Monday, July 30, 2012

a just transition for the region’s strip mining families

    Call for end to crime and disaster by Coal Companies

    Charleston, W.Va.—More than 50 protesters affiliated with the R.A.M.P.S. Campaign have walked onto Patriot Coal’s Hobet mine and shut it down.  Ten people locked to a rock truck, boarded it and dropped banners: ”Coal Leaves, Cancer Stays.”  At least three have been arrested, with another in a tree being threatened by miners with a chain saw.  Earlier in the day, two people were arrested at Kanawha State Forest before a group of protesters headed to the state capitol.
    “The government has aided and abetted the coal industry in evading environmental and mine safety regulations. We are here today to demand that the government and coal industry end strip mining, repay their debt to Appalachia, and secure a just transition for this region,” Dustin Steele of Matewan, W.Va. said.  Steele was one of the people locked to the rock truck.
    Mounting scientific evidence shows that strip mining negatively impacts community health and miner health.   Recent studies have found a 42 percent increase in risk of birth defects around strip mines, and miners who spend at least 20 years as strip-mine drillers have a 61 percent chance of contracting silicosis, a virulent form of black lung.  “The coal companies are poisoning our water and air, and they’re treating the workers no better than the land – fighting workplace health and safety protections to get the most out of labor as they can,” said Junior Walk of Whitesville, W.Va.
    As coal production declines, protesters are concerned that the region will be left with only illness and environmental devastation as the industry pulls out of the region and companies file for bankruptcy to shed legacy costs.

  • Key messages of Mountain Mobilization

    Saturday, July 28th, 2012   
  • The government has failed to protect Appalachian communities by aiding and abetting the coal industry in evading environmental and mine safety protections. The result of this government failure is shattered health, widespread environmental destruction, and unemployment and economic depression throughout Appalachia. It is time for the government and the coal industry to end strip mining, repay their debt to Appalachia, and work to secure a healthy, prosperous future for the families and workers of this region.
  • The scars of over 100 years of coal extraction can be seen in the black lung clinics, acid mine drainage, unreclaimed surface mines, communities with high rates of cancer and birth defects, and the many pensioners who wonder about promises made by their bosses in the industry.
  • Patriot Coal, owner of the Hobet mine, the largest surface mine in West Virginia, is currently going through chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy was filed through a shell corporation in New York, created only months ago. In bankruptcy court, union contracts and pensions could be on the chopping block.
  • Central Appalachian coal production is in the middle of a 50 percent, six-year decline, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Both UMWA pensions and reclamation of abandoned strip mines are funded by a per-ton tax on coal. This is no longer a viable option in the face of a declining coal industry.
  • For each working miner, Patriot has more than four retired miners who have put their bodies on the line with faith that they would be supported in old age. This is a promise Patriot must keep.
  • Patriot Coal, led by CEO Irl F. Engelhardt and its investors, are the latest in a long tradition of Appalachian coal bosses to leave illness and environmental devastation in their wake when profits dry up and they go bankrupt.
  • Mountaintop removal is the most dramatic example of the coal industry extracting wealth from central Appalachia, leaving denuded land and polluted streams behind them.
  • Coal companies must employ their surface mine workers in reclaiming to the highest standards all disturbed land. Government leaders should immediately allocate funds to retrain and re-employ laid off miners to reclaim Appalachia and lead America into a new, greener future.
  • For the future of the state, the coal industry must be held accountable for the environmental destruction and human cost of its actions. No longer can we allow this industry to abandon its responsibilities to the land and people of Appalachia.

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