Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mountaintop Removal: 2012 PEC Advocacy Brief

By Sharman Chapman Crane, Member of the PEC Advocacy Committee, and from Kentucky

Powerful explosives blast open mountains for stripping.
Plainly stated, mountaintop removal (MTR) is the extraction of coal by stripping the mountain of its trees, setting explosives in the rock, blowing up the mountain – sometimes up to 400 feet down to reach a four foot seam of coal. If there is another seam of coal further down the process will be repeated using over 5 million pounds of explosives every day. The blasted soil, rocks, everything living in the soil, and often the trees are bulldozed into the valley and streams and then compacted. Currently 72% of the Appalachian coal is being shipped to China.

The blasting releases trace minerals like selenium, arsenic, mercury, and aluminum in toxic amounts into our air and water. This is what we breathe. The burying of the streams destroys and poisons our waters. The southern Appalachian Mountains supply over 25% of the United States’ surface water. Already over 2,000 miles of streams have been buried.

Mountain permanently destroyed by mining
The coal corporations have been mining coal in Appalachia for over 100 years; surface mining for the past 50 years. Before the mining came in, we were considered the most self-sufficient people in the U.S. Today – the least self-sufficient with the poorest emotional health, physical health, highest mortality rates. We suffer higher rates of birth defects, heart disease, asthma, and auto-immune diseases. We have the highest drug abuse rate per capita in the nation. This type of mining requires 90% fewer employees and 50% of our people have left.

The water carries death. The air carries death. The land has lost its diversity. The people are losing their lives. Our young people struggle to vision a future here. The jobs have left. The people have lost their voices. There is great fear. The people have no options. Many have lost hope. 

MTR violates just about all of the twelve ethical guidelines, especially, renewability, equity, appropriateness, risk, flexibility, participation and aesthetics. A Commissioner’s Resolution opposing MTR was passed by the 217th General Assembly of Presbyterians in Birmingham in 2006. EPA ‘s authority to regulate this devastating practice must be strengthened, not undermined as some in Congress are attempting.
The Agony of Gaia, sculpture by Jeff Chapman-Crane



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