Wednesday, September 10, 2008

End Mountaintop Removal-NOW

I have been trying to collect my thoughts and deep emotions about coal in this region for weeks. It is sometimes so difficult to put down in print, what you feel deep in your gut, but here goes. Over at Crunchy Chicken, the topic has been politics, and apparently the obvious choice for President if you care for the environment, is Obama. Yesterday Mr. Obama made a stop here in our small town. He stopped and chatted, drank a vanilla milk shake, shook some hands and then moved on to his scheduled stop in the next county over. The topic in the media today is his "lipstick" comment, and the sexist implications of it against Sarah Palin. Totally lost in the mix, was his obvious effort to win the votes of those in this community that are deeply tied to the coal industry. He spoke of "clean coal" technology, and how he believed in the good it would do for our economy and energy independence crisis. What I don't understand is why NOBODY is taking him to task on this issue. Coal is not clean, it can never be clean, and we need to run FAR from it. In fact, strip mining of coal, aka BLOWING UP THE MOUNTAIN, is the single most important environmental issue of our generation. Forget the polar bears, forget global warming. People are dying, children are wheezing, air quality is declining, and we are losing our mountains in Appalachia. The water, the forests, and the rich land are lost in and around the over 470 mountains that have been erased from the southeast mountain range in the last 2 decades. (imagine an area the size of Delaware!) If you think that this is only an extreme way to mine coal, and rarely used, you are dead wrong. In fact more than 70 percent of coal mined in the US comes from strip mining. It's cheaper, faster, and takes less man power. McCain is no different on this issue. The environment will suffer under either of these men as our President. Once these mountains are blown up to get to the coal seams, the extra rock and debris has to be disposed of. As a result, nearly 10,000 "valley fills" have completely buried over 700 miles of healthy streams have been and thousands more have been damaged. These headwaters are an intricate system, that lead to the ocean and provide the drinking water for millions of Americans, and yet so many of us have no idea what atrocities are happening.

The story that isn't being told is that these communitites that have been promised millions of dollars in taxes to enrich their schools, and 100s-1000s of jobs for their families, have been instead poisoned, watched their home values decline dramatically, and their schools and towns become the worst ones in the country. Coal Powered Plants are the single largest sources of the big four pollutants: 35% CO2 carbon dioxide, 37% Hg mercury, 23% of NOx Nitrogen Oxides, and 67% of SO2 sulfur Dioxides. The fact is that these rural peoples are under attack, but it affects ALL Americans. We almost ALL use this coal when we flip on our lights, heat our water, and read our emails. The link on my sidebar will show you how linked you are to mountaintop removal. Distance does not negate responsibility. To top it all off, this "clean coal" technology is untested, and is the "clean coal" plants are receiving air permits to pump out dozens of pounds of mercury into the air. Apparently our children are safe with a little mercury in their lungs and water.
Furthermore, the testing and regulation is often overlooked in our rural areas. I can attest to how under regulated this area actually is! My husband used to monitor ground water for gas stations and other petroleum sites to make sure they were up to federal code. When we decided to move our family to this area for the opportunity it gave us for sustainability and simplicity of life, he had an interview for a similar job, and we assumed that he would be able to find another job in this specialized area. After all, these are FEDERAL regulations. Unfortunately, the truth is that no one regulates this area, so no one complies. No regulation means no one is paying for monitoring, because they don't need to be accountable. This is notoriously true as well for these coal companies.

This is such an important topic, and our political system is stifling this extremely important issue, so we can sling mud about candidates, their misspeaks, and their personal lives. I challenge you all to take the pledge to end mountaintop removal. Blog about it, spread the word, and make it an issue you care about. I don't like either of our choices. I do believe I am voting for a third party this year.....

Below are some websites, and well written essays on the environmental plight connected to coal. Read them, and be outraged.


Brandie said...

Hey, thanks for the info. I honestly had no idea about this issue. I linked you over at so hopefully others can learn about it too!

Green Bean said...

I'm just finishing up Lost Mountain and a post about this very issue. It is amazing that so many of us - living outside of the area - know virtually nothing about the devastation of mountaintop removal, something more environmentally damaging than drilling in the arctic.

I completely agree that we need to raise awareness about this very very crucial issue. We all need to be talking about it and we need to strike "clean coal" from our vocabulary. There is no such thing. That said, after hearing Sarah Palin's thoughts on the environment, I still wholeheartedly support Obama. He's still a better shot on the environment. Once we get him into the White House, we need to competely revamp how this nation gets its energy and protect what's left of the temperate rainforest, a biodiverse and magical place.

Lindsay said...

Hey- you got me all riled up...go check out my post in reference to yours...Lindsay

Anonymous said...

YAY The ripple effect! Thank you for writing this!

Beka said...

Sara, I can't tell adequately describe to you what coal country is like. I have lived and worked in these areas(the poorest counties of West Virginia and Virginia).
The destruction was so bad I often was lost in the woods because what was on the map was outdated from what mining had caused. Imagine machinery the size of a house. Imagine finding a crack in the side of a mountain that you have to jump over (presumably caused by explosion). Imagine being afraid at any moment miners will set off an explosion and rocks will come down the mountian at you. Imagine sad, gloomy, and lifeless forests surrounding mining sites. Imagine walking a desert on top of a mountain. Imagine sliding down ledges to get to the forest below the desert. Imagine the tears in my eyes.
This is no stewardship. I was forced to clearcut many of these forests because otherwise the value of the wood would be lost. A friend of mine and I discovered a 30 foot American chestnut in one of these forests(huge for a highly endangered tree) but it was to be destroyed from mining.
Sadly, the people in these areas do not like this destruction either. They love their mountains as well....can you blame them for being overly protective of the little property that they mistakenly think they own?
The coal mountains are extraordinarily beautiful. More diversity than, I dare say, can be found anywhere in this country. Trilliums and other wildflowers everywhere. I was so saddened when I would spend an entire day walking a forest knowing in the back of my mind that no matter how hard I tried to do a good job managing the forest, I could do nothing to save the land. The mining was behind me. I couldn't take this every day. Can you blame me for moving on?

Mama said...

I'm so glad to hear your perspective...and deeply troubled. I can't blame you for moving on at all. But we need to continue to talk about this, because many people, even as close as those in our community, have no idea what destruction is being caused. I don't have much hope for our legislators, considering most of them are getting paid big bucks from the coal companies. But, maybe if we get loud enough, and beat the horse strong enough, we can get some action. I just don't think I can have a clean conscience knowing I didn't even try.