Many commenters to last week’s post about a major coal company commencing demolition of a high-potential wind power site in West Virginia expressed outrage the the practice of blowing the tops off mountains to get at coal seams beneath is common and legal in the United States. I’ve since gotten a chance to see the documentary I mentioned in the post and fervently hope that it does what the producers intend and helps raise the profile of this issue, preventing the leveling of more mountains like Kayford (above).
Mountain top removal mining is what it sounds like. After vegetation has been removed, un-desired soil and rock above coal seams is blasted loose with explosives and hauled away by heavy machinery, often into surrounding valley streams. In the process, dust containing heavy metals, such as mercury and arsenic present in the mountain rocks, is released into the air and water. Toxic waste known as coal slurry is contained in giant reservoirs on site. And a mountain, its flora and fauna and its unique geography, is lost forever.
The film, Coal Country, which airs this Saturday on Planet Green, tells a compelling story about the human impacts of mountain top removal coal mining in Appalachia. The documentary written produced and directed by Phylis Geller, with Executive Producer Mari-Lynn Evans, introduces viewers to several of the leading voices against coal mining in West Virginia. But the film doesn’t tell only their side of the story. The viewers guide to the mining company’s perspective comes in the form of a very likable environmental compliance engineer named Randall Maggard.
Whether this is the first you’ve heard about mountain top removal mining or you’ve been working on the issue for years, the film is worth a watch. By focusing on the people, it shows why this issue is so difficult and touches on resistance to America’s clean energy economy in general: while clean energy is better in the long term, in the short term, there are real people who are not prepared to move on.
Discovery Networks’ Planet Green channel will begin airing “Coal Country” on November 14th, with a premiere at 8:00pm EST. “Coal Country” will be part of Planet Green’s new Saturday Night Series of independent features called REEL IMPACT.
If you are interested in watching the film (or a preview) and participating in a discussion about how to stop the destruction of more mountains, you should surf over the Sierra Club web site to find a film viewing or house party. You are going to come out of this moving wanting to DO SOMETHING (another good reason to consider attending a house party) so start with this Care2 petition.
And, that brings us to the headline of this post: Do your friend’s know what mining companies are doing in “Coal Country?” Many people are shocked to discover that nearly half of our electricity comes from coal. This movie is compelling if watched. And that’s the key, getting people to see it. So what to do? Spread the word. One way would be to share this post using the links above to Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, or where ever your friends find out about stuff. Good “old fashioned” email is still the number one way to share information on the Internet, so use that if that’s what works for you.
Think you are far from the mountain top removal mining issue? You’re not. Check out this great interactive feature at Appalachian Voices that maps an individual’s connection to mountain top removal mining.
Update on Coal River Mountain: Massey Energy continues to blast away on the mountain. They were cited this week by state environmental authorities for improper use of explosives, but it appears to be considered a minor infraction and won’t slow them down much. The Episcopal Church has weighed in, asking their members to call on Obama to stop the destruction of the mountain. Appalachian Voices, who last week were asking supporters to call the White House, has an online petition up this week. And Governor Manchin convened a summit of industry leaders and politicians to discuss coal mining and what they consider threats from federal regulators. The summit resulted in a telling headline from the Associated Press: [West Virginia politicians] vow to speak in single, pro-coal voice.
Image of mountain top removal mining operation at Kayford Mountain courtesy of Shore Fire Media.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
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