Rally at EPA Headquarters to Protect the Health of Appalachians from Mountaintop Removal (June 2011)
(Washington. June 8, 2011) A group of coalfield citizens traveled to Washington, DC, during the March on Blair Mountain to renew their call for the end of mountaintop removal mining, a devastating coal mining practice that is destroying their communities, contaminating their drinking water supplies, and threatening the health and lives of many Appalachians. They delivered this message in solidarity with the March on Blair Mountain, underway in West Virginia that day.
Citizens extended their thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the one government agency that has begun to take steps to protect them from that oppression, pollution, poison, disease, and destruction of their homes and communities. The Environmental Protection Agency is weathering a storm of well-financed assaults from the coal industry, whose narrow vision puts profits before people, sickens families, and eliminates mountain communities — their pasts, presents, and futures.
The group addressed the science, which proves that blasting and bombing mountains for coal and valuing human life are in basic conflict. Peer-reviewed data makes clear that mountaintop removal mining continues at priceless and grave expense to people and the environments where they live.
These citizens of Appalachia also called upon Congress, leadership of the miners’ union (United Mine Workers of America), and all of the nation’s leaders to recognize that mountaintop removal mining is part of Appalachia's problem, not its solution.
The following are statements:
Webb, Purpose Prize Recipient and Member/Organizer, Coal River Mountain
Watch, Peachtree Hollow, Coal River Valley (Raleigh County), WV:
“Mountaintop removal is a serious threat to America’s water
supply. It eliminates jobs, it eliminates entire mountain communities, and
I believe that mountaintop removal mining is killing real people. In fact,
studies show the death rates in communities in coal mining regions are higher
than in non-coal mining regions. In the interest of public health and justice,
it is the patriotic duty of every member of Congress to end this horrific
Video of Speech.
Jarrell, Assistant Director, Coal River Mountain Watch, Rock Creek (Boone
“Mountaintop removal destroys any hope of a sustainable future for
our children and grandchildren in Appalachia. It’s time our elected
representatives begin putting ‘We the people’ before the profits
of corporations.” YouTube
Video of Speech.
Evans, 2010 West Virginia Filmmaker of the Year and Executive Producer,
Coal Country, Native of Bulltown (Braxton County), WV:
“For generations, Appalachians have been exploited by the coal industry
and their political allies. Our ancient mountains are being destroyed and
our people are being sacrificed for corporate greed and political ambition.
Our very survival as a culture now depends on the Environmental Protection
Agency, which has begun to take steps to protect us. We call on them today
to save our home, Appalachia.” YouTube
Video of Speech.
Haltom, Executive Director, Coal River Mountain Watch, Naoma (Raleigh County),
“Mountaintop removal's increasing health impacts on the surrounding
communities demand that this form of coal extraction be abolished. While
the EPA has taken some modest steps to enforce the laws regulating the destruction,
we have come from the heart of Appalachia to ask them to go further in protecting
“Instead of standing up for the people, our so-called Congressional
representatives are looking out for big coal's profits. Instead of encouraging
the EPA to vigorously defend our well-being, they are trying to remove the
only protection we have.” YouTube Video of Speech.
Allen Johnson, Co-Founder and Director, Christians for the Mountains, Dunmore
(Pocahontas County), WV:
“It flies in the face of God’s nature that a nation will ever
be blessed with peace when its energy foundation is based upon a short-sighted
system of oppression and destruction fueled by greed.
“Psalm 24:1 says that the Earth and all that it contains belongs to
God. Society honors God when the Earth is taken care of and human justice
is served. To plunder the Earth for profit and to exploit human communities
for short-term gain is to pour contempt upon God.”
“We call upon Congress, upon state government, upon the EPA, and upon
the American people, to uphold the Golden Rule to our Appalachian neighbors.
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Look deep into your conscience
and ask yourself this question. ‘Would you want your family, your
loved ones, yourself, to breathe contaminated air, drink and bathe in toxic
water, have interminable explosions rocking your peace, have your local
community depopulated, and have your once-beautiful surroundings degraded?
Or are you OK with sacrificing a major portion of Appalachia so that certain
corporations can ‘keep the lights on’ while making hefty profits?” YouTube
Video of Speech.
Kincaid, Board President, Coal River Mountain Watch, and Pioneering Internet
Broadcaster, The H.O.R.N., Fayette County, WV:
“As we speak, hundreds of activists back in Appalachia are marching
along the route taken 90 years ago by working people standing up for their
homes, families, and communities against an oppressive industry. That march
culminated in the Battle of Blair Mountain, when the industry used guns,
bombs, and the power of the United States government itself to stifle dissent.
That historic site, like hundreds of America's oldest mountains, is slated
for destruction. Ninety years later, the coal industry, in conjunction with
miners’ union leadership, routinely uses hostile, threatening language
to describe people of good will merely trying to save their homes and their
heritage. We call upon the coal industry and its partners in Congress to
stop spreading falsehoods about the good work of the Environmental Protection
Agency and to command their employees and members not to attack or otherwise
molest a peaceful march founded in principles of non-violence.” YouTube
Video of Speech.
The Contingent included the following witnesses:
Bo Webb, Purpose
Prize Recipient and Member/Organizer, Coal River Mountain Watch, Peachtree
Hollow, Coal River Valley (Raleigh County), WV
Mickey McCoy, Member, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Inez, KY
Mari-Lynn Evans, 2010 West Virginia Filmmaker of the Year and Executive
Producer, Coal Country, Native of Bulltown (Braxton County), WV
Debbie Jarrell, Assistant Director, Coal River Mountain Watch, Rock Creek
(Boone County), WV
Rev. Allen Johnson, Co-Founder and Director, Christians for the Mountains,
Dunmore (Pocahontas County), WV
Bob Kincaid, Board President, Coal River Mountain Watch, and Pioneering
Internet Broadcaster, The H.O.R.N., Fayette County, WV
Vernon Haltom, Executive Director, Coal River Mountain Watch, Naoma (Raleigh
Matthew Sherman, Blackfoot Indian, Federal Native American Spiritual Advisor--
Federal Bureau of Prisons, American Indian Movement organizer, Kanawha Valley,
Liz Judge, Earthjustice
that afternoon, the contingent met with EPA Officials chaired by Lisa Garcia,
to discuss serious health issues related to air and water pollution in the
Some Links that Report on the Press Conference