Thanks to author and activist Jeff Biggers for alerting me to a powerful appeal made recently to President Obama to immediately halt mountaintop removal, a radical form of coal mining in which entire mountains are literally blown up, devastating hundreds of square miles of Appalachia; polluting the headwaters of rivers that provide drinking water to millions of Americans; and destroying a distinctly American culture that has endured for generations.
Bo Webb, a Vietnam veteran and resident of the Coal River Mountain region in West Virginia, penned his urgent message to Obama from his family’s homeplace, which dates back to the 1820s and is being rattled by explosives from mountaintop removal operators today. The letter bears witness to the terror of mountaintop removal on American citizens.
Here’s an excerpt:
“During your presidential campaign, you declared: ‘We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal, than simply blowing the tops off mountains.’
That time is now. Or never.
Every day, more than three million pounds of explosives are detonated in our state to remove our mountains and expose the thin seams of coal. Over 470 mountains in Appalachia have been destroyed in this process, the coal scooped up and hauled away to be burned at coal-fired power plants across our country and abroad. This includes the Potomac River Plant, which generates the electricity for the White House.
Mountaintop removal is the dirty secret in our nation’s energy supply. If coal can’t be mined clean, it can’t be called clean. Here at the point of extraction, coal passes through a preparation plant that manages to remove some but not all of the metals and toxins. Those separated impurities are stored in mammoth toxic sludge dams above our communities throughout Appalachia. There are three sludge dams within 10 miles of my home. Coal companies are now blasting directly above and next to a dam above my home that contains over two billion gallons of toxic waste. That is the same seeping dam that hovers just 400 yards above the Marsh Fork Elementary School. As you know, coal sludge dams have failed before and lives have been lost.
My family and I, like many American citizens in Appalachia, are living in a state of terror. Like sitting ducks waiting to be buried in an avalanche of mountain waste or crushed by a falling boulder, we are trapped in a war zone within our own country.”
This video, from ilovemountains.org, features residents from the Coal River Mountain region making a powerful case that corporations should be prevented from blowing the tops off of mountains and showing how maintaining the mountains and responsible mining are not mutually exclusive.
Read and forward Webb’s full letter here; go to ilovemountains.org for a range of ways to help end the environmentally disastrous process of mountaintop removal, and ask your member of Congress to support the Clean Water Protection Act.