Updated: New Photos
Appalachians live but a few hours drive from our nation's capitol, much closer than most of the country, and yet their voices are so seldom heard here. Maybe it has something to do with the hillbilly reputation. And maybe, because their voices are so seldom heard here, they've become prime targets for reckless industrial practices like mountaintop removal coal mining, or MTR.
Today, thousands of Appalachians and concerned citizens are trying to change that, by taking to the streets in DC with all the fierce determination and creative enthusiasm that the steep Appalachian mountains engender. Today Appalachia is rising up to demand an end to mountaintop removal coal mining.
The action's already started - check out these pictures from an early morning occupation of the Army Corp of engineers building.
There's no one person that can put an end to MTR - it takes a team. The US Army Corps of engineers directly approves permits for the practice, granting companies like Massey and Peabody the 'rights' to bury over 2000 miles of head-water streams and blow the tops off 450 mountains. But they use standards set by the EPA, which determine what the acceptable levels of pollution and stream destruction are. The politics are set by the Obama administration - how to balance justice for the Appalachian people with the ever-shrinking but significant number of coal mining jobs, with the political power of coal company war-chests grown fat from years of raping the land?
Appalachia Rising is intended to make that choice easier for them. Over the weekend 700 Appalachian residents, retired coal miners, faith leaders, scientists, artists and students crammed into the Georgetown conference center (a bit of a shock for the usual Georgetown residents) and learned how to take down MTR. Today, the vision of Appalachian's like Bo Webb and Judy Bonds and many more will be realized - an uprising in a long Appalachian tradition of plucky determination, transplanted directly to the heart of DC.
From the press release:
"I have talked, begged, debated, written letters to officials, published op-ed pieces in newspapers and lobbied on the state and federal level to end mountaintop removal," said Mickey McCoy, former mayor and lifelong resident of Inez, Kentucky. "Being arrested? That's such a small price to pay for being heard. My home and people are paying the real price for mountaintop removal. They are dying."
Appalachia Rising is being led by residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee
- Appalachian states directly impacted by mountaintop removal. They are calling for the Obama
Administration to immediately abolish the practice of blowing up mountains and dumping the
debris into nearby streams and valleys to reach seams of coal.
"It is past time for the Obama Administration to abolish the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. It is killing off our culture and its people," said Maria Gunnoe of Boone County, W.Va. who works with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. "It is time to turn coal country into clean energy country. Who better to build the infrastructure to repower America than the people who powered it to begin with? We can build a new future starting now and starting in Appalachia, and starting with an end to mountaintop removal."