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Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining: The Devastation Must Be Stopped

This page written and maintained by Vanessa Paradis

Joe 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.

Joe Lovett, 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

Lovett testimony

Uploaded by danradmacher on Jul 18, 2011

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.

Posted October 6, 2011 by Vanessa Paradis

Hendryx interview

Uploaded by AppMountainAdvocates on Oct 3, 2011

Appalachian Mountain Advocates interviews Dr. Michael Hendryx about the research he has conducted examining the public health impacts of mountaintop removal mining.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates Blog

Posted October 5, 2011 by Vanessa Paradis



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
This new advertisement depicts the disaster. Help the people of Appalachia save the mountains from further destruction. 

A New Video from

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 1)

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

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman, Flyover courtesy


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 nation and 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.

Because 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

Fast Facts

  • 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
  • Mountaintop removal 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 have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal, than simplyblowing the tops off mountains. ~ Barack Obama

A powerfully informative movie, courtesy of

Second, 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 below.

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

With Radical Love


The story will continue.....


Giroux, H. A. (2006). The politics of disposability. Dissident Voice. September 1. Retrieved September 28, 2008, from 

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

Kincheloe, J. L. (2008). Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction. Explorations of Educational Purpose 1. Springer.

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 American coal…

                                                                   ~ Don Blankenship, Massey Energy

Who is Don Blankenship?

Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman, Flyover courtesy


This is NOT a beautiful lake!

Marfork Coal Co.'s (Massey Energy) massive Brushy Fork impoundment
near Whitesville, WV, is designed to hold 8 BILLION gallons of sludge

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.

To 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.

Golf, anyone? Is this what they call reclamation?


Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman, Flyover courtesy

Learn More!

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:

The National Memorial for the Mountains

The battle is never over.

Mine dumping would be eased under new rules

Please get involved! for Sweet Appalachia!

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!                                                                       

A National Effort Is Needed

The following is from Joe Lovett’s Website, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, and it is one of his priority actions as a part of the center’s mission:

Nationalizing Appalachian 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.

Big Coal Cleans Up through Bailouts

Why is this happening? Well….take a look:

Do your Congress members support Mountaintop Removal?

Mine do. According to Follow the Coal Money my representatives take coal money, except Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR04)

Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR)

Accepted $124,000 from the coal industry since 2000. $107,500 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Accepted $6,000 from the coal industry since 2000. $2,000 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR04)

Accepted $0 from the coal industry since 2000. $0 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

Representative Darlene Hooley (D-OR05)

Accepted $5,300 from the coal industry since 2000. $2,500 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

Check out your Congressional representatives at Follow 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. 

 [sample email]

Dear Member:

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.


Vanessa Paradis

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.

Click here to sign the petition online

Also, you may want to download and print petition forms to collect additional signatures.

If you should have any questions, please feel free to call (304)-522-0246 Ext. 7, or email us at Once you have completed the petition sheets mail it to OVEC PO Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773.

Thank you for your help in our efforts to STOP mountaintop removal.

Photo credits: Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Big Deal-Catch Up 
“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, p. 13)
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