Monday, February 21, 2011

The Human Cost of Mountain Top Coal Mining

The name of this process is a lie, of course. Mountain top mining is really about removing mountains. Debris, including toxic chemicals used in mining and released from the earth, end up in streams and contaminate the land, killing people and animals alike.

Coal and oil have produced societies that kill as actively as they cultivate life.

The New York Times has a great op ed discussing the terrors of mountain top removal from the point of view of residents:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/opinion/20House.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha212

Here is an excerpt from the article written by Silas House:

Op-Ed Contributor
My Polluted Kentucky HomeBy SILAS HOUSE
Published: February 19, 2011

"LAST weekend I joined 19 other Kentuckians in a sit-in at the office of Gov. Steve Beshear. We were there to protest his support of mountaintop removal, a technique used by coal-mining companies that, as its name implies, involves blasting away the tops of mountains and hills to get at the coal seams beneath them.

"Since it was first used in 1970, mountaintop removal has destroyed some 500 mountains and poisoned at least 1,200 miles of rivers and streams across the Appalachian coal-mining region. Yet Governor Beshear is so committed to the practice that he recently allied with the Kentucky Coal Association in a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency to block more stringent regulations of it. In court his administration’s lawyers referred to public opposition as simply “an unwarranted burden.”

"The news media and the rest of the country typically think of mountaintop removal as an environmental problem. But it’s a human crisis as well, scraping away not just coal but also the freedoms of Appalachian residents, people who have always been told they are of less value than the resources they live above.

"Over the past six years I’ve visited dozens of people who live at the edge of mountaintop removal sites. They bathe their children in water that has arsenic levels as high as 130 times what the E.P.A. deems safe to drink.

"Their roads are routinely destroyed by overloaded trucks; their air is clouded with pollutants. Their schools sit below ponds holding billions of gallons of sludge. Their children lose sleep worrying that the sludge dams will break, releasing the sludge down upon them. It happened 40 years ago at Buffalo Creek, W.Va., killing 125 people, and it could happen again today.

"It’s a horrible way to live. And yet, as it does in many other impoverished quarters of America, the news too often avoids covering Appalachia as if it were a no man’s land.

"When a 3-year-old Virginia boy was crushed to death in his crib after a half-ton boulder was accidentally (and illegally) dislodged by a mining company, it barely made the national news. Many people around here believe the omission reflected that the child lived in a trailer home in the heart of coal country....."


READ THE WHOLE STORY AT THE LINK ABOVE

In 2000, 306 million gallons of sludge — 30 times more than the volume of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez — buried parts of Martin County, Ky., as deep as 5 feet. Yet hardly anyone outside the region remembers the disaster, if they ever heard about it.

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