirginiaAs I wrote last week, my two nieces live in Charleston, WV. Although their water has now been cleared as “safe,” they continue to have no clean water to drink. So, as you can imagine, I’m pissed. But there are a few reasons why I’m pissed. And it didn’t start with the unbelievable quote from West Virginia's Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who said, "I'm not going to say absolutely, 100 percent that everything is safe. But what I can say is if you do not feel comfortable, don't use it." It was frustrating to see most major media outlets perpetuate the illusion that, once water was deemed safe by officials, things could return to normal—contradicting actual residents who continued to find the chemicals in their tap water despite repeatedly flushing their pipes. (Send a letter to your local newspaper and demand they tell the full story!) It was frustrating to realize that a lack of regulations helped create this disaster, which was completely preventable. However, I’m most pissed that this is just one obvious example of the true price we pay for our dependence on coal. Unfortunately, coal-related water contamination in Appalachia is not a new story or a unique occurrence. In the rural hollers of West Virginia, dozens of communities have already had their water poisoned, because toxic waste from mountaintop removal coal mining has seeped into aquifers, irreversibly ruining wells that people have used for generations. A 2012 study found that 14 counties in West Virginia had water that did not meet safe drinking water standards. In counties where mining occurred, water was seven times worse than in counties without mining. In addition, contamination of watersheds in West Virginia is part of the reason why so many people depend on a single water source. Runaway coal contamination is possible because of a lack of regulations to ensure safe drinking water and because, for a century, the coal industry’s profit margin has been put ahead of people—and our water. When we look more broadly at health impacts, a recent Harvard study estimated the annual health expenses associated with coal over its entire lifecycle cost the U.S. $500 billion a year and lead to more than 13,000 premature deaths. 1622206_10152183068710960_547899835_nNational headlines last week shone a rare public light on one of the most severe and under-reported American environmental crises of our times. The tragic water crisis still underway in West Virginia, caused by a massive coal chemical spill that poisoned water supplies for at least 300,000 people, is just another cry from the canary telling us that coal is not a solution for our energy needs. The emergency water shut-off last week spanned nine counties and shut down the state’s capital city for four days. But most disturbing is that this recent tragedy was both predictable and preventable. Sadly, it offers a somber preview for what we can expect to see more of in the future if major changes are not finally made immediately. Rainforest Action Network is no stranger to the many impacts of coal on the communities in West Virginia. We have been working to defend the people, forests and watersheds in Central Appalachia for years. But this last summer, the issue became deeply personal for me. I travel to WV not only to visit family, but also to see firsthand the impacts of one of the most extreme coal extraction methods on the planet, where entire mountaintops are blown off to expose coal seams below. The resulting toxic waste is then dumped into neighboring valleys—irreversibly destroying the function of the local watershed. While in Appalachia last summer, I felt the Earth shudder under my feet as mountains nearby were being blown up just a short distance from the home of our local host, Paul Corbit Brown of Pax, WV. Paul is a seventh-generation West Virginian whose home is adjacent to an active mountaintop removal coal mining site. His family has been forced to deal with the deadly impacts of reckless coal extraction for decades. Paul made it clear to me that while the government of West Virginia has bent over backwards for the coal industry in his state, it has done little to nothing to protect the region’s people, who have suffered its devastating consequences. While visiting, I literally saw streams flowing bright orange from upstream coal mining contamination, and witnessed the emergency health crises people face every day: high cancer rates, cases of life-threatening “black lung” disease and limited access to clean water. Earlier this month, just after news of the spill broke, Paul explained that the chemical that leaked has been used to process coal for a long time in West Virginia. In fact, its effluent has been stored in more than 100 unlined pits and been injected into abandoned mines that now contaminate the area’s aquifers, forcing people to abandon wells that once provided safe drinking water. (Some former West Virginia coal miners have come forward to say the same thing.) The people in Appalachia have been forced to endure the toxic impacts of the coal industry for far too long already. This incident cannot be seen as an isolated event. Every time we flick on the switch from coal energy, we should be reminded about the true cost of coal, a burden that people at the point of extraction, like West Virginia, and at the point of burning, such as neighborhoods in the shadow of coal-fired power plants, feel disproportionately. The numbers are staggering. U.S. $500 billion a year in health care costs foisted on us by a coal industry unwilling to pay for the impacts of its business operations? Are more than 13,000 premature deaths the price we should have to pay for coal industry profits? ”It’s tragic that it takes an event like this to awaken us to reality,” said my friend Paul. “No industry should have the right to profit at the expense of another human being's life. I remind you: There cannot be a healthy economy without clean water.” As this crisis in West Virginia has brought the impacts of extreme coal extraction to our collective attention, let us now take the bold steps needed to move away from dangerous coal energy altogether, and move instead toward safer, cleaner energy choices. The next time I talk to my nieces about the future, instead of just discussing basic regulation that will better prevent coal chemicals from leaking into major water supplies, I’d rather discuss the transition away from coal so that climate change, water contamination and health problems can be prevented. Let’s not treat the symptom—let’s support the cure. If you are as pissed as I am please consider joining the over 500 people who have taken action by sending a letter to their local newspaper requesting they cover the full story on coal impacts on our water and beyond.

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