Ain’t no mountain high enough: King Coal is on the ropes. Across the nation, anti-mountaintop removal bills are quickly being moved across Capitol Hill and numerous legislatures this week to stop one of the most egregious human rights and environmental violations in modern times.
Here’s the real “Down from the Mountain” tour: Hundreds of citizen lobbyists from the Appalachian coalfields, and around the nation, are clamoring in the halls of Congress today, calling on their U.S. Representatives to co-sign and expedite the passing of the Clean Water Protection Act to ensure every American citizen the right to a glass of clean drinking water. The bill effectively enforces the intent of the original Clean Water Act by protecting clean water sources and prohibiting mining companies from dumping their waste into waterways.
In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, March 17, green advocates across the country are being encouraged to take part in a nationwide call-in to push their Representatives to support the bill introduced by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), and Dave Reichert (R.-Wash.):
A special website links your call directly to your member of Congress.
The campaign in Washington, D.C. couldn’t be more timely: Following in line with a recent 4th U.S. Circuit Court decision, a Surface Mine Board in West Virginia today ruled in favor of allowing Richmond-based Massey Energy to continue its massive mountaintop removal operations on the controversial Coal River Mountain range.
In a scathing editorial today, The New York Times called on President Barack Obama to end “the longstanding disgrace of mountaintop mining.” While noting the importance of the Clean Water Protection Act, the Times also placed the burden directly on the President:
The Obama White House can prevent that damage. Under the law, the Corps of Engineers can suspend the mining permits in the public interest. This in turn would give the administration time to review the rules and issue new ones that would be more protective of the environment. But the Corps of Engineers, always reluctant to reverse itself and historically friendly to industry, will not act without orders from on high.
Mr. Obama promised to find better ways of mining coal “than simply blowing the tops off mountains. The time to do so is now.”
You don’t have to be on Capitol Hill to feel the momentum of the anti-mountaintop removal movement that is finally awakening the country’s conscience like a might stream. Or recognize that dirty coal from mountaintop removal operations, while only providing 5 percent of our nation’s coal production, is shipped to coal-fired plants that generate the electricity throughout the country. Over 500 mountains, 1,200 miles of streams, and untold historic communities have been wiped out by mountaintop removal strip mining.
If you live in San Francisco, Phoenix, St. Louis, Chicago, Orlando, or Charlotte, North Carolina, here’s a glimpse of the impact of your coal-fired electricity generated from mountaintop removal coal and its mining waste on the drinking water for people in Prenter, W. Va.:
Instead of wringing their hands in disbelief and inaction, a growing, statewide movement in North Carolina has formed to pass the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act to end the use of mountaintop removal coal in that state’s coal-fired plants. North Carolina, in fact, is the largest state consumer of mountaintop removal coal, buying half of its coal from affected mountaintop removal sites. The bill simply calls for a switch to other coal providers.
“I am firmly convinced that mountaintop removal is a moral issue that begs our hearts and minds to do the right thing,” said North Carolina state Senator Steve Goss, one of the bill’s sponsors. “When this bill becomes law in North Carolina, once again we will take our place as a leader in the nation concerning environmental issues.”
North Carolina’s energy Goliath, Duke Energy and its much ballyhooed “green” CEO Jim Rogers, recently showed their true understanding of the meaning of green by DEFENDING mountaintop removal as a “legal” mining practice, praised their profits over consumer protection, and erroneously reported that a shift to other coal producers would increase consumer rates by 5-8 percent.
The truth, however, based on Department of Energy estimates, and as Matt Wasson at Appalachian Voices has demonstrated in numerous studies, is that “the rate impact of a total shift to underground coal could be less than 1 percent.”
On the heels of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountain Preservation Act bill, similar legislation is being introduced or will be introduced in Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, and New York:
Some activists are also taking to the streets. Last weekend, 14 protesters were arrested at a “die-in” in front of the TVA headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. A larger protest called for TVA to end its use of mountaintop removal coal, and take more responsibility for the fallout over last December’s coal ash pond disaster.