Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining: The
Devastation Must Be Stopped
page written and maintained by Vanessa Paradis
was raised in a small community in the Appalachian Mountains in Eastern Tennessee before moving to Kingsport, TN, when he
was twelve years old. This page was created in his honor and is dedicated to the ongoing struggle of the people to protect
their water and environment from the ravages of mountaintop removal mining. Please read the entries below and support this
movement to stop mountaintop removal mining and help restore their communities.
the founder of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, has been working on these issues surrounding mountaintop removal mining for
many years. Here is the testimony he provided before Congress that details some of the serious issues with this coal mining
practice. Source:Watch Mr. Lovett’s Testimony
Joe Lovett, Executive Director of the Appalachian Center
for the Economy & the Environment, testifies before a hearing of the House Oversight Committee on July 14, 2011. The full congressional hearing can be found here.
January 16, 2010 - One of my Master Teachers
informed me that one or more of my wishes will come true. One of my wishes is for the alleviation of suffering among
the children of Appalachia, where Joe grew up and had witnessed and taken on so much of that suffering. My wish is that 2010
brings many joyous and magical miracles for the people of Appalachia!
Update on Appalachian Mountaintop Coal Mining
new advertisement depicts the disaster. Help the people of Appalachia save the mountains from further destruction.
A New Video from ILoveMountains.org
Appalachian Mountaintop Coal Mining & Its Devastating Effects
This project promoting activism to stop mountaintop removal coal mining, an ecologically devastating
practice in which the natural environment can never be restored to its original condition, and a practice by which we are
polluting drinking water for untold numbers of local and distant residents was a project that I began in honor of Joe's heritage
before he unexpectedly passed away in 2008. This is an ongoing project because during the Bush administration, our
environmental laws went backwards and are in serious need of being restored to prevent the extreme environmental destruction caused by
mountaintop removal coal mining.
Blowing up entire mountains just to reach the coal more economically
and quickly signifies everything wrong about our capitalist-driven imperialist-ruled world today. We are creating a destruction
and havoc that is tearing apart families, cultures, society and the very fabric of humanity as well as causing unimaginable
ecological effects and loss of species. We will never, ever be able to repair this damage. The ugliness, the filth, and the
pollution and its far-reaching effects on emotional, physical, psychological health and well-being will be with us for centuries
- all because a few people were only interested in profit. It is insanity - a psychopathology - to allow this. There are other
viable options for energy.
I would like to see the world and its people continue into the future with
what glorious beauty there is remaining of earth and not leave behind an empty, scabbed earth.
The Injustice of Mountaintop
Removal Coal Mining in the Appalachian Mountains (Part
For humans to escape the colonial, corporate power-driven
disparate, war-ravaged, fragmented, rationally irrational insane asylum that is twenty-first globalized society, we must begin
with an understanding that we are characters operating in a socially constructed matrix. (p. 215) ~ Joe L. Kincheloe
This is the first of a series of blogs that will deal with what is turning out to
be a monumental Environmental and Social Justice problem – Mountaintop Removal Mining in the Appalachian Mountains.
Southwest Virginia, southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee contain some of the highest levels
of biological diversity in the nationand are the headwaters of rivers that supply drinking water to many
major U.S. cities. Before this is over, we may experience one of the biggest environmental and social justice disasters the
United States has ever been faced with.
There is no undoing the ecological and
social damage that has occurred in the Appalachian Mountains which is a direct result of our reliance on coal for cheap energy
along with the insatiable greed of the corporations that engage in this destruction. And while many people are under the assumption
the problem is local, that is a misconception. The problem extends far beyond the nation and the damage we have already done
is irreparable – it will be with the earth essentially forever.
this problem is so large and has so many dimensions, I will cover different aspects in the next several blogs I write. I will
discuss the extent of the problem, how almost every person in the U.S. is implicated in the problem - as well as affected
by the problem, the political nature of the problem, the devastation and havoc it is causing, the fact that we will never
be able to undo the damage, why we must implement alternative actions now to prevent further damage, what those actions might
consist of, and what we need to do to get our government to stop Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining.
To perform our revolutionary agency critically is to revisit the dialectical relation
of theory and practice. What is important to us are the ideas of social change that are given birth in spontaneous movements
and struggles and those developed in theory and made available to the “nonordinary” ordinary people. (p. 109).
~ Peter McLaren & Nathalia Jaramillo
50% of the U.S. energy needs are met with coal.
86% of the coal is used for steam-generated electricity.
More than one-third of all coal used in the U.S. is mined in
the Appalachian Mountains
mining has become first choice for accessing the coal, after the Bush administration changed certain definitions relating
to the Clean Water Act - without congressional approval.
Jobs have disappeared from coal mining-based communities.
Hundreds of square miles of the environment have become barren and uninhabitable.
Sludge and pollution have entered 1,200 miles of streams.
The pollution has entered the ground water.
More than 470 mountains have been blown up.
WE ARE ALL A PART OF THE PROBLEM
ALL BE PART OF THE SOLUTION
have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal, than simplyblowing the tops off mountains. ~ Barack Obama
A powerfully informative movie, courtesy of iLoveMountains.org
as Katrina made perfectly clear, the challenges of a global world, especially its growing ecological challenges, are collective
and not simply private. This suggests that citizens in New Orleans as well as in Vancouver, Halifax and Toronto -- coastal
and inland -- must protect those principles of the social contract that offer collective solutions to foster and maintain
both ecological sustainability and human survival. ~ Henry Giroux
When you turn your lights on, are you blowing up mountains?
If you live in the U.S. and have electricity, you are most likely complicit in destroying
one of the most diverse and beautiful ecosystems in the country – located in the Appalachian Mountains. I live on the
West Coast, and I am. If you are not sure, check it out by typing your zip code in the "Are You Connected?" box
Now, simply, we must strive to challenge our old assumptions as educators
– even as critical educators – and to build our solidarities and organize a common language and ways of being
together more than ever before. This plan for action as I can name it is for a radical ecopedagogy – a term delineating
both educational and ethical literacies. ~ Richard Kahn
Kahn, R. (2007). Towards Ecopedagogy: Weaving a broad-based pedagogy of liberation
for animals, nature, and the oppressed people of the earth. Retrieved September 28, 2008, from http://richardkahn.org/flash.html
Kincheloe, J. L. (2008). Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction. Explorations of Educational Purpose 1.
McLaren, P. & Jaramillo, N.
(2007). Pedagogy and Praxis in the Age of Empire: Towards a New Humanism. The Netherlands: Sense.
The Injustice of Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
in the Appalachian Mountains Part 2
As I had indicated in my
last blog about the Appalachian Mountains, I am writing a series of blogs about mountaintop removal coal mining. This is a
formidable issue that devastates so many people and is destroying and polluting a most diverse ecosystem in our country, as
well as causing serious health issues that will be with us long into the future.
If you are against coal, you are against West Virginia and America.
There’s more global warming caused by the hot air coming out of environmental extremists than there is from burning
This is a coal slurry impoundment, the toxic goo left over from cleaning the coal,
and it consists of heavy metals, including mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc. This impoundment is only half completed. It will hold more than 8 billion gallons of sludge and the dam will rise 954 feet
high. Massey Energy has already been cited more than 37 times, often for surface water contamination and runoff.
the extent that a mountain is removed is a little bit of a misnomer. We are removing mountaintops, we’re not removing
the entire mountain. Well, sometimes it’s the ground level…
~Chris Hamilton, West Virginia Coal Association
How Massey Energy Operates
When the Bush administration
relaxed rules for mining, moutaintop removal mining became first choice. The mountains are blasted to get to the coal, and
the rubble is pushed over the side of the mountains into the valleys. The US Army Corp of Engineers was assigned with the
somewhat mundane task, in their view, of protecting America’s waters, (they would rather be doing more important things),
and the responsibility of issuing Nationwide 21 permits. These permits are issued without public notice when the environmental
effects are considered “minimal,” and the debris that consequently fills the streams is simply regarded as valley
fill. A Nationwide 21 permit was issued to a Massey Energy subsidiary named Green Valley, and it allowed them to
fill in 431 feet of a tributary of Hominy Creek with “prep-plant waste, rock, and dirt” In reality, this was a
violation of both the Clean Water Act as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires public notification
(Shnayerson, 2008, p. 15).
Joe Lovett, the founder and lawyer for the Appalachian Center for
the Economy and the Environment, filed a lawsuit. In the meantime, Green Valley filed for another Nationwide 21 permit
that added the dumping of 21 million tons of waste over 422 acres – a large valley fill along with an impoundment
(see photo above). With the lawsuit pending, they backed down, but the US Army Corp of Engineers approved the Nationwide 21,
giving them permission to destroy 431 feet of Hominy Creek by filling it with debris and dumping debris over 67 acres. Massey
had segmented the property to slide through with a Nationwide 21 permit and no public oversight. The Army Corp of Engineers
had colluded with them. This action violated the Clean Water Act, which does not allow segmenting the scope of the operations
for the purpose of evading public scrutiny. Nevertheless, Massey went forward with filling the stream before Joe had a chance
to get a court injunction. “Don Blankenship had a reputation for signing off on every decision of consequence for the
company’s nineteen subidiaries. Don Blankenship was
Massey” (Shnayerson, 2008, p. 18).
Who is Don Blankenship?
It is a well known matter of common knowledge
that Don Blankenship is one of the most controversial and politically vindictive coal barons in the history of this state
[WV]. Don Blankenship has promoted an extreme right wing agenda that makes most conservative Republicans look liberal…
~ Stephanie Heck, 2007, The West Virginia Blog
Don Blankenship is owner/CEO of Massey Energy. While several companies resort to mountaintop removal
- “no one did it as aggressively as Massey or as recklessly” (Shnayerson, 2008). The Massey Doctrine separated
mine operations into individual companies, forcing the union to negotiate with each one. The parent company had the power
to shut down any one of them and start up anew outside any negotiations with the union. The miners were left no options, but
to take whatever jobs there were for whatever Blankenship would pay them. For Don Blankenship, capital is king.
Justice for all or just between friends?
The debris from mountaintop removal mining
has now buried thousands of miles of mountain streams. When finished blowing off the mountaintops, company officials point
out that they plant grass, trees, and other vegetation, a process they call “reclamation.” The truth is, when
a mountain is destroyed, there is no possible way to ever restore it.
This is your chance! if you
haven’t used it already, learn to use Google Earth! Through Google Earth software you can get close and personal to
the people of Appalachia and also view the “massive scale of destruction…through stories, photos, maps, videos
and interviews with residents.” And it’s easy!
Go to this Website and install Google Earth (if you don’t already have it.) Once you get Google Earth installed, follow the instructions
to zoom in on the Appalachian Mountains. Open the folder for Global Awareness, put a checkmark in Appalachian Mountains.
Then double click on the Google Earth icon to zoom in to the Appalachian Mountains. You can put checks in the boxes below,
or remove them. This activates the different layers of the map when checked. Click on the icons on the map to learn more.
Zoom in on the map and more icons appear. There are photos, videos, photos, and narratives, etc.
If you would rather not use Google Earth, you can learn more at this Web site:
Help me spread
the word about mountaintop removal coal mining.
I just emailed the Environmental Protection Agency asking them to protect and enforce
the "stream buffer zone" rule to protect Appalachian mountain streams from being buried by mountaintop removal coal
mining. It was quick and easy, so please do the same by visiting:clean water!
issues: There are a handful of areas
in the country that the environmental community, Congress, and the public treat as matters of national, rather than purely
local concern. Few would say that all decisions about the future of the Everglades, the old growth forests of the Northwest
and Alaska, or the Plateaus of Southern Utah should be left to local politicians seeking short-term economic gains. We seek
to add the mountains, forests, and streams of Appalachia to this list of special places.
The purpose of this series of blogs is to contribute
to the nationalizing of the Appalachian issues by raising an awareness of how extensive and all-encompassing the problem is
and to promote activism in support of Appalachian communities.
More to come…watch
for part 3...
with radical love,
Shnayerson, M. (2008).
Coal River: How a few brave Americans took on a powerful company – and the federal government – to save the land
they love. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Speaking of the bailouts again, it looks like the coal companies
came out winners.
Check out your Congressional representatives
atFollow the Coal Money Send an email (see sample, below) - it only takes a moment – thank the representatives who don’t take coal
money, like Representative De Fazio, here in Oregon.
I am deeply concerned about the extent of the coal industry's influence on Washington.
Coal is not the solution to our mounting energy
and climate crisis. We need to be encouraging the development and deployment of truly clean, diverse, and sustainable energy
sources. Instead, our increasing reliance on coal is exacerbating many of the issues that I care most deeply about -- issues
like global warming, and the health of our communities and our environment.
Yet politicians of both parties continue to use our tax money to subsidize the
development of the coal industry to the tune of billions of dollars every year -- at a time when our nation should be getting
serious about reducing our carbon emissions.
Perhaps it's partly because coal companies donated over 8 million dollars ($8,711,107) in the 2006 elections -- and
have already spent $6,330,168 in lobbying expenditures this year.
I urge you to immediately stop taking money from the coal industry, and to start the transition to
clean, secure sources of energy now. Our nation's prosperity and environmental security depends upon you declaring your independence
from the dirty influence of coal.
Help Save Gauley Mountain -
sign the petition
I signed the petition
"SaveGauleyMountain". I'm asking you to sign this petition to help us reach our goal of 1,000 signatures. I care
deeply about this cause, and I hope you will support our efforts.
This petition states the demand
to stop mountaintop removal on Gauley Mountain.
We hope to save this mountain and all of its natural beauty for future
generations to come.
If you should have any questions, please feel free to call (304)-522-0246 Ext.
7, or email us at email@example.com. Once you have completed the petition sheets mail it to OVEC PO Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773.
for your help in our efforts to STOP mountaintop removal.
Photo credits: Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
“As a child I wanted so
desperately for magic to be real. I would work for hours collecting what I hoped were just the right combination of ingredients
to make some type of magic potion that would provide me with special powers….I found such magic in words viewed in
a postformal matrix and I observe and practice that magic everyday.” (Kincheloe, 2006, Reading, Writing, Thinking,
This website is protected by
Article I of the U.S. Constitution of the United States of America: “ARTICLE[I.]
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; of the right of the people peaceably
to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”