As Obama and Clinton stumped for “clean coal” in West Virginia this week something critical was left out—people. Despite the rhetoric around “clean coal’s” environmental benefits, the reality of coal for today’s West Virginians is anything but clean. Today, West Virginians aren’t focused on the potential promise of “clean coal,” they’re fighting the every day practice of mountaintop removal mining—the coal extraction method that has already erased more than a million acres of forest from across Appalachia. So while political candidates can pander to voters with the promise of some future better practice, it is the lived impact of coal extraction today that we must keep at the forefront of this election cycle and beyond.
For a taste of what it’s really like to live in the “Saudi Arabia of coal” check out Andrew Ward’s piece in yesterday’s Financial Times, Contenders Tread Carefully Through Coal Dispute.
When Maria Gunnoe started campaigning against open-cast mining on the mountains above her West Virginia home in 2003, she could not have imagined the ordeal that would follow. Over the past five years, her car brake lights have been vandalised, sand has been poured into her petrol tank and two of her dogs have been shot dead. The intimidation appeared aimed at silencing Ms Gunnoe’s criticism of a controversial form of mining that involves blowing up mountaintops to reach coal….[As Gunnoe says:] “We’re not tree huggers like the industry likes to portray us. We’re citizens fighting for our rights to protect our property and our health.”