This past weekend, 50 activists from around the country mobilized to stand up against Big Coal and Mountaintop Removal (MTR) in West Virginia. Organized by R.A.M.P.S., activists targeted Patriot Coal’s Hobet mine, the largest Appalachian MTR site in the country. Activists were able to shut down the mine for roughly three hours before 20 participants were arrested on site for trespassing. Their combined bail currently totals $500,000.
Patriot Coal, one of three coal companies to recently file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has likewise been facing falling revenue streams predominantly due to the boom in cheaper domestic natural gas supplies. In light of this news, activists aiming to draw attention to the destructive MTR business that’s been both an employer and a contentious environmental issue in the region are also hoping to highlight the fact that union contracts and employee pensions could now be in jeopardy given the bankruptcy filing.
In an effort to appease both sides of the argument, protesters are asking the coal industry and the government to ensure that money is available to both repair and restore the damaged land and honor previous financial commitments to retired workers. R.A.M.P.S. spokesperson Mathew Louis-Rosenberg commented:
Coal companies must employ their surface mine workers in reclaiming all disturbed land to the highest standards. Instead of arguing about the ‘war on coal,’ political leaders should immediately allocate funds to retrain and re-employ laid off miners to secure a healthy future for the families of this region.
MTR has been a hot button topic for residents of Appalachia for decades. The battle between an impoverished community and a mighty dirty energy industry has led to insurmountable stress and tension. Sadly, the beauty that is the West Virginia Appalachians has arguably suffered the greatest loss, being vastly deformed and destroyed because of the insatiable desire for coal. As a result, local residents have complained about everything from poisoned, undrinkable water to headaches and severe emotional distress, yet often in the face of unsympathetic government officials.
Activists, like those from R.A.M.P.S., stand to bring light to shady business practices in the face of unrelenting and oftentimes violent opposition. The demonstration that took place last weekend at Hobet mine ceased coal production and drew attention for a few short hours. Don’t you think it’s time to end MTR forever?
Below, watch activist Dustin Steele speak out about MTR. Dustin is currently in jail awaiting bail.
Photo Credit: Calistemon