Filed under: Action, Development, Environment, Southeast
Report from recent action in Appalachia against ongoing Mountain Top Removal (MTR).
Orgas, WV — Today, over a dozen activists associated with the RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountains’ and People’s Survival) Campaign and Appalachians Against Pipelines climbed to the edge of an active mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mine and held banners spelling “STOP MTR” in massive letters. Aerial photos of the site show the expansive destruction of the Panther Creek Mining Complex on White Oak in Boone County, WV, owned by Blackhawk Mining, LLC. The RAMPS Campaign and Appalachians Against Pipelines are calling for an end to surface mining in Appalachia because of the devastating effects of mining on drinking water, residents’ health, cultural resources, air quality, and the global climate crisis.
Clyde Bowe, a lifelong resident of the Coal River Valley, remembers hunting and root digging on White Oak for decades before it was stripped: “They shouldn’t be stripping that mountain like that. That’s bullshit. I’ve lived here my whole friggin’ life. You can’t go up there and root dig anymore, or see live trees, ‘cause they’ve stripped it. They should’ve left it the hell alone, the way I see it. They’ve gotten rid of all the game and killed everything off — that used to be good hunting up there. They should leave what’s there the hell alone, and shouldn’t continue. We should make them stop, is the way I see it.”
Junior Walk, of nearby Eunice, WV, explained: “The coal industry has exploited my community for well over a century. I am beyond proud to stand in support of those who are exposing and taking a stand against the practices of extractive industries here in West Virginia. The looming specter of global climate change makes the activities of the coal industry no longer just the problem of the people who live here. The wholesale and total destruction of acres upon acres of some of the most biologically diverse forest on the planet — for the sake of mining an antiquated resource that’s one of the main contributors to global CO2 levels — is one of the most batshit ideas anyone ever had in their life. The fact that this practice not only continues today but is expanding should be a cause for concern for every single human being.”
Today’s action comes on the heels of Fall Summit, an annual weekend event co-hosted this year by the RAMPS Campaign (an organization with a multiyear history of fighting against surface mining and supporting communities in Appalachia) and Appalachians Against Pipelines (which has sustained a nonviolent direct action campaign against the Mountain Valley Pipeline for over 1.5 years). At this event, local organizers, members of the community, and students from the region came together to build community and draw connections between fights against extractive industry and a myriad of other issues facing Appalachia, including the opioid crisis, reproductive rights, and racial justice.
The struggles against pipelines and mountaintop removal coal mining are fundamentally connected, as are all struggles against extractive industry. Across Appalachia, surface mines, fracking, and massive pipelines are presently destroying habitats, decimating the biodiversity of mountains, poisoning water supplies, and causing cancer, birth defects, and other health issues in nearby communities. The proposed Appalachian Storage Hub petrochemical complex stands to make the Ohio River Valley the next major hub for the storage and transportation of fracked gas and related chemicals. Extractive industry carries on its profit-seeking “business as usual” with no regard for the health of those around it, and is enabled by regulatory and government agencies in doing so. In 2017, a health study on the impacts of MTR was halted by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement for no clear reason. In 2019, the WV Department of Environmental Protection altered its laws concerning pipeline crossings to expedite the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline after a federal court revoked the pipeline’s permit.
Not only does extractive industry cause irreparable harm to local communities, it also drives the global climate crisis. According to a 2018 report by the International Energy Agency, coal is the single largest source of global temperature increase above pre-industrial levels. Natural gas is far from the “bridge fuel” that the industry claims it to be — according to a 2017 report by Oil Change International, the combustion of one year’s worth of fuel transported by the Mountain Valley Pipeline would be equivalent to that of 26 coal fired power plants.
Trish McLawhorn, who is active in the fight against the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines and was present at today’s action, stated the following: “As someone who strives to further educate communities about, while actively opposing, environmentally destructive projects such as the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines, it was especially heartbreaking to visit and learn about the mountaintop removal coal mining currently underway in Appalachia. The disruption of the natural world in this manner, as well as all other violent methods of fracturing our foundations, only strengthen my resolve and should compel every one of us, ever more deeply, to defend all that we love in Appalachia and beyond.”