September 27th, 2010 – More than 100 people were arrested today during Appalachia Rising, the largest national protest to end mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Arrests included Appalachian residents; retired coal miners; renowned climate scientist, James Hansen; and faith leaders. After a march from Freedom Plaza and a rally at Lafayette Park, more than 100 stage a sit-in in front of the White House to demand President Obama follow his own science and end mountaintop mining. The likely charge is obstruction.
In addition to the non-violent civil disobedience at the White House, four people were arrested during a sit-in at PNC bank for protesting the bank’s role as the lead U.S. financier of MTR.
“The science is clear, mountaintop removal destroys historic mountain ranges, poisons water supplies and pollutes the air with coal and rock dust,” said renowned climate scientist James Hansen, who was arrested in today’s protest at the White House. “Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, can and should be abolished. The time for half measures and caving in to polluting industries must end.”
Appalachia Rising is being led by residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee – Appalachian states directly impacted by mountaintop removal. They are calling for the Obama Administration to immediately abolish the practice of blowing up mountains and dumping the debris into nearby streams and valleys to reach seams of coal.
“I have talked, begged, debated, written letters to officials, published op-ed pieces in newspapers and lobbied on the state and federal level to end mountaintop removal,” said Mickey McCoy, former mayor and lifelong resident of Inez, Kentucky, who was also arrested today. “Being arrested? That’s such a small price to pay for being heard. My home and people are paying the real price for mountaintop removal. They are dying.”
The tide has been turning on mountaintop removal with Appalachian residents, scientists, congressional representatives and environmentalists decrying the practice as coming at too high a cost to public health, land, water and taxpayers. Last April, in response to resounding opposition to mountaintop removal, the EPA announced new guidelines for permitting mountaintop removal valley fills. However, the impacts of mountaintop removal mining are so destructive that Appalachia Rising is calling on the administration to end the practice altogether by halting active mines and creating a permanent moratorium on new permits.
As a step in the right direction, groups have called on the EPA to immediately veto the Spruce No. 1 Mine project, which would be one of the largest strip-mining operations in Appalachia. The EPA is set to make a decision in the coming weeks on whether to reverse the Corps of Engineers’ 2007 approval for the mine. With mountaintop removal becoming increasingly controversial, the EPA’s decision on the 2,278-acre Spruce project is being closely watched as a sign of the mining practice’s future.
“We know, and the Obama Administration has said, that mountaintop removal mining is bad for human health and the environment,” says Jane Branham of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in VA. “The issue here is whether President Obama will follow the science and do something about it now!”
A dozen leading scientists published a paper in the journal Science in January 2009, concluding that mountaintop removal is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits altogether. “The science is so overwhelming that the only conclusion that one can reach is that mountaintop mining needs to be stopped,” said Margaret Palmer, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences and the study’s lead author.
Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining in which up to 800 feet, sometimes more, of densely forested mountaintops are literally blown up to reach thin coal seams. The resulting millions of tons of rock are dumped into surrounding valleys and rivers, polluting the headwaters that provide drinking water to millions of Americans. Already, 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of streams have been lost due to this devastating mining practice. A 2009 report estimated that coal mining costs Appalachia five times more in premature deaths than it provides the region in jobs, taxes and other economic benefits.
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