Jeffry Girard photo: Massey Energy MTR at Kayford Mountain, WV.Mountain top removal (MTR) has been called "strip mining on steroids". A July 2007 leak to the NYT revealed the US government was planning to exempt MTR from its Stream Buffer Zones rule, legalizing the (common but illegal) practice of burying rivers and streams. MTR creates toxic coal slurry impoundments, and makes huge profits. It has already destroyed 700 mountains across the US and more than 1,000 miles of fresh water streams. Changing the SBZ rule would double that destruction over the next 10 years. Mine sites are clearcut, blown up, left stripped and bare despite promises to reforest. Even where attempts have been made, the mountain ecosystem never returns to a healthy state.
Earth First! says, "It is the final solution for 200 million-year-old mountains. Areas incredibly rich in biodiversity are turned into the biological equivalent of parking lots. Since dynamite is cheaper than people, MTR has broken the back of the mining unions in West Virginia... water tables are destroyed, and wells dry up. It is a form of cultural genocide driving a mountain people from their hills -- then destroying the hills themselves. Massive sediment dams threaten to bury entire communities."
For more than 10 years foul-smelling water ran from Kenny Stroud’s taps after Massey Energy dumped coal slurry into headwaters, causing numerous health problems. In 2007, the state won a $30 million lawsuit against the coal company. Photo from Blue Planet Run, courtesy of World Water Crisis in Time magazine 1 Apr 08.
Stories are censored: when a Kentucky impoundment burst, it released more than 20 times volume of the Exxon Valdez spill; West Virginian civil disobedience closed a mine. Both stories were ignored by media outside the state. The Bush administration has made many attempts on behalf of the coal lobby to override court orders, July 2007 being the most recent. On 5-9 April 2008, protesters including citizen groups, churches, and synagogues arrive for a 3rd Week in Washington, demanding a Clean Water Protection Act
If the current protest succeeds, the region could lead the country in creating green jobs.
By the 1920s, plundered for their coal and unable to compete with the non-union labor in Kentucky and West Virginia, the southern Illinois coal towns had turned into deforested and eroded wastelands, and were depicted by one government report as a "picture, almost unrelieved, of utter economic devastation"... ...Today, stripmining in the central Appalachia coalfields is producing the same results. The coal industry uses one million metric tons of explosives a year to blow up the mountains in this region. This explosive force, equal to 58 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, has wiped out more than one million acres of forests, 1,000 miles of streams and 475 actual mountains...a new Appalachian Trail of destruction... Coal pollution has slashed visibility along the Trail as far as the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina... [MTR has] gutted the labor movement and dramatically reduced jobs in West Virginia, Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania.
Map from Appalachian Voices. Click for fullscreen view.
See also The fight for Gauley Mt, Appalachian Voices blog and magazine online, its Google Earth presentation, Mountain Justice Summer, Stop MTR, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; Corpwatch and MiningWatch. EndMTR has videos, photos, blogs and a forum. Christians for the Mountains video; IloveMountains anti-MTR video and others on Youtube show entire mountains being blown up. NYT map/graphs of US coal plant expansion. Orion magazine articles on MTR 2006, 2005. Wikipedia explains MTR, impoundment, slurry pipelines, and attacks the myth of clean coal. The coal lobby's viral campaign.
Protests in Montana and Arizona. New York loves mountains. Sierra Club anti-coal campaign and its Aug 2009 study. Sourcewatch 2011 report on TN protests, river pollution and ash spill. Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) non-violent training and protests in PA.
For other parts of the world see: Blue Planet Run book and water stories from Africa, Central America and Bolivia; Maud Barlow's Blue Covenant on the global water crisis and battles for the right to water.