04 October 2010

More than 100 arrested in mountaintop removal coal mining protest

More than 100 people were arrested during Appalachia Rising, the largest national protest to end mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Arrests included Appalachian residents; retired coal miners; renowned climate scientist, James Hansen; and faith leaders.

After a march from Freedom Plaza and a rally at Lafayette Park, more than 100 staged a sit-in in front of the White House to demand President Obama follow his own science and end mountaintop mining. The likely charge for those participating is obstruction.

In addition to the non-violent civil disobedience at the White House, four people were arrested during a sit-in at PNC bank for protesting the bank’s role as the lead U.S. financier of MTR.

The crowd was mostly youthful ralliers carrying signs like "Blowing Up Mountains for Coal Poisons People" and "Mountain ecosystems won't grow back." Some carried small white crosses adorned with messages such as "water pollution" and "corporate greed."

Mickey McCoy, former mayor and lifelong resident of Inez, Kentucky, who was amongst those arrested, said, “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. 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."

In mountaintop removal mining, forests are clear-cut, explosives blast apart the rock, and machines scoop out exposed coal. The earth left behind is dumped into valleys, often covering intermittent streams.

To begin a mountaintop-removal operation, crews clear trees from the site. Then they dynamite to shake the peaks loose, and dig up the coal with a 2,000-ton, 20-story-high machine called a dragline. They then bulldoze the debris, dumping it into nearby valleys. Coal operators however, say it's the most effective way to reach some reserves, that it supports tens of thousands of jobs and provides coal for electric power plants across much of the South and East.

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps to restrict mountaintop removal mining, but the protesters are calling for a total ban. The EPA is set to make a decision in the coming weeks on whether to reverse the Corps of Engineers' 2007 approval for the mine. With mountaintop removal becoming more controversial, the EPA’s decision on the 2,278-acre Spruce project is being closely watched as a sign of the mining practice’s future.

To follow Appalachia Rising online through live blogs, streaming photos, Twitter and Facebook visit appalachiarising.org.

Jill Paschal | @VegCookin
Jill is the owner of the online vegan bookstore VegCookin. She is a continuing student majoring in Business Management and loves to travel world cultures via cuisine.

Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/ranax