Appalachia

Thu, 2012-09-13 13:54Farron Cousins
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Thousands Gather In DC To Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining

Thousands of protestors descended on Washington, D.C. today to send a simple message to the Obama Administration – stop mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). The protestors included citizens from throughout Appalachia and representatives from more than a dozen environmental groups who were protesting in honor of longtime MTR opponent and environmental advocate Larry Gibson, who passed away a little over a week ago.

The protestors delivered a “Mountain Heroes Photo Petition” to the Obama Administration, a series of photographs of citizens declaring their opposition to MTR. At the time of delivery, more than 13,500 photo petitions were presented to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The event was organized by EarthJustice, which has advocated on behalf of Appalachian citizens for years. Here are a few of the photos that they submitted to the Obama Administration:

Thu, 2012-06-14 12:22Steve Horn
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Was Andrew Cuomo's NY Fracking "Sacrifice Zone" Plan Hatched by NRDC?

Has New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just made the southern tier of the state a “sacrifice zone,” as alleged by award-winning author and “fracktivist,” Sandra Steingraber? Was it a plot hatched by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)?

The signs pointing to both possibilities are troublesome, to say the least.

The New York Times reported yesterday, via an unidentified insider at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), that Cuomo intends to “limit [shale gas] drilling to the deepest areas of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, at least for the next several years, in an effort to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.”

The Times article describes Cuomo's apparent plan:  

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology.

These counties, it turns out, are not only “struggling,” as The Times describes them, but in destitute levels of poverty. Two of the counties up for grabs for fracking include Steuben and Chemung, which, according to New York Department of Labor statistics, have unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent, among the highest in the state.

Support for dangerous industrial development is certainly much easier to garner during times of economic desperation. That much has been made clear throughout history in the United States, particularly in the arena of mountaintop removal for coal extraction in Appalachia. In other words, it's far easier to sell a rotten bill of goods (or in this case, contaminated water and air) to those mired in poverty. Is New York setting up to repeat this tragic cycle?

Thu, 2012-04-05 17:28Brendan DeMelle
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On 2nd Anniversary of Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, Documentary Explores Lasting Impacts of Mountaintop Removal

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine disaster that claimed the lives of 29 coal miners.

LinkTV.org will premiere a special show tonight at 9pm EST called “Explore: West Virginia – Hillbillies, Coal Miners, Treehuggers & God,” taking a closer look at the disaster and the lasting impacts on the community of Whitesville, West Virginia.

The candid interviews with local residents discussing the many challenges posed by mountaintop removal coal mining are a great way for people unfamiliar with this issue to learn about the disaster and the larger issues firsthand.

Documentarian Charles Annenberg Weingarten does an excellent job chronicling the stories of Appalachian coal country. The half-hour documentary special takes the viewer through the heart of Appalachia to examine how the Massey mine disaster and ongoing mountaintop removal mining have affected local communities. 
 

Thu, 2011-06-16 12:41Farron Cousins
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Bobby Kennedy Jr. Talks "The Last Mountain" With Director Bill Haney

The companies involved in mountaintop removal mining (MTR) are beginning to get much-needed exposure in the national media. For years, this issue has been relegated to a few mentions here and there, with national media outlets virtually ignoring the devastation taking place in rural America. The media’s silence, and the public’s resulting lack of knowledge on the issue, has allowed a large number of the mountains in communities along the Appalachian range to be blown up and mined for every piece of coal the industry can find. As communities continue to fight MTR coal giants like Massey Energy and others, they are continuously faced with the devastation that these energy companies have left in their backyards.

The video below is from Ring of Fire Radio, and features a discussion between Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and documentary film director Bill Haney. The two are discussing their new film “The Last Mountain.

Tue, 2011-01-18 15:43TJ Scolnick
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West Virginia Politicians Vow To Fight Dirty On Coal, While EPA Enforces Laws To Protect Appalachian Residents

Dirty coal and climate denial are hot topics in West Virginia right now.  Last week, acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D-WV) delivered West Virginia’s State of the State address where he gave a spirited defence of “carbon friendly” coal.  Then the very next day the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stole the spotlight by vetoing what would have been the largest mountaintop removal project in the state.

Tomblin, who replaces former Governor and newly minted Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), emphasized his support for the expanded use of coal as a vital part of the nation’s energy mix.  He also vowed to aggressively pursue West Virginia’s lawsuit against EPA until a more “sensible” approach can be found to regulate coal’s global warming emissions.

Governor Tomblin’s comments do not break new ground and will tie West Virginia to coal despite the fact that the industry negatively impacts the state’s economy.  His counterparts Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and the aforementioned Joe Manchin are already well known for frequently overlooking the negative impacts of coal.

Tue, 2011-01-04 18:09Brendan DeMelle
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Remembering Judy Bonds, Heroic Organizer Who Fought Mountaintop Removal With Everything She Had

Judy Bonds, the fearlessly outspoken activist and community organizer who devoted her life to saving her native Appalachian mountains from the ravages of mountaintop removal coal mining, passed away Monday.

The daughter of a coal miner, Julia Bonds was fiercely dedicated to the cause of ending dangerous coal practices and combatting the myth of ‘clean coal,’ which she could often be heard pointing out is a “dirty lie.”

She was an inspiration to me personally, and I’m fortunate to have met and talked with her often over the years.  She will be dearly missed. But her legacy lives on in the thousands of lives she touched, and her memory will serve as a continuing inspiration to everyone who wants to see America and the rest of the world end our addiction to dirty coal.

Jeff Biggers has a wonderful tribute to Judy on the Huffington Post, and JW Randolph has another tribute at Appalachian Voices.  WTRF in West Virginia reports that Coal River Mountain Watch, the group that Bonds led, is planning a memorial service but a date has not been set yet.

Tue, 2010-01-12 13:01Kevin Grandia
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Massey Energy running attack ads against "tree hugging extremists"

Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE), the 4th largest coal producer in the country is running political-style attacks in West Virginia claiming that “tree hugging extremists and self-serving politicians” are killing jobs, while the coal industry is “fighting hard for Appalachian jobs” and “what’s right.”

I am assuming that when Massey talks about fighting for Appalachian jobs they aren’t referring to the fact that earlier in 2009 they cut employee pay by 6% and then recently increased the performance bonus for Massey’s CEO, Don Blankenship, by $600,000.

And I think it’s also safe to assume that when Massey talks about fighting for “what’s right” they aren’t talking about the major environmental violations over the years culminating in a record $20 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA stated that Massey had violated its Clean Water Act permits “… more than 4,500 times between January 2000 and December 2006.”

Thu, 2007-08-23 12:01Bill Miller
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White House set to expand mountaintop coal mining

The Bush administration is expected to issue a regulation Friday to enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal, which involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams. Apart from a multiplicity of other forms of environmental degradation, use of the technique will expand dependence on coal, the largest source of atmospheric CO2, and slow conversion from fossil to renewable fuels.

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