Dec 30: Paying the price: Truth about coal-fired energy

ANNISTON, AL -- "While much of the United States casually strolled through Christmas week, one county in eastern Tennessee struggled to grasp the scope of a disaster. About 1 a.m. on Dec. 22, an earthen dam holding 5.3 million cubic yards of coal ash produced by the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tenn., broke... The biggest effect of this disaster is that it's called out the myth that is 'clean coal.' The extraction, burning and byproduct of coal is not a clean process. When all goes according to plan, its collection spoils natural resources as when water systems are choked by mountaintop removal. Its burning can release unsafe amounts of mercury. As we've seen at the Kingston plant, its ash must be carefully stored lest it destroy property and harm the environment," editorial, The Anniston Star.

Dec 29: Mines don't want you to see results

Chris Irwin is a sixth-generation Tennessean and staff attorney for United Mountain Defense.
NASHVILLE, TN -- "Steep-slope strip mining, aka mountaintop removal, is not in Tennessee's economic, environmental or long-term interest. Mountaintop removal is an ecological atrocity where coal corporations clear-cut and blow up highland watersheds and mountains for the underlying coal. Advertisement The strip-mine corporations claim that mountaintop removal is not a problem in Tennessee, because after they blow up and remove the mountaintops, the rubble is piled on top of the mountains and called a functioning hydrologic system — which is nonsense. Strip mining turns the most biologically diverse forest on the planet into rubble — then the strippers plant grass and call the resulting biologic equivalent to a parking lot 'fixed,'" Chris Irwin, The Tennessean.

Dec 24: Flood of sludge breaks Tennessee Valley Authority dike
Collapse poses risk of toxic ash

HARRIMAN, TN -- "Millions of yards of ashy sludge broke through a dike at TVA's Kingston coal-fired plant Monday, covering hundreds of acres, knocking one home off its foundation and putting environmentalists on edge about toxic chemicals that may be seeping into the ground and flowing downriver. One neighboring family said the disaster was no surprise because they have watched the 1960s-era ash pond's mini-blowouts off and on for years. Advertisement About 2.6 million cubic yards of slurry — enough to fill 798 Olympic-size swimming pools — rolled out of the pond Monday, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Cleanup will take at least several weeks, or, in a worst-case scenario, years," Anne Paine and Colby Sledge, The Tennessean.

KNOXVILLE, TN -- Tennessee sludge spill runs over homes, water, Samira Simone, CNN.

Dec 22: Suit challenges Bush mining rule changes

CHARLESTON, WV -- "A coalition of environmental and citizen groups took the Bush administration to court Monday to challenge the elimination of key water pollution protections that could have been used to restrict mountaintop removal coal mining. Coal River Mountain Watch, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and five other groups sued Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson over changes to the federal stream 'buffer zone' rule. Attorneys with the group Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment filed the legal challenge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia," Ken Ward Jr. Charleston Gazette.

Dec 22: Mining the mountain
Explosives and giant machines are destroying Appalachian peaks to obtain coal. In a tiny West Virginia town, residents and the industry fight over a mountain's fate

Mountain operations, like the 80-square-mile Hobet 21 mine near Danville, West Virginia, due to expand fivefold, yield one ton of coal for every 16 tons of terrain displaced. (Paul Corbit Brown/Smithsonian)

ANSTED, WV -- "Now coal is back, with a different approach: demolishing mountains instead of drilling into them, a method known as mountaintop coal removal. One project is dismantling the backside of Gauley Mountain, the town's signature topographical feature, methodically blasting it apart layer by layer and trucking off the coal to generate electricity and forge steel. Gauley is fast becoming a kind of Potemkin peak—whole on one side, hollowed out on the other. Some Ansted residents support the project, but in a twist of local history, many people, former miners included, oppose it, making the town an improbable battleground in the struggle to meet the nation's rising energy needs," John McQuaid, Smithsonian Magazine.

SAN ANGELO, TX -- Mountain decapitation shameful, Jim Hightower, San Angelo Standard Times.

Dec 18: Compromise coal-mine bill on pollution likely to be law

COLUMBUS -- "State legislators have abandoned a proposal to strip the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to limit water pollution from coal mines. A House committee yesterday deleted parts of a bill backed by the coal industry that would have given the authority to mining regulators at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The panel instead passed a compromise bill that would give the Natural Resources Department eight months to approve or deny plans for new mines... The compromise was a victory for Strickland, whose deputies opposed the original plan," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Is this a victory for public health and the environment? Only in the unnatural logic of the Ohio Statehouse. Since the regulatory agencies' purpose is not to regulate but to approve permits, the only issue is how fast they are rubberstamping permits. "Not fast enough," say the coal barons, and they start an agency turf war to get everyone's attention. Then everyone in the Statehouse decides that to stop the turf war, they will all agree that permits are not being approved fast enough. It's an old gambit and it just worked again.

Dec 18: Reversal of stream buffer rule likely under Obama

LONDON, England -- "The stream buffer zone rule that allows disposal of mining debris within 100 feet of streams will most likely be reversed by President-elect Obama and his Interior Department appointee, according to investment bank FBR Capital Markets. In its energy policy bulletin released Tuesday, FBR opined that the rule 'virtually guarantees' that the next interior secretary will pursue a revision. In fact, Kevin Book, FBR's research analyst, wrote that the Bush administration by its eleventh-hour action has forced the incoming administration to 'propose and finalize a rule to reverse it,'" Platts.

Dec 17: Bringing clean water to Prenter Hollow

PRENTER HOLLOW, WV -- "For years the residents of Prenter Hollow in Boone County, WV have been drinking and bathing in contaminated groundwater. The toxic slurry that is left after coal is processed before going to the power plant was injected into underground mine shafts in the hills above Prenter Hollow. After years of gravity and blasting form nearby mountaintop removal operations, the slurry made it's way into the wells of the residents of Prenter Hollow... Cancer, kidney problems and stomach problems are very common in Prenter, not to mention that almost everyone has had their gall bladder removed," Coal River Mountain Watch.

Dec 16: Gift for coal
Watch out for those lame ducks at the Statehouse! They want to compromise the environment for mining operators

AKRON -- "On Wednesday, the Ohio Senate rushed to passage legislation that would serve coal-mining interests at the expense of the state as a whole. The episode reflected what so many people fear about a lame-duck session, politicians crafting laws in haste, eschewing the benefit of deliberation, the give-and-take that often improves the final product. The Republican majority cast aside the views of the agencies involved, even invented its own reality to do the bidding of coal companies. Now the House will take up the measure in the final hours of the session. The House Republican majority should halt the bill's progress, arguing, if nothing else, that the legislation deserves a full assessment in the new year. Ted Strickland has expressed his concerns about the bill. The governor should be prepared to exercise his veto," editorial, Akron Beacon Journal.

Dec 15: Bush administration finalizes rule on mountaintop removal

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. testifies on mountaintop removal during the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming hearing on December 11.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Bush administration on Friday gave final approval to a rule that makes it easier for companies that mine for coal buried under mountaintops to dump rock and sludge near rivers and streams, in a victory for coal companies. The rule governing so-called mountaintop removal is one of a series of last-minute rule changes governing mining, wildlife and other natural resources that has environmental groups up in arms. The Bush administration said the mining rule strikes a balance between protecting the environment and the country's reliance on coal, which accounts for about half of all U.S. electricity. Under the Interior Department rule, companies that blow off mountaintops to get at the coal underneath won't have to maintain a 100-foot buffer zone between nearby waters if it isn't reasonably possible to do so," Siobhan Hughes, Wall Street Journal. Published December 12.

ABINGDON, VA -- A free pass for polluters to ignore water quality?, Debra McCown, Bristol Herald Courier. Published December 13.

Dec 10: The dirty side of clean coal
As long as mountaintop removal mining continues coal cannot be clean, even if the pollution from burning it can be minimized

DOROTHY, WV -- "This is mountaintop removal mining, the underbelly of the promise of clean, home-grown energy touted by industry and politicians. No place in the United States has seen the damage and the benefits of mountaintop removal like Appalachia, where one third of the nation’s coal is mined. Today about 30 percent of all the coal coming out of the central and southern Appalachians comes via such surface mining. 'There is no such thing as clean coal,' [Larry] Gibson said, talking to a group of journalists under the canopy of his forested knob, where the sylvan sounds of birds and wind carried an undertone of heavy machinery and tumbling rocks. 'I want you folks to write what you see,' he said. 'And if you write truthfully, you will end one of the most barbaric practices on the planet,'" Douglas Fischer, Scientific American.

CHARLESTON, WV -- Wind-power benefits would outpace coal, study suggests, Ken Ward Jr. Charleston Gazette.

Dec 9: Mountain top blasted off for coal

LONDON, UK -- "BBC environment correspondent David Shukman travelled to West Virginia, America, to see the highly controversial practice of blasting the tops off mountains for coal. So far, more than 400 mountain peaks have been destroyed this way with half of America's power coming from coal," BBC News.

Dec 7: Industry calls Bank of America coal policy PR ploy
Coal industry: Bank of America policy opposing mountaintop mining an ill-timed PR stunt

bank of america protest
Protestors outside of Bank of America’s regional headquarters in Asheville, NC .

NEW YORK, NY -- "Bank of America says it will phase out financing of coal companies that predominantly use destructive mountaintop removal mining practices, citing concern for the environment. But the policy, buried in the company's Web site this week and barely acknowledged by its public relations department, may be little more than show. An Associated Press review of annual reports for some of the largest U.S. producers suggests few get more than half their coal from mountaintop mines, and few borrow significant amounts of money from the North Carolina-based lender," Tim Huber, Associated Press, December 5.

Dec 5: Bank of America to stop financing Mountaintop Mining

mountaintop mining
Executives from the bank were given a personal view of mountaintop mining near Kayford, W. Va.

NEW YORK, NY -- "The Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups, has managed to persuade Bank of America, one of the nation’s leading financial institutions, to take a measured stand against certain surface mining practices. From an announcement released Wednesday by the bank: 'Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies,'" Tom Zeller Jr., New York Times.

Dec 5: cosponsor chart

Dec 3: EPA to gut mountaintop mining rule protecting streams

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday approved a last-minute rule change by the Bush administration that will allow coal companies to bury streams under the rocks leftover from mining. The 1983 rule prohibited dumping the fill from mountaintop removal mining within 100 feet of streams. In practice, the government hadn't been enforcing the rule. Government figures show that 535 miles of streams were buried or diverted from 2001 to 2005, more than half of them in the mountains of Appalachia. Along with the loss of the streams has been an increase of erosion and flooding. The 11th-hour change before President George W. Bush leaves office would eliminate a tool that citizens groups have used in lawsuits to keep mining waste out of streams. Mining companies had been pushing for the change for years," Renee Schoof and Bill Estep, Miami Herald.

COLUMBUS --Don't muddy the waters, Environmental-protection experts should regulate water pollution from mines, editorial, Columbus Dispatch.

WASHINGTON, DC --Rule would ease mining debris disposal, Environmentalists fear streams will be harmed, Julie Eilperin, Washington Post.

CHARLESTON, WV --Bush moves forward with 'buffer zone' changes, Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette.

Dec 2: Opposition mounts as Bush finalizes stream 'buffer zone' rule

CHARLESTON, WV -- "Political opposition is building as the Bush administration moves to revoke parts of a key water quality rule that could be used to limit mountaintop removal coal mining. Governors of two Appalachian coal states - Kentucky and Tennessee - have joined with environmental groups to fight industry-backed changes in the stream 'buffer zone' rule. However, Department of Interior officials are poised to finalize the changes anyway, perhaps as early as this week. So opponents have shifted their focus to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which must sign off on the change before Interior's Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcements can enact it. 'Since EPA knows that valley fills destroy hundreds of miles of streams and pollute downstream waters, we are hopeful they will do their job as public watchdogs and not act like industry lapdogs,' said Joan Mulhern of the group Earthjustice," Ken Ward Jr. Charleston Gazette.

Dec 1: Activists keep pressure on West Virginia mine project

In addition to an expansion of the nearby mine sites, here is the future of Coal River Mountain as envisioned by the coal companies. The land disturbance shown on Coal River Mountain is a simulation based on the proposed boundaries of the Bee Tree, Eagle 2 and Eagle 3 permits. Graphics from Coal River Mountain Watch.

COAL RIVER MOUNTAIN, WV -- "Environmentalists will keep the heat on West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin over Massey Energy's planned mountaintop removal mine on the Coal River Mountain. Whitesville-based Coal River Mountain Watch will hold press conferences in Charleston and Beckley Dec. 9 to discuss a study it's commissioned. While Richmond, Va.-based Massey wants to mine 6,000 acres, environmentalists are trying to preserve the mountain for a wind farm. The news conference will focus on research by Downstream Strategies of Morgantown. It shows wind development is a wise use not just for Coal River Mountain, but for other parts of southern West Virginia," Associated Press.

LOUISVILLE, WV --Coal mining is every Kentuckian's business, "Coalfield lawmakers and their friends in General Assembly leadership are squawking. They didn't like the letters sent by Gov. Steve Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway and U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth and Ben Chandler, objecting to proposed new federal rules that would allow even more coal mine refuse dumping at mountaintop removal sites," David Hawpe, Louisville Courier-Journal.

Nov 26: West Virginia OKs change in Massey mountain mining permit

Coal River Mountain Watch volunteer Bo Webb
COAL RIVER MOUNTAIN, WV -- "State regulators have approved a permit change that will allow Massey Energy to start a mountaintop removal mine on a southern West Virginia site that environmentalists are trying to preserve for a wind farm. Federal permits for the 6,000-acre Coal River Mountain project are pending, but last week's action by the state Department of Environmental protection allows Richmond, Va.-based Massey to start mining on a 150-acre tract. It also removes another hurdle to the larger project... Citizens asked for a hearing after Massey submitted revisions to the permit over the summer, but DEP denied that request. 'DEP chose to shirk its duties in favor of an operation they have no hope of properly regulating,' Vernon Haltom, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch, charged Tuesday," Vicki Smith, Associated Press.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA --The coal question, So-called clean technology a myth?, Ricky Angel, San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Nov 25: Mining bill would trim EPA power
Pollution variances might be up to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources

COLUMBUS -- "A new bill would strip the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency of its power to limit water pollution from coal mines. The bill, to be introduced in the Ohio Senate this week, would transfer the EPA's authority to grant coal companies permits to pollute water and to fill streams to mining officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It also would give mining regulators a six-month deadline to approve or deny new mine plans... Environmentalists said they believe the bill actually is meant to help one mining company, Murray Energy Corp., build a 1.85 billion-gallon coal slurry pond in Belmont County," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Nov 24: Coal CEO calls environmentalists crazy

Massey CEO Don Blankenship spoke to a full house at the Tug Valley Mining Institute meeting Thursday evening.
WILLIAMSON WV -- "Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, the fourth largest coal company in the country, blasted politics and the press, comparing Charleston Gazette Editor James. A. Haught to Osama Bin Laden Thursday evening when he addressed the Tug Valley Mining Institute in Williamson. 'It is as great a pleasure for me to be criticized by the communists and the atheists of the Charleston Gazette as to be applauded by my best friends,' he said. 'Because I know they are wrong. People are cowering away from being criticized by people that are our enemies. Would we be upset if Osama Bin Laden was critical of us?' he asked. 'Totally wrong. Nonsense. Absolutely crazy.' Those are the words Blankenship used to describe Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as well as environmental groups. He said he felt simple terms were the only ones the country could understand, that more sophisticated language was over the head of the general public," Julia Roberts Goad, Williamson Daily News. Published November 22.

Nov 20: Just saying no

LOUISVILLE, KY -- "So OK, we were wrong. We warned that Gov. Steve Beshear wouldn't oppose Interior Department plans to ease restrictions on dumping mountaintop removal coal mine waste near Appalachian rivers and streams, thus sabotaging environmental protections that have been in place for 25 years. But he did it. This week Mr. Beshear -- along with U.S. Reps. Ben Chandler and John Yarmuth and state Attorney General Jack Conway -- wrote to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, objecting to these potentially damaging new rules. All four officials deserve praise for standing up to the strip mine moguls, who have made such changes a top priority," editorial, Louisville Courier-Journal.
Nov 20: Waxman wrestles gavel from Dingell

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) will become the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee after House Democrats voted to replace current Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).Waxman won 137-122 in the secret ballot vote. The dramatic intra-party showdown for the coveted position signals a leftward turn for the Democratic agenda. The outcome was a blow to the seniority system and a victory, at least in perception, for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)," Mike Soraghan, The Hill.

This change makes Congressman Henry Waxman one of the most powerful members of the U.S. House. Waxman is a co-sponsor of the Clean Water Protection Act, H.R. 2169, an effective ban on mountaintop removal coal mining. Congressman Dingell is not a co-sponsor.

Nov 12: How Obama thinks about energy policy

With two days left in the presidential campaign, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin attacked some energy policy comments made by Sen. Barack Obama last January. The Obama campaign complained, correctly, that she was quoting him out of context. The exchange was promptly forgotten when Election Day arrived. Obama's comments -- in full -- are worth considering, however, because they were blunt and revealing. Since January, he has been much more guarded.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- "What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there. I was the first to call for a 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases [that] was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are being placed, imposed every year. So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it," Sen. Barack Obama, interview, San Francisco Chronicle, January 17, 2008.
Nov 10: Obama to use executive orders for immediate impact

WASHINGTON, DC -- "President-elect Obama plans to use his executive powers to make an immediate impact when he takes office, perhaps reversing Bush administration policies on stem cell research and domestic drilling for oil and natural gas. John Podesta, Obama's transition chief, said Sunday Obama is reviewing President Bush's executive orders on those issue and others as he works to undo policies enacted during eight years of Republican rule. He said the president can use such orders to move quickly on his own. 'There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that,' Podesta said. 'I think that he feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set,'" Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press.

Dear President-Elect Obama: Here's a Bush policy you could undo with your executive authority --

CHARLESTON, WV -- "Obama expected to tighten coal regulations, Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette.

Nov 7: Coal

Nov 5: Bush administration rewrites the rules late in the game

ST LOUIS, MO -- "With most of the nation focused on a historic presidential campaign and election, Bush administration officials have been busy preparing parting gifts for their friends in private industry. They're scrambling to rewrite scores of federal regulations. Among the goals: to allow power plants to emit more heat-trapping greenhouse gases, to cut back restrictions on mountaintop mining and undermine rules that protect millions of acres of public lands from energy development," editorial, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Nov 4: Total messages from Ohioans to presidential, congressional candidates on mountaintop removal breaks the 40,000 mark on Election Eve

COLUMBUS -- "As of Election Day, Ohio Citizen Action members have sent 40,088 handwritten letters, messages and petition signatures to presidential and congressional candidates urging them to ban mountaintop removal coal mining. Ohio Citizen Action members have been pressing congressional incumbents to co-sponsor H.R. 2169, an effective ban, immediately, and challengers to pledge to co-sponsor the bill if elected. Three presidential candidates -- Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, and John McCain -- have pledged, if elected, to stop it by using their executive authority. The day after McCain said he would 'eliminate' the practice, a spokesman for Barack Obama said he is 'against' mountaintop removal coal mining," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Oct 31: Presidential candidates pan mountaintop mining

CHARLESTON, WV -- "While Barack Obama and John McCain frequently talk up coal as a key component of energy independence, both presidential candidates say they want to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. McCain's West Virginia campaign spokesman, Ben Beakes, says McCain believes mountaintop removal irreversibly alters national treasures, threatens water sources and isn't needed for the industry. Obama's position is less strident. His campaign says the Illinois senator has serious concerns about the environmental implications of mountaintop mining but stops short of demanding a ban on the practice. Neither candidate's stance is a hit with the mining industry," Associated Press, WZTV.

Oct 30: Step 1 in curbing mercury emissions: Find their source
Unique ‘fingerprints’ of coal beds will help scientists track airborne toxin – and agree on controls

NEW YORK, NY -- "Coal-fired power plants are the greatest single source of airborne mercury in the US. But mercury emissions from power plants remain unregulated. One reason: A debate on where this highly reactive and far-traveling metal originates has delayed what many consider long-overdue controls... Now, a team of scientists is developing a way to trace mercury in the environment back to its origin by identifying a unique chemical signature and matching it to a known source. The technique promises to change – and perhaps end – the debate over how to control mercury," Moises Velasquez-Manoff, Christian Science Monitor.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Coal is not the answer, Sierra Club.

Oct 29: Reid eyes Byrd ouster

ARLINGTON, VA -- "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is quietly preparing to ease 90-year-old Sen. Robert C. Byrd from his perch as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Democratic insiders tell Politico. Reid has not yet discussed his plans with Byrd. But in a recent closed-door meeting with his advisers in Las Vegas and a private conversation with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Reid has laid out a scenario that would have Inouye — the committee’s second-ranking Democrat — taking over Byrd’s chairmanship by the time the 111th Congress convenes in January," John Bresnahan, Politico.

Sen. Byrd has been the most powerful Congressional advocate of mountaintop removal coal mining. In an October 20 editorial against the Bush Administration's latest mountaintop removal rule-change, the New York Times wrote, "No recent administration, Democrat or Republican, has made a serious effort to end the dumping, largely in deference to the coal industry and the political influence of Robert Byrd, West Virginia's senior senator." His fall from power coincides nicely with the new consensus that this practice must stop.

Oct 27: Americans oppose mountaintop removal, according to poll

CHARLESTON, WV -- "Americans oppose mountaintop removal coal mining by a wide margin, according to the first nationwide poll on the issue to be made public. A majority of Americans are also against a Bush administration rewrite of a federal stream 'buffer zone' rule to allow mine operators to continue burying streams, the poll found. The survey, released Thursday afternoon, mirrors a 2004 poll that found most West Virginians opposed mountaintop removal. 'I very rarely run into people who think that blowing up mountains and burying streams is a good idea,' said Joan Mulhern of the group Earthjustice, which commissioned the poll with the Sierra Club and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment," Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette.

Oct 27: A path to better breathing

DILLONVALE -- "Melissa Grimm, 32, lives and breathes lung health—and it’s not just because she and her husband, Chip, 31, are both respiratory therapists in eastern Ohio. Melissa and the couple’s four children, who range in age from 7 to 14, all have struggled with asthma for years... And the issue of lung health is a big one in the Grimms’ hometown of Dillonvale, Ohio (pop. 3,716). Dillonvale is in coal mining country and near a coal-fired power plant, a major source for 'particulate matter'—tiny bits of dust, chemicals or metals that float in the air and get breathed into the lungs," Maggie Koerth-Baker, American Profile.

Oct 23: The Appalachian flatlands

CINCINNATI -- "The Bush administration seems to be rushing to get in under the wire a rewrite of environmental regulations that would make mountaintop removal coal mining easier for the mining companies but at considerable cost to the landscape and almost assuredly the taxpayers. The regulatory-averse administration has reason to hurry. Democrat Barack Obama has indicated that he opposes mountaintop removal and recently in a surprise development Republican John McCain said he did as well," Dale McFeatters editorial, Scripps Howard News Service.

Oct 22: Last man on the mountain
Though his neighbors fled years ago to make way for coal mining, Larry Gibson is staying put - protecting his ancestral land

"My ancestors are buried in this land," says Larry Gibson (at his family's cemetery) "How can I leave them to be dug up by the coal company?"

KAYFORD MOUNTAIN, WV -- "The constant clatter is part of life for Gibson in this rural region in southern West Virginia, an area both torn apart by and utterly dependent on the riches of coal. And Gibson, 62, has become something of a local celebrity - and an irritant to the coal companies - for refusing to sell his 50-acre patch of green. Surrounded by a barren moonscape of 7,500 acres of coal mines, Gibson's land has been in his family for more than 200 years, and he has vowed never to let it go, in spite of threats he claims he has received and no matter how sweet an offer the coal companies make him. 'It would be a slap in the face to the people of Appalachia to give my heritage up like that,' he says. 'This land has given me life,'" Kurt Pitzer, People Magazine.

Oct 21: Following the money - the easiest example ever: Congressional candidate Steve Stivers

COLUMBUS -- "Sometimes political puzzles are easy to solve: In Ohio Congressional District 15, 1,689 potential voters have sent messages to candidate Steve Stivers asking him to tell them his position on mountaintop removal coal mining. Stivers has replied to none of them and won't even acknowledge receiving them. Why? When a public official's actions don't seem to make sense, we look at campaign finance reports. We expected to find the top of the contributor list crowded with financial sector firms, given Sen. Stivers' years as a Bank One lobbyist. We were wrong. According to the Federal Elections Commission, by far the biggest contributor to Steve Stivers' 2008 campaign thus far has been American Electric Power," Catherine Turcer, Director, Money in Politics Project, Ohio Citizen Action. 40KB doc.

Oct 21: More sadness for Appalachia

NEW YORK, NY -- "The Bush administration is writing one more sad chapter in the long, tortured history of Appalachia’s coal-rich hills. Last week, the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining proposed a revision, amounting to a repeal, of one of the last regulatory protections against an environmentally ruinous mining practice called mountaintop removal... Both John McCain and Barack Obama have said in the last month that they oppose mountaintop removal, which may explain the administration’s mad dash to rewrite the rule before a more conservation-minded administration arrives in town. Their opposition also inspires slim hopes among environmentalists that Stephen Johnson, the E.P.A.’s administrator, would withhold his approval. That would be an enormous surprise, but also enormously welcome," editorial, New York Times.

NASHVILLE, TX -- Bredesen says mountain-top removal will be issue in legislature, WPLN. Published October 20.

Oct 20: Mines to get freer hand to dump waste
New rule eases water protections

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Interior Department is poised to issue a final rule that will make it easier for mountaintop mining companies to dump their waste near rivers and streams, the agency announced yesterday. The environmental impact statement released Friday afternoon by the department's Office of Surface Mining overhauls a 1983 regulation protecting water quality that has been regularly flouted by mining companies. It marks the next-to-last step in a 4 1/2 -year battle over how companies should dispose of the rubble and slurry created when they blow the tops off mountains to get to the coal buried below," Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post. Published October 18.

Oct 17: Fuel your car with coal? Less likely now

HOUSTON, TX -- "When crude oil was more than $145 a barrel and investors were flush with cash, building plants to turn coal into liquid fuel for cars and trucks looked like a winning bet. But, as oil has fallen below $70 a barrel amid a looming global recession and slowing fuel demand, plans to convert plentiful U.S. coal supplies into liquid fuels look less certain. 'Things have tightened up,' said Bob Kelly, chairman of DKRW Energy LLC, which is eyeing a so-called coal-to-liquids, or CTL, plant in Wyoming. Despite opposition from environmental groups, who say the plants could exacerbate global warming, coal companies, including giant Peabody Energy , have been pushing CTL as a way out of the American addiction to oil," Reuters.

BEIJING, China -- Is it the end of the line for coal-to-oil in China?, Zhang Qi, China Daily. Published October 9.

Oct 16: Moving to save mountaintops

BLACKSBURG, VA -- "Shirley Burns, a doctor of history with a focus in Appalachian studies, is the daughter of an underground coal miner and has a strong interest in coalfields. Burns is also the author of 'Bringing down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal on Southern West Virginia Communities,' a book that outlines the process and effects of mountaintop removal on the people who live near the sites. 'The blasting from mountaintop removal can crack foundations, while also causing dust, decimated roads, noise pollution, exodus of inhabitants, slurry impoundments and valley fills,' Burns said. 'They are bought for their areas to be mined, and are forced to find work and a new home elsewhere,'" Justin Graves, Collegiate Times.

Oct 15: Friend of coal becomes its victim
Abandoned mine imperils home of ex-legislator

LEXINGTON, KY -- "An abandoned coal mine is causing an Eastern Kentucky hillside to slide slowly onto the home of former state Rep. Howard Cornett, R-Whitesburg, who championed coal companies in the legislature... Long a defender of coal companies' interests, Cornett lost his seat after he unsuccessfully pushed a bill to allow more overweight trucks on state roads, angering his constituents who considered such trucks dangerous. In fiery speeches, Cornett said his opponents wanted to destroy the coal industry. 'Howard Cornett wasn't sympathetic when we asked for protection from overweight coal trucks or when we asked for protection from hazardous coal-mining practices. Now the shoe is on the other foot,' said Patty Amburgey of Letcher County, a former Cornett constituent who is active with the grassroots group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth," John Cheves, Lexington Herald-Leader.

Oct 14: More bad news for AMP-Ohio coal project
New study raises "potential for disruption" to operations of South Carolina utility due to reliance on mountaintop removal coal

NEW YORK, NY -- "A just-released analysis of the South Carolina Public Service Authority capital plan has highlighted 'the potential for disruption in its operations due to its reliance on coal obtained through mountaintop removal. The risks associated with this extraction method stem from public policy changes and litigation... The impact of litigation on coal prices in West Virginia, Virginia. Kentucky and Tennessee can result in permit denials that prevent or slowdown an expansion in the supply of coal,' according to the new report by public finance expert Thomas Sanzillo. 'As demand stays steady, or increases due to export pressure, prices rise. In addition, new environmental mitigation strategies that grow out of litigation increases the cost of mining, placing further upward pressure on coal prices. [The South Carolina Public Service Authority] forecasts coal prices in the range of $40 to $60 per ton between 2008 and 2013. However, the price of coal is likely to be as much as 60% higher than the Authority’s current estimates. Current future price curves for coal from the region are projecting coal prices of at least $100 per ton and higher through 2011.'"

"The same questions loom over AMP-Ohio's proposed coal plant in Meigs County, Ohio. The most recent feasibility study update for the plant assumes that AMP-Ohio would buy coal from mines in Ohio and Central Appalachia, the region in which the mountaintop removal operations are underway," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Oct 14: Politics, money blur climate change picture

TOLEDO -- "Achieving meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases that cause global warming could result in higher taxes and electric bills while also driving up costs for everything from food to electronics. By how much? That's one of the great unknowns, though many of the world's top climate scientists believe that failing to act is a foolhardy risk that could irreversibly harm the planet and cost more in the long run," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Oct 13: Ralph Nader on mountaintop removal coal mining and West Virginia jobs

Oct 9: Mountains at risk

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV -- SkyTruth, in partnership with Appalachian Voices, recently documented the impact of Mountaintop Removal coal mining (MTR) over a 59 county area in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia by mapping the historical occurrence of mountaintop removal mining over a 30 year period beginning in 1976 to 2005 using satellite imagery. The historical record shows a 250% increase in MTR occurring over the last two decades, from 77,000 acres in 1985 to over 272,000 acres in 2005. The size of the individual mines also ballooned, with some now covering 15 square miles. Over 2,700 mountain ridges were destroyed by mining. While this impacts an enormous area, how many more ridges and mountaintops are vulnerable to this destructive practice? Knowing which ridges are at risk of being mined is the key to developing proactive strategies to limit further destruction, and predicting downstream impacts should mining occur.

Mercury isotopes may put the finger on coal
Researchers begin to ask: can mercury in the environment be traced back to coals burned in a particular region

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The mercury that occurs in coal deposits from different parts of the world appear to have different ratios of stable isotopes, according to a new study published in Environmental Science & Technology (DOI 10.1021/es801444b ). The preliminary results offer the tantalizing possibility that researchers could eventually use stable-isotope signatures to track mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, according to the authors," Rebecca Renner, American Chemical Society.

Oct 8: River Counties Congressional candidate Richard Stobbs supports "ending mountaintop removal mining"

DILLONVALE -- "Richard Stobbs, Republican candidate for Congress from Ohio's 6th District has written Ohio Citizen Action to say that he supports 'ending mountaintop removal and would support appropriate legislation.' A Vietnam veteran, Stobbs has a BBA degree from Ohio University and a Master's Degree in Administration from Central Michigan University. He has worked as a supervisor at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel in Mingo Junction, as Belmont County Sheriff, and twelve years for the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies. The 6th District includes most of the River counties: all of Columbiana, Jefferson, Belmont, Noble, Monroe, Washington, Athens, Meigs, Gallia, and Lawrence Counties, and parts of Mahoning and Scioto Counties. He is running against incumbent Democrat Charlie Wilson, who is not a co-sponsor of the Clean Water Protection Act, an effective ban on mountaintop removal coal mining. Current Ohio co-sponsors for the Clean Water Protection Act, include Cong. Betty Sutton, Dennis Kucinich and Tim Ryan. Congressional candidates Mike Carroll (CD 4), George Mays (CD 5) and Nick Von Stein (CD 8) have pledged to co-sponsor the bill if elected. Mary Jo Kilroy (CD 15) and David Robinson (CD 12) have also pledged to support the ban," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action. Oct 8: Braced for impact

Elbert and Alvie added this brace to keep their house from falling down. With daily concussions from blasting on the nearby mountaintop removal site in Clay’s Branch, it’s only a matter of time. Elbert and Alvie’s living room is directly over this brace.

CLAY'S BRANCH, WV-- "Not long ago I wrote a post about my good friend Elbert and his wife Alvie. This is a couple that have been married for fifty years and are both in their 70’s. The house they live in is where they have been living throughout their marriage. They have raised three children and their home is truly home to them and their children’s families. Elbert and Alvie are a couple with intentions to spend all of their remaining days in their little house on the hill. They have lived a good life, raised three great kids, and deserve a peaceful retirement. King Coal moved into Clay’s Branch which is directly behind Elbert’s house and the blasting is literally destroying his families roots... Elbert and Alvie, and many families just like them, shouldn’t be forced to abandon their life so King Coal can make a buck," Denny, Stop Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining.

Oct 7: The battle over Coal River Mountain

About 470 mountaintops in Appalachia, including the one next to Coal River Mountain, have been destroyed.
RALIEGH COUNTY, WV-- "Lorelei Scarboro loves to talk about the wild turkeys and bears living on West Virginia's Coal River Mountain. She watches them from the home her husband built when they were first married. But Scarboro is convinced it could all become a casualty of blasting that could begin on the mountaintop which is just 100 yards from the family cemetery where her husband is buried. 'Everything I have here is at risk,' said Scarboro whose father, grandfather and husband all worked as coal miners. About 470 mountain tops in Appalachia, including the one next to Coal River, have been destroyed. Mountaintop removal mining is faster and cheaper than underground mining but its impact on the environment is much worse," Deborah Feyerick, CNN.

Oct 2: Destroying history

LOGAN COUNTY, WV-- "In September of 1921, 13,000 union workers marched to Logan County, West Virginia. More than 2,000 armed deputies met them at Blair Mountain. The battle that followed represented the biggest armed revolt in America since the Civil War, and it prompted the passage of labor laws currently in effect in the USA. To this day, Blair Mountain, West Virginia is steeped in the cultural and political history of Appalachia. Historic markers tell the story of the confrontation, and on the battlefield the artifacts from both sides of the armed standoff still lie where they fell. Yet all of that history is under threat -- as are the beautiful hardwood forests and the mountain itself -- because Big Coal has plans to blow up Blair Mountain as part of a massive mountaintop removal coal mining operation,"

Sep 30: OU event to highlight mountaintop removal

ATHENS -- "An Ohio University student group is putting on Mountainfest 2008 this Saturday to create campus-wide awareness about the environmental issues of mountaintop removal... The main goals of Mountainfest, according to the news release, are to spread the word about mountaintop removal and its problems, as well as inform citizens about alternative sources of energy to relieve the coal industry. 'We will discuss ways in which everyone can use less energy, decreasing the need for coal that has been whittling away at our mountains,' the release said,"Athens Messenger.

Sep 26: Mountaintop removal ban legislation now has 151 co-sponsors pdf

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Clean Water Protection Act, H.R. 2169, an effective ban on mountaintop removal coal mining, now has 151 co-sponsors.  The list includes three Ohio Representatives, Betty Sutton (Copley), Dennis Kucinich (Cleveland), and Tim Ryan (Niles). The first version of the bill, in 2002, had 36 co-sponsors. The 2003 version had 64 co-sponsors, and the 2005 bill had 76 co-sponsors. The next milestone will be 218 co-sponsors, a majority of the U.S. House," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

  • Co-sponsor list. This Library of Congress tally, 152, includes the name of the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, so the actual current count is 151.
Sep 26: Americans back a 5-year moratorium on new coal-fired power plants

PRINCETON, NJ -- "According to a new poll by the Opinion Research Corporation, 'Nearly three out four Americans (73 percent) -- including 64 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents -- would support “a five-year moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in the United States if there was stepped-up investment in clean, safe renewable energy --such as wind and solar --and improved home energy-efficiency standards.' The mid-September poll, also found that 'If they could, 66% would tell their local utility to power their home using wind, solar or some other form of clean-energy technology. This percentage is up from the two previous askings of this question. In the latest survey, 8% say they would choose nuclear power, 3% choose coal-generated power and 21% actually have no preference,'" Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

CHARLESTON, WV -- West Virginia wants more alternative energy, poll shows, Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette.
Sep 25: Ralph Nader campaigns at WVU

MORGANTOWN, WV -- "While McCain and Obama have tiptoed around their positions on mountaintop removal mining, Nader gave a definitive explanation of his position on this coal mining practice:  he wants it to stop. In fact, he didn’t speak highly of coal in general. 'Someday, maybe in the next few decades, it will be considered a crime against humanity to expose workers to mining coal and to mine coal given its affect on the land, on the streams, and on global warming.  The best way to deal with our energy problems is massive fuel efficiency, which we are fully capable of as the most wasteful country, along with Canada, of energy in the world.' Twice during the press conference, Nader criticized Gov. Joe Manchin. He said the governor should stop a mountaintop removal operation on Coal River Mountain and stay out of a class action lawsuit against DuPont," Emily Corio, West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Sep 24: Biden's clean-coal critique has Democrats scrambling

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden appeared to undermine Barack Obama's backing of clean-coal technology when he told voters in Maumee last week that neither he nor Obama 'are supporting clean coal.' In a video circulated today by Republican John McCain's presidential campaign, Biden made his comment as he mingled with the crowd when a woman voter asked him about clean coal. Biden told the women, 'We're not supporting clean coal. Guess what? China's building two every week. Two dirty coal plants. And it's polluting the United States. It's causing people to die,'" Jack Torry and Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch. Published September 23.

CHARLESTON, WV -- Groups target Clay-Nicholas mountaintop mining permit, Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette. Published September 23.

Sep 22: Candidates agree on mountaintop removal

mountaintop removal

CHARLESTON, WV -- "Last week, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain offered a rare moment of consensus: They agreed that mountaintop removal coal mining should be stopped," Ken Ward, Charleston Gazette.

Where we are now. Next steps.

"Last week, Sen. McCain put himself clearly on the record favoring a ban on mountaintop removal. That was a big step forward. Now it is time for Sen. Obama to do likewise.

In a Sep 17 article Ken Ward wrote, 'On Tuesday, an Obama campaign spokesman said the Illinois senator has said publicly that he does not support mountaintop removal.' Obama's office also put out the following statement in response to McCain:

'Senator Obama comes from a coal state and understands its importance to our economy. While he has serious concerns about mountaintop removal mining, he has proposed a major federal investment in clean coal technologies as part of his plan to build a new economy - saving and creating jobs in West Virginia and around the country while addressing the global climate crisis.'

There's nothing in this statement that would keep Sen. Obama from endorsing a ban on mountaintop removal coal mining. Mountaintop removal is about how coal is extracted from the ground. 'Clean coal' is an assertion that coal can be burned more cleanly after it is extracted. They are completely separate issues. The next step is for Sen. Obama to express his support for the new consensus personally, explicitly and on the record," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Sep 18: Ohio’s largest environmental organization praises McCain for pledge to ban mountaintop removal coal mining

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Citizen Action, the state’s largest environmental organization, today praised presidential candidate Sen. John McCain for his Monday pledge to ban mountaintop removal mining. Paul Ryder, the group’s organizing director, said, “While we don’t endorse candidates, we do give credit where credit is due. Sen. McCain has done the right thing in promising to do away with this atrocity. We are one step closer to the end of it.” McCain’s pledge came during a campaign town hall meeting Monday night in Orlando, Florida. “’I do,’ McCain said, when asked if he supports ‘eliminating mountaintop removal mining and the practices like that,’” according to the Charleston [WV] Gazette. Republican candidate McCain joins presidential candidates Ralph Nader, Independent, and Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Green Party, who have already pledged to ban this practice. Sen. Barack Obama has not yet said whether he would ban it.

Sep 17: McCain: 'I do' support end to mountaintop removal

CHARLESTON, WV -- "Republican presidential candidate John McCain said this week that he supports eliminating mountaintop removal coal mining. McCain offered his view during a campaign town hall meeting Monday night in Orlando, Fla. 'I do,' McCain said, when asked if he supports 'eliminating mountaintop removal mining and the practices like that...' McCain's comments came a week before a federal appeals court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the latest in a series of court cases over mountaintop removal," Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette.

CHARLESTON, WV -- Mountaintop removal a presidential issue, Neither McCain, Obama support mining practice, Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette.

Sep 16: Trouble in coal country

Retired coal miner Chuck Nelson came to Washington to lobby against mountaintop mining, a practice that involves stripping trees and blasting open peaks to remove coal. Says Nelson: “How many people, when they flip on their light switch, stop and think: What is the true cost of it?” Photograph by Matthew Worden

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The coal industry has nearly taken over these hills, and at times it feels as if you’ve left America. Along Route 3, Chuck Nelson points to one industrial complex after the next, each with tubes snaking up and down the hillside—they’re preparation plants where coal is washed before it’s shipped to power plants. He points to dozens of onyx-colored pyramids, piles of coal as tall as buildings. 'See that ridge up there?' Nelson says. 'On the other side of that, the coal companies are blasting every day. Blasting the mountains right off.' After hearing that people in a nearby town were getting sick, possibly from coal waste in their water, Nelson and others started taking samples from their wells. The samples, a dozen Mason jars containing different-colored liquids, are in his trunk. One looks like coffee with cream, another like iced tea," Cindy Rich and Brooke Lea Foster, Washingtonian.

Sep 16: Protesters target Southwest Virginia power plant site

Police work to remove protesters from the gates of Dominion Virginia Power's plant construction site in St. Paul on Monday.
ST. PAUL, VA -- "Eleven protesters were arrested Monday after shackling themselves to barrels outside two gates leading to the construction offices of Dominion Virginia Power’s power plant site in St. Paul. Since its inception, environmental activists have opposed the 580 megawatt coal-fired facility — intended by Dominion to be operational by 2012 — citing a broad range of environmental, health and social concerns as well as opposition to the coal industry in general and surface mining in particular. Dominion counters with the assertion the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center will be the cleanest coal-fired power plant in the world and help the utility meet soaring demand for electricity," Stephen Igo, Kingsport Times-News.

Sep 12: Here are a few of the people behind the Eramet victory, and now taking on mountaintop removal coal mining

Cincinnati staff

They're not bragging, but these are some of the people on Ohio Citizen Action's Cincinnati field canvass who, with help from the Columbus field canvass and the Cleveland phone canvass, collected a record-shattering 57,624 member letters to the managers and owners of the Eramet Marietta manganese plant. These letters, most of them hand-written, played a crucial role in the victory. The Cincinnati field canvass is now working to end the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. Left to right:Jamie Weston, La'Kesha Smith, Lauren Frederick, George Khoury, Toni Brock, Erika Luck, Rathna Sivasailam, and Sean Murray.

Sep 10: Ohioans have sent 32,092 messages to presidential, congressional candidates: Ban mountaintop removal coal mining

COLUMBUS -- "As of today, Ohio Citizen Action members have sent 32,092 messages and petition signatures to presidential and congressional candidates urging them to ban mountaintop removal coal mining. Ohio Citizen Action members want Congressional incumbents to co-sponsor H.R. 2169, an effective ban on this practice, immediately. Challengers can pledge to co-sponsor the bill if elected. Presidential candidates can pledge, if elected, to stop it by using their executive authority or by signing H.R. 2169 once Congress passes it," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

NAOMA, WV -- Pro-coal arguments make little sense, Bo Webb, letter to the editor, Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

Sep 8: The 2008 presidential politics of mountaintop removal coal mining:
An opportunity for Obama or McCain, but not both

Enlarge map.

COLUMBUS -- "The opportunity for presidential campaigns, however, is in states just beyond the hardest hit area: Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. According to the poll cited above, awareness of mountaintop removal is 45% nationally. It stands to reason that awareness would be higher in Appalachia, or in areas settled by Appalachians. The four states listed above include large numbers of people of Appalachian origin, and three of them include large areas of Appalachia itself: 665,000 Virginians live in Appalachian counties, 1,455,000 Ohioans, and 5,820,000 Pennsylvanians. Since mountaintop removal mining is not occurring in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the issue could be addressed without the job-loss fear and intimidation present in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. These four states -- IN, OH, PA, and VA -- total 65 electoral votes, or 36% of all the battleground electoral votes," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Sep 5: Another Congressional candidate, David Krikorian, pledges to support ban on mountaintop removal coal mining

David Krikorian

CINCINNATI -- "David Krikorian, Independent candidate for Congress from Ohio's 2nd District has pledged, if elected, to support the Clean Water Protection Act, an effective ban on mountaintop removal coal mining. In a letter dated September 2, 2008, Krikorian said, 'The destruction of Appalachian landscape and its polluting consequences is a problem that should not occur if current laws are enforced rather than circumvented. We have an obligation to ourselves and our children irrespective of political ideology to ensure a safe and clean environment. For this reason, I am happy to inform you that I will support the Clean Water Protection Act of 2007 when elected to the U.S. House of Representatives this November. Unfortunately, neither of my opponents in this race, Rep. Jean Schmidt or Victoria Wulsin, has taken the pledge to support the Clean Water Protection Act. In fact, both of my opponents have taken money from industry groups who are against the passage of the act.'

Krikorian is the founder and Managing Partner, Parody Productions, 'a multi-million dollar novelty publishing business, whose customer base numbers in the thousands.' The 2nd District includes eastern Hamilton County, southern Warren County and all of Clermont, Brown, Adams, Scioto, and Pike Counties. Current Ohio co-sponsors for the Clean Water Protection Act include Cong. Betty Sutton, Dennis Kucinich and Tim Ryan. Congressional candidates Mike Carroll (CD 4), George Mays (CD 5) and Nick Von Stein (CD 8) have pledged to co-sponsor the bill if elected. Mary Jo Kilroy (CD 15) and David Robinson (CD 12) have also pledged to support the ban," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Sep 4: Congressional candidate David Robinson pledges to support ban on mountaintop removal coal mining

David Robinson COLUMBUS -- "David Robinson, Democratic candidate for Congress from Ohio's 15th District has pledged, if elected, to support the Clean Water Protection Act, an effective ban on mountaintop removal coal mining. In a letter dated September 2, 2008, Robinson said 'This valuable legislation will provide for the preservation of our most fundamental natural resource, while simultaneously prohibiting the environmentally-disastrous practice of mountaintop removal for mining coal... I want to thank those private citizens who have urged their elected officials to support the Clean Water Protection Action. I also want to thank Ohio Citizen Action for providing a venue through which Ohioans can proactively engage in national politics and to advance the public interest.'

Robinson is Vice President of Marcy Enterprises, Inc., a small, family‐owned, light manufacturing company that produces commercial and industrial adhesive tapes and flexible packaging materials. The 12th District includes all of Delaware County and parts of Franklin and Licking Counties. Current Ohio co-sponsors for the Clean Water Protection Act include Cong. Betty Sutton, Dennis Kucinich and Tim Ryan. Congressional candidates Mike Carroll (CD 4), George Mays (CD 5) and Nick Von Stein (CD 8) have pledged to co-sponsor the bill if elected, and yesterday we reported that Mary Jo Kilroy (CD 15) had pledged to support the ban," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Sep 3: Mary Jo Kilroy, Congressional candidate, pledges to support mountaintop removal ban

COLUMBUS -- "Mary Jo Kilroy, Democratic candidate for Congress from Ohio's 15th District has pledged, if elected, to support the Clean Water Protection Act, an effective ban on mountaintop removal coal mining. In a letter dated July 28, 2008, Kilroy said 'I, too, feel that [mountaintop removal mining] is a very serious issue requriing swift and strong action... I agree with the Clean Water Protection Act because if nothing is done, our waterways and streams could be lost forever... Although I am not currently a member of Congress, once elected, I will support the Clean Water Protection Act.' Kilroy is a second-term Franklin County Commissioner, and a former two-term member of the Columbus Board of Education. The 15th District includes the western half of Franklin County (Columbus), and all of Union and Madison Counties. Current Ohio co-sponsors for the Clean Water Protection Act include Cong. Betty Sutton, Dennis Kucinich and Tim Ryan. Congressional candidates Mike Carroll (CD 4), George Mays (CD 5) and Nick Von Stein (CD 8) have pledged to co-sponsor the bill if elected," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Sep 2: A feeling of new found hope

Retired miner Chuck Nelson surveys a mountaintop removal coal mine on Kayford Mountain, West Virginia (Andrea Hopkins/Reuters)

HUNTINGTON, WV -- "I just returned from a road trip, which took Lenny Kohm, campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices, and me, throughout the state of Ohio. We made stops and gave presentations in Dover, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. We met some great people, and some great organizations, all like minded people working and accomplishing, on changing the direction of our communities and a new direction for America. I want to mention the Ohio Citizen Action group, and what a great job they are doing, to bring about social justice for all. Dedicated and hard working individuals, building their organization from the ground up, who treated Lenny and I as one of their own. Of course, it wasn’t very hard for them to understand the atrocities that are happening throughout Appalachia. A few weeks before, they had made the trip from Ohio, to see mountaintop removal on Kayford mountain," Chuck Nelson, MountainSaver.

Aug 25: Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney pledges to ban mountaintop removal coal mining

JACKSON, TN -- "While campaigning in Tennessee last week, Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney confirmed her intention, if elected, to ban mountaintop removal mining. McKinney said she was 'appalled and shocked' by the practice. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has also made such a pledge. Ohio Citizen Acton members are urging the others -- John McCain, Barack Obama and Bob Barr -- to join them," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Aug 21: Photo Gallery: Mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia

Jessica Fritz and Stephen Gabor, Kayford, West Virginia.

KAYFORD, WV -- "I spent today on a ridge overlooking the Kayford Mountain mountain-top removal mine site in West Virginia. I have no words to describe the whole horror of this place. It was as if I saw my own mother murdered, decapitated, lying at my feet, nothing but bare rock and dust, pitted and crumbling, as far as my eyes could encompass. Dust covered the leaves of the trees and the understory, turning every green thing grey, like a burial shroud inching out from the dying mountain, a curse on every life in the valley. There were no animal sounds; save for once I heard a hawk cry. The silence is strange for a forested area, the second most diverse in the world. Nothing survives here once the blasting starts," Jessica Fritz, Ohio Citizen Action.

Aug 19: How wind farms may really replace coal mining
One community is attempting to prove that clean energy can beat dirty power -- even in the heart of coal country

RALEIGH COUNTY, WV -- "The late John Flynn, an environmentalist raised in West Virginia's Big Coal River Valley, was a farsighted man. In 1995, Flynn met a Catholic sister fighting poverty there. They talked about the abuses that Massey Coal Company's operations had inflicted on the valley. There were the mining jobs denied to local people and an economy on its knees, people forced out of their homes to accommodate mining in hollows, and front porches blanketed by coal dust. Flynn wondered aloud about placing windmills on top of the mountains surrounding them to produce power. Why, he suggested, couldn't an array of windmills replace the giant coal mines that dominated the valley? What Flynn didn't know was that in a few years Massey would begin the most draconian form of strip mining, known as mountaintop removal, with incredible damage to the environment and communities," Peter Slavin, AlterNet.

RALEIGH COUNTY, WV -- Raleigh County Mountain at center of coal vs. wind debate, Pam Kasey, The State Journal, Published August 14.

Support wind, save a mountain, Coal River Wind.

Aug 18: 22,760 Ohioans write presidential, congressional candidates: Ban mountaintop removal coal mining

As of August 18, Ohio Citizen Action members have sent 22,760 messages and petition signatures urging presidential and congressional candidates to ban mountaintop removal coal mining.

Aug 15: Nader/Gonzalez supports ban on destructive mountaintop removal mining

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader made clear his intentions today to put on-the-table the option of banning so-called mountaintop removal mining as part of his 2008 campaign platform for President. Mountaintop removal mining, which is most widely used in Appalachia, destroys vast amounts of mountain lands and forests, and pollutes waterways. The Nader/Gonzalez ticket supports investing in renewable energies like wind and solar over wasteful coal, nuclear, oil and bio-fuels. At the request of Ohio Citizen Action, an environmental advocacy group, Mr. Nader signed a letter stating: 'If elected President, I will ban mountaintop removal mining by appropriate executive authority and by signing the Clean Water Protection Act when it reaches my desk,'" press release, Nader/Gonzalez campaign.

Aug 14: Ralph Nader pledges to ban mountaintop removal coal mining

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Ralph Nader today pledged, 'If elected President, I will ban mountaintop removal mining by appropriate executive authority and by signing the Clean Water Protection Act when it reaches my desk.' Nader is the first presidential candidate to take a position on the issue," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Background on mountaintop removal and presidential politics, from the June 3 Globe & Mail
Obama opposes plan for mine on British Columbia river

This ridge would become a coal pit should the Cline mine project go forward. The water is now some of cleanest in the world and headed for Flathead Lake, Montana. Cline Mining Company proposes to extract 40 million tons of low grade coal, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 20 years.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- "With voters in South Dakota and Montana going to the polls today in the last two primaries in a dramatic race for the Democratic nomination, front-runner Barack Obama appealed to environmentalists -- and a few superdelegates -- by throwing his support behind a campaign to halt a proposed coal mine on the headwaters of the Flathead River, in southeastern British Columbia. 'Barack Obama supports efforts by Senators Max Baucus, Jon Tester as well as Governor Brian Schweitzer to stop the Cline mine,' Matt Chandler, of Mr. Obama's Montana press office, states in an e-mail that was released yesterday. The three Montana politicians, all superdelegates at the Democratic national convention, have been strong critics of the proposed mine, saying it would pollute waters south of the border and threaten Montana's Glacier National Park. . .
Mr. Chandler confirmed the e-mail and said it had been sent after consultation with Mr. Obama over the Flathead issue, but he declined to comment further," Mark Hume, Toronto Globe and Mail, June 3, 2008.

The Cline mine would be a mountaintop removal mine, 25 miles north of the Canadian border. Sen. Obama's opposition is consistent with the position of Bush Administration, which has also opposed it, saying that "significant adverse environmental effects may occur in the United States." Sen. McCain has not taken a position on the Canadian mountaintop removal proposal.

KALISPELL, MT -- BP drops coal-bed methane exploration project north of Glacier Park; Officials and conservation groups warn that threats remain, Dan Testa, Flathead Beacon, February 22, 2008.

Aug 12: Follow the coal money

BOONE, NC -- Follow the Coal Money is new website that tracks the flow and influence of coal money in U.S. politics, throughout all political parties. Visitors can use its search tools to find out which companies are putting money into politics, and which lawmakers are receiving it. The site was assembled by Appalachian Voices and Oil Change International with data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Aug 11: An end to mountaintop removal mining?

An aerial view reveals a traumatized landscape wrought from mountaintop removal mining at Stateline Ridge.
ABINGDON, VA -- "Mountaintop removal could be ended by as early as next year, said a leader in an environmental group working to halt the destructive mining practices. 'Now there is an increasingly powerful and vocal national movement to stop mountaintop removal,' said Matt Wasson, an ecologist and director of programs for Appalachian Voices. 'I’m saying we’re going to have it stopped by the end of next year ... the end of 2009.' 'Mountaintop removal' is, to some, a controversial term. It refers to the blasting away of mountain ridges to get to the coal underneath, a process that evolved with technological advancements over the decades from traditional contour mining," Debra McCown, Britol Herald Courier.

Aug 10: Singer Kathy Mattea takes in the atrocity of mountaintop removal

Aug 6: Clean coal's dirty secret
Carbon capture won't stop the environmental damage caused by coal mining, documentary says

NEW YORK, NY -- "Coal is embracing a new, green image. With a proposal of new clean coal technologies, carbon emitted by coal-burning power plants may one day be captured and stored underground. But for many living with the environmental consequences of coal extraction and processing, clean coal is a myth. David Novack's documentary, Burning the Future: Coal in America, tells a story of mountaintop-removal coal mining and its ecological impact on Appalachia. This process is cheaper and faster than traditional extraction methods, but is reported to have extreme environmental fallout," Real News Network.

Aug 3: Coal country needs outsiders' protection

LEXINGTON, KY -- "The scale of it is what you see from the air. The totality of the destruction of one of the last beautiful places in the country being performed by an industry in death throes itself. In my county, 65,000 acres have been destroyed already, and there is not a single reason all the rest of our acres won't be also. Those who choose to not just hop around but to really fly and really know are presented with stark personal choices that go to the heart of morality and stewardship of the Earth. They are eating of the apple of knowledge and now must choose right from wrong. . . People can grow food on undisturbed mountain land, and all they get on strip jobs are deer and elk to eat their gardens. Destroying the ability of an ancient people to make their own food is a sin, and maybe the only one everybody ever born will agree is a sin," Larry Webster, contributing columnist, Lexington Herald-Leader.

Aug 1: Kentucky Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo touts mountaintop removal mining

PIKEVILLE, KY -- "Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo is touting the controversial form of coal mining known as mountaintop removal as a means to create level land for economic development. The Hazard Democrat made the comments during a speech in Pikeville. The Appalachian News-Express reported on Thursday that Mongiardo told a group at a local hotel that mountaintop removal creates flat land that could be used for building businesses, hospitals and airports. 'A lot of people look at mountaintop removal as a negative, but I see it as a positive,' Mongiardo said. The lieutenant governor went on to say that he wants to promote mountaintop removal," Associated Press.

Here's some weekend background reading for Lt. Gov. Mongiardo:

TWILIGHT, WV -- Beyond Sago: ‘This is what it’s like to die’ Strip mines present unique dangers to workers. ". . . strip mines — especially mountaintop removal mines across Appalachia — are hardly safe places, according to a six-month Sunday Gazette-Mail investigation. Mountaintop removal mines use huge amounts of explosives to blast off entire ridges and uncover coal seams. Miners operate drills and shovels on narrow ledges. They are often working just below unstable walls of rock and dirt called highwalls. Monster trucks prowl haulroads and hillsides, mixed in with smaller trucks and vans that often can’t be seen or heard until it’s too late. Appalachian strip mines account for one-fifth of the nation’s strip mined-coal. But over the last decade, they accounted for 75 percent of the nation’s surface mine deaths, according to the Gazette-Mail investigation," Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette, Dec 3, 2006.
Jul 30: Mittal Steel and mountaintop removal?

CLEVELAND -- "Dear Mr. Mittal, I am writing on behalf of Ohio Citizen Action. I have recently read about your purchase of Mid Vol Coal Group and Concept Group. These two companies are located in central Appalachia where coal companies have been using mountaintop removal to extract coal. Mountaintop removal literally blows off the tops of mountains, not only destroying the trees and plants of the mountaintops, but also sending toxic coal sludge into the streams below... Do Mid Vol Coal Group and Concept Group use mountaintop removal to mine their coal? If so, does ArcelorMittal plan to continue using mountaintop removal as the new owner of Mid Vol Coal Group and Concept Group?," Emily Mastroianni.

Jul 22: How much of U.S. electricity comes from mountaintop removal mines? 4.8%.

COLUMBUS -- "Coal companies would have us believe that a ban on decapitating Appalachian mountains would result in lights going out all over America. In fact, mountaintop removal coal accounts for only 4.8% of U.S. electricity generation, according to a coal data workbook compiled by Appalachian Voices. And the 4.8% figure exaggerates the role of mountaintop removal coal, since the statistics only account for generation of electricity. If electricity saved through efficiency investments were factored in, the mountaintop removal percentage would be significantly lower. The workbook also includes tabbed data on coal production by state, number of mines by state and mine type, net generation by electricity source by type of producer, revenue from retail sales of electricity to ultimate customers by sector by provider, origin and destination of coal for electricity generation by state and acres of new mining by year by type," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
Jul 21: Industrial Scars

NEW YORK, NY -- "Mining operations work around the clock at amazing speed; this lonely stand of trees disappeared in barely a day. The small bulldozer on the upper level pushes loose material down to the loader, which scoops it up into the next earth mover in line which will dump it into a nearby 'valley fill,' burying the stream there," Henry Fair.

Jul 16: 7,960 messages to presidential, congressional candidates: Ban mountaintop removal coal mining

COLUMBUS -- "Since the beginning of June, Ohio Citizen Action members have sent 7,960 messages and petition signatures to presidential and congressional candidates urging them to ban mountaintop removal coal mining. Of these, 6,169 went to presidential candidates, and 1,791 went to congressional candidates from Ohio. Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining where mountains are literally blown up -- devastating communities throughout Appalachia, polluting drinking water and destroying rivers. Ohio Citizen Action members are urging Congressional incumbents to co-sponsor H.R. 2169, an effective ban on this practice, immediately. Challengers can pledge to co-sponsor the bill if elected. Presidential candidates can pledge, if elected, to ban it by executive order and sign the bill when it reaches their desk," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Jul 14: Today's news before it happens:
This part of the mountain won't exist by tonight.

KAYFORD, WV -- "The wall of rock in the middle of this photograph is full of explosives. I took the photo on Sunday; the explosives will be detonated today, sending the wall down the far side of the mountain. The horizontal black stripe in the wall is a coal seam. The brown material in front of it is newly installed plants dying because there is no topsoil," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Jul 11: Mining turns our streams into trickles of water

LEXINGTON, KY -- "I was shocked and completely dismayed by what I found on a recent trip: Roaring Branch no longer roars. It doesn't growl or even bark; it barely whimpers. There is only a trickle of water down the hollow now. . . This stream probably put a couple of million gallons of water a year into the Powell River. What could have caused such a beautiful stream of water that has run for thousands of years to dry up like that? For those of us who travel from Lynch across Black Mountain, the reason is very clear when you look at what has happened down on the Virginia side of the mountain. The mountain has been torn to pieces. Mountaintop-removal mining has extended down behind Roaring Branch, and the stream has literally disappeared. Southwestern Virginia has lost one of its crown jewels," Robert Richardson, Lexington Herald-Leader.

Jul 7: West Virginians talk about coal and mountaintop removal coal mining

Kaitlyn Grigsby and her Great Grandmother Zylpha Newcome at Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, WV.
BUCKHANNON, WV -- "My 95 year old great grandmother is a lifelong resident of Buckhannon and both of my maternal grandparents were born and raised in Upshur County. Born in 1912, Zylpha McCue grew up on her family’s farm on Dry Ridge. She talks of her husband Carl, a union miner at Cassidy for over 30 years. He worked in low coal, in tunnels '20 some inches high.' Cassidy was 40 miles away, and Carl was home only on weekends. He died years before I was born, from complications of black lung, among other things. Zylpha believes that coal mining will remain in the future of West Virginia, but that there are few men left willing to work in the deep mines. Although Zylpha acknowledges that coal is vital to her home state, she believes that mountaintop removal coal mining is 'a disgrace to West Virginia,'" Kaitlyn Grigsby, intern, Ohio Citizen Action.

Older Mountaintop Removal news Dec 2007 - Jun 2008

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As of November 3, Ohio Citizen Action members had sent 40,088 messages and petition signatures urging presidential and congressional candidates to ban mountaintop removal coal mining.

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Paul Ryder
(614) 263-4600

Older Mountaintop Removal news

Dec 2007 - Jun 2008