As millions of pounds of explosions rip across their mountain communities, including the clean energy landmark of Coal River Mountain, scores of residents from the Appalachian coalfields have joined with supporters from across the country in a series of sit-ins, die-ins, protests, and a haunting “Day of the Dead” funeral procession and sit-in in the courtyard of the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Clean energy and clean water supporters across the country are also sending emails to the EPA and President Obama to stop the tragic blasting of Coal River Mountain.
“Inaction on the part of the EPA will affect the future of Appalachians, and generations to come,” says Bob Kincaid, with the Coal River Mountain Watch organization in West Virginia. “If Coal River Mountain is blown up, the green energy future of Appalachia, and the entire nation, will be imperiled.”
UPDATE: 3:3pm EST: The EPA Desk released this statement:
Coal River Mountain has been recognized by the Obama administration’s Council on Environmental Quality, and energy experts around the nation, as one of the most important sites for wind energy in the region, and a model for clean energy transition in the nation.
Instead of being destroyed for a limited dirty coal operation, the Coal River Wind project [PDF] slated for the historic mountain range would provide enough clean energy for 150,000 homes, hundreds of long-term jobs, and millions of dollars in tax revenues and local commerce.
Photo courtesy Chris Eichler of RAN Field Photography via Flickr As part of a nationwide “End Mountaintop Removal Day of Action” organized by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and coalfield activists and clean energy advocates across the nation, sit-ins and “die-in” and protests are taking place in over twenties cities at EPA regional offices from Kansas City to Denver to San Francisco, and at JP Morgan Chase offices from New York City to Chicago to Kentucky.
Today’s sit-in at the EPA in D.C. is directed at Lisa Jackson, who recently invoked the agency’s veto power to stop the massive Spruce Mine mountaintop removal operation in West Virginia. Declaring a state of emergency that threatens the lives of thousands of coalfield residents, the protesters (who include former coal miners) are calling on Jackson and the Obama administration to intervene in the new mountaintop removal operation on Coal River Mountain in a similar fashion, where the initial blasting took place last week. Operated by Massey Energy, the Coal River Mountain mine is setting off explosives that potentially jeopardize the 8-billion-gallon Brushy Fork coal sludge held back by a precarious earthen dam.
According to the mining company’s own evacuation plan, if the Brusky Fork dam broke, local residents and children would have only a few minutes to escape a 70-foot high tidal wave of coal sludge.
“Every day, more than 3 million pounds of explosives are detonated in our state to remove our mountains and expose the thin seams of coal beneath,” says Bo Webb, a resident of Coal River Valley, W.Va. and a participant in today’s rally. “President Obama, I beg you to re-light our flame of hope and honor and immediately stop the coal companies from blasting so near our homes and endangering our lives. As you have said, we must find another way than blowing off the tops of our mountains. We must end mountaintop removal.”
Protests are also underway at JP Morgan Chase offices in New York City, Chicago and elsewhere. As one of the biggest financiers of dirty coal endeavors, JP Morgan Chase has bankrolled Massey Energy’s mountaintop removal operations. Coalfield and clean energy advocates are calling on JP Morgan Chase to follow the example of the Bank of America [PDF], which announced their refusal to bankroll mountaintop removal operations last December.
Here’s a clip on JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s doublespeak on clean energy investment:
For more information on the local of the protests, see the RAN’s End of Mountaintop Removal Day of Action page.
For more photos and videos, check out RAN’s Flickr page.