As I reported last week, I’m in Appalachia, Va. to attend a hearing by the Virginia Air Resources Board about whether or not Virginia will permit Dominion Power to build a dirty, coal-fired power plant. It’s Eden in the Mountains here — miles and miles of green, forested mountains in every direction. Inside the forests, it’s even better. My wife and I went on a hike through old growth hemlock groves (and did a trail-cleaning service project in the nearby Jefferson National Forest) with naturalist and activist Anna Hess of the Clinch Coalition and learned that this region is the most bio-diverse in the mainland United States, with different little endangered salamanders creeping around the top of every mountain and old growth hemlock groves around many corners.

But, all around, those natural wonders are being devoured by the coal industry at an alarming rate. Those glorious forests (and their salamanders, deer, and beavers) have been totally obliterated in many places to get at small seams of coal that will be sent to Washington, D.C., Virginia, and elsewhere to be burned and turned into the greenhouse gases imperiling the planet — leaving massive gashes in this paradise.

Virgina sans mountains

This used to be a mountain.
Photo: Matt Stern, Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Tomorrow, we’ll try to stop the destruction (and Gov. Kaine’s (D-Va) acquiescence in increasing Virginians’ already high electricity rates) by testifying at the Virginia Air Board hearing. They’re trying to stack the cards against the climate and the forests and the air by forbidding any testimony from people who haven’t already commented and by prohibiting people who have already testified from saying anything new (apparently, they’ve been reading their Kafka).They’re also, significantly, holding the hearing in the part of the state most likely to favor new coal.

But there are lots of people at the United Mine Workers Hall for our pre-testimony dinner (apparently, the mountaintop removal mines aren’t unionized). The UMW is letting Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards use their facilities — leading to the incongruous images of pictures that say “Coal is one of God’s gifts” with “Clean Energy” signs and a drawings of an evil coal executive oozing dollars from his pockets. We’ve got local people and dedicated outsiders (best line of the weekend: “No, I’m not from here, but I got here as soon as I could.”) and it seems like we have a shot at success. More tomorrow!