Two weeks ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to the Massey Energy subsidiary that is blasting on Coal River Mountain noting with concern that the company appears to be operating without the required permit under the Clean Water Act. Those at today’s rally are demanding that the W.Va. DEP join the EPA, and inspect the coal sludge dam that is just a few hundred feet from the mine site. According to Massey’s own evacuation reports, a break in the coal slurry impoundment would result in certain injury or death for the nearly 1,000 residents down slope. Some area residents would have less than 15 minutes to escape a 72-foot tidal wave of toxic coal sludge.
The tide seems to be turning against mountaintop removal coal mining as concerns grow over the health and safety impacts, the limited number of jobs the practice provides and the possibility for wind energy if mountains are left intact. Just this week, Senator Robert Byrd of W.Va. issued a groundbreaking statement on the practice.
“The increased use of mountaintop removal mining means that fewer miners are needed to meet company production goals,” said Byrd in an opinion piece that first appeared in the West Virginia Metro News. He continued: "Most members of Congress, like most Americans, oppose the practice, and we may not yet fully understand the effects of mountaintop removal mining on the health of our citizens."
“Using giant earthmovers and millions of tons of explosives, coal moguls have eviscerated communities, destroyed homes, and uprooted and sickened families with coal and rock dust, blasting, flooding and poisoned water, all while providing far fewer jobs than does traditional underground mining,” said Kennedy. Kennedy is scheduled to return to Charleston Jan. 21, 2010, to debate Massey Energy President and CEO Don Blankenship at the University of Charleston.
Today’s rally is happening just as world leaders gather in Copenhagen to discuss global warming. Concern with the mining practice dovetails with a growing demand to replace fossil fuels with clean energy sources. Those who support the wind farm on Coal River Mountain and elsewhere in the region believe that to protect the future of West Virginia, coal country must become clean energy country.
“If we don’t start building a clean energy economy and diversifying jobs in West Virginia what will our children do for jobs in 20 years when the coal runs out?” said Scarbro. “If we can save this mountain than we can begin developing sustainable jobs and renewable energy, and we can maybe have an impact on the climate crisis that faces us all."