Mountaintop Removal Project and Photo Gallery
Flip a Switch: Blow Up a Mountain:
Over 475 mountaintops in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky have been pulverized, the mountains reduced by hundreds of vertical feet, in an area of destruction totaling over one half million acres, to expose thin seams of coal. Following the mountaintops into oblivion has been a roughly equal area of the most diverse hardwood forest in the U.S., its timber, wildlife habitat, recreational spaces, medicinal plants and headwater streams lost for thousands of years. More than 1,200 miles of once-pristine headwater streams lie buried by hundreds of feet of mountain remains. In West Virginia alone, some three million pounds of poisonous explosives are used daily.
Hundreds of drinking water wells have been poisoned by toxic coal sludge, leaving residents sick and dying. Airborne coal dust causes respiratory and other ailments. Scores of “sludge impoundments,” some containing over one billion gallons of poisonous coal waste, are held back only by earthen dams, some declared unsafe. A few have failed, sweeping away homes and lives, and turning streams into toxic torrents. Coal company executives call these incidents “acts of God.”
Mountaineers, whose families have lived in the same hollows for as many as ten generations, have been and are being, forcibly displaced from their ancestral land.
With many local, state and federal lawmakers, and the Bush Administration, in the pockets of the coal industry, the industry enjoys lax enforcement of often ineffective laws. However, full enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act would halt much of this destruction.
In 1960, some 120,000 coal miners were employed in West Virginia. While sophisticated machines and an increase in surface mining have left only about 15,000 miners, the industry tells those workers that environmentalists are trying to take their jobs. As employment sinks, once-healthy towns wither, and the region lies impoverished, as most of the money from coal goes to the very few individuals at the top. Much of the coal produced in the U.S. is shipped overseas, but coal barons and their allies in Congress declare that increased production helps fuel our energy independence.
More residents are fighting back, to save their land and culture, but only when the nation learns the truth, will mountaintop removal end.
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