YES! Magazine Nominated for General Excellence. Read All About It.
Sections
Home » Planet » Appalachia’s Cry for Help

Nonprofit. Independent. Subscriber-supported. DONATE. How you can support our work.

Get a FREE Issue. Yes! I want to try YES! Magazine

YES! by Email
Join over 78,000 others already signed up for FREE YES! news.
[SAMPLE]
link

HomeBannerAd_Bookshelf

The YES! ChicoBag(R). Full-size tote that fits in your pocket!

 

Appalachia’s Cry for Help

“We can no longer endure this reckless abuse of our rights, and our lives.” Appalachians appeal for help in the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining.

Mountain view, photo by iLoveMountains.org

This rare view of the Appalachian coalfields untouched by mountaintop removal mining is the result of citizen action taken by the organization Kentuckians For The Commonwealth in the late 90s.

Editor's note: A recent study found that rates of birth defects are far higher in communities impacted by mountaintop removal coal mining—in fact, living near a mountaintop removal site increases the risk of birth defects more than twice as much as smoking does. In response to this news, leaders of Appalachia's long fight to stop the practice issued this letter.


We appeal to the nation on behalf of our children and grandchildren.

We appeal to our fellow Appalachians and central coalfield communities; we appeal to all civil rights and environmental organizations across the nation; we appeal to all religious and faith communities, and all those who believe in the sanctity of life; we appeal to those who believe in the rule of law and democracy.

After a decade of endless education and media campaigns, conferences and workshops, lobbying, and appealing to our elected officials, we have reached a moment of no return.

The spiraling health crisis in the central Appalachian coalfields has reached a breaking point.

We appeal to the nation to intervene and bring an end to the staggering human costs and mounting death toll from one of the most egregious health and civil rights violations in our times.

As central Appalachian coalfield residents living under the lethal fallout of mountaintop removal mining operations, we call on President Obama, Department of Health and Human Services chief Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder to enact an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia until the Center for Disease Control and/or other federal regulatory agencies make a complete assessment of the spiraling health and human rights crisis related to mountaintop removal mining, especially as it pertains to birth defects and cancer corridors, and the Department of Justice makes a thorough investigation into any related criminal negligence or child abuse connected to mountaintop removal mining.

We can no longer endure this reckless abuse of our rights, and our lives. No American should.

August 3rd will mark the 34th anniversary of the federal sanctioning of mountaintop removal mining, when President Jimmy Carter signed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Calling it a "watered down" bill, President Carter admitted at the Rose Garden signing that the Act was "in many ways, a disappointing effort" and "allows the mining companies to cut off the tops of Appalachian mountains to reach entire seams of coal."

After organizing a rigorous 10-year campaign to abolish strip-mining, outraged by this duplicitous compromise to grant federal sanctioning of mountaintop removal mining, the Appalachian Coalition of coalfield residents and environmental groups called the SMCRA a "blatant travesty" and a "betrayal."

Three decades later, that betrayal has had devastating and deadly consequences.

Judy Bonds, portrait by Robert ShetterlyMountain Memories: Interview
with Judy Bonds

The late West Virginia activist on fighting to save her home from mountaintop removal coal mining.

Yet, while EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has openly admitted the unacceptable health consequences of mountaintop removal, the Obama administration has chosen to follow an admittedly failed compliance policy and 40-year record of criminally neglectful regulatory practices that have left central Appalachian communities in desperate ruin. Numerous scientific studies have confirmed that "mining permits are being issued despite the preponderance of scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and that mitigation cannot compensate for the losses."

While providing less than 5-8 percent of our national coal production, the millions of pounds of daily explosives detonated for mountaintop removal operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, southwest Virginia and eastern Tennessee have resulted in nothing less than the unrecognized reality of regulated child abuse and manslaughter. A recent study, "The association between mountaintop mining and birth defects among live births in central Appalachia, 1996-2003," has provided irrefutable evidence that six out of seven types of birth defects—circulatory/ respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital and "other"—related to contaminants released into nearby environments from mountaintop removal operations are too high a price to pay for an unnecessary way of mining. Permitting for this type of mining has exacerbated since the studied years of 1996-2003 and so have the impacts on the health of all our people.

As we make this appeal, we brace ourselves for another round of nerve-wracking explosives being detonated above our homes in the mountains of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Outside our doors, pulverized silica and coal dust laden with diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate explosives hovers in the air, along with the residual of heavy metals that once lay dormant underground. The mountains just above our homes, once a thriving forest, have been blasted into piles of toxic dust and poison water run off. All is gone now. It is all dead.

Who do you think will be next?

We appeal to everyone in the nation to join us in demanding an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia until the Center for Disease Control and/or other federal regulatory agencies make a complete assessment of the spiraling health and human rights crisis related to mountaintop removal mining, especially as it pertains to birth defects and cancer corridors, and the Department of Justice makes a thorough investigation into any related criminal negligence or child abuse connected to mountaintop removal mining.

We can no longer endure this reckless abuse of our rights, and our lives. No American should.

Once again, the stakes are too high for our movement to continue to delay, to debate, to engage in endless lobbying of a US Congress intent on dismantling the EPA.

Mountaintop removal is a crime and it must be dealt with like any criminal enterprise in our country.

We must take this unprecedented health and human rights crisis directly to the President of the United States.

We appeal to all of our fellow Appalachians, coalfield residents across the nation, and all non-profit organizations and environmental and citizens groups working and fundraising on mountaintop removal mining to join us on the frontlines of this nightmare fallout and share our sense of urgency and our determination to end this outrageous injustice once and for all.

We appeal to everyone in the nation to join us in demanding that the Obama Administration issue an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia until the Center for Disease Control and/or other federal regulatory agencies make a complete assessment of the spiraling health and human rights crisis related to mountaintop removal mining, especially as it pertains to birth defects and cancer corridors, and the Department of Justice makes a thorough investigation into any related criminal negligence or child abuse connected to mountaintop removal mining.

Maria Gunnoe, 2009 North American Goldman Prize Winner, West Virginia

Bo Webb, 2010 Purpose Prize Winner, West Virginia

Mickey McCoy, former mayor of Inez, Kentucky

Chuck Nelson, retired coal miner, West Virginia

Bob Kincaid, Coal River Mountain Watch, West Virginia

Vernon Haltom, Coal River Mountain Watch, West Virginia


Interested?

Email Signup
Comment on this article

How to add a commentCommenting Policy

comments powered by Disqus


You won’t see any commercial ads in YES!, in print or on this website.
That means, we rely on support from our readers.

||   SUBSCRIBE    ||   GIVE A GIFT   ||   DONATE   ||
Independent. Nonprofit. Subscriber-supported.




#69 Banner: Education Uprising

Personal tools