Stop the Blasting: Build a Wind Farm
on Coal River Mountain
December 10, 2009
There’s a clear choice to be made on Coal River Mountain, one that mirrors the larger energy choice we confront as a nation: continue with destructive, pollution-laden business as usual, or build the green-energy future.
That’s the choice that Coal River Valley residents and clean-energy advocates like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gathered together to highlight on December 7, with a rally at Coal River Mountain in West Virginia.
"This is a crime," said Kennedy, referring to the destruction of Appalachian mountaintops in search of coal. "They are literally liquidating this state for cash. … It's God who made these mountains, and it's Don Blankenship [CEO of Massey Energy] who is cutting them down.”
When Massey started blasting in October, it was in defiance of Coal River Mountain residents who had rallied around a proposal for a 328-megawatt wind farm. A recent study labeled Coal River Mountain as a “Class 7” wind resource – the highest on the scale – and community members hoped to use the mountain for a cleaner source of energy.
Massey Energy, however, has other plans – plans that threaten the water supply and endanger the health of the local communities. Massey’s blasting site sits on top of abandoned mineshafts near an enormous holding-pond of toxic coal sludge. If blasting destabilizes the holding-pond, Massey could break its own record. In Kentucky in 2000, a Massey project spilled an estimated 306 million gallons of sludge, polluting hundreds of miles of tributaries into the Ohio River. That's 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Overall, mountaintop removal has destroyed over 500 mountains and 1.2 million acres of forests, and polluted 2,000 miles of streams. And that’s all before we get to the disastrous consequences of climate change, brought on by fossil fuels like coal. Consider this recent NPR exchange with Massey’s CEO, a notorious climate denier, taped days after Coal River Mountain blasting began:
DON BLANKENSHIP: There is no global warming. … It's just the next phase -- it will go away.
NPR: And if it doesn't … what then?
BLANKENSHIP: Teach your children to speak Chinese, because if we're going to play around with windmills and solar panels, we'll fall behind.
Don’t believe it. It’s not an excess of US innovation to expand wind and solar that could harm our energy industry, but a deficit. In fact, we’ve already fallen behind – by not pursuing wind and solar energy more aggressively. China now leads the world in installation of solar water heaters, and recently surpassed both Germany and Japan as the leading producer of solar photovoltaic cells. We’ve ceded clean-energy leadership on clean energy not only to these three huge economic powers, but to many others, like Australia (on track to install the world’s largest solar power station), and Denmark (a wind energy leader, pulling in almost a quarter of its energy needs from wind).
The good news, for Coal River Mountain, is that the Environmental Protection Agency is on the case, launching an investigation into Massey’s operation there, which could run afoul of the Federal Clean Water Act.
That’s a hopeful development for Coal River Mountain residents like Lorelei Scarbro, who came out on December 7 in support of a mountain that remains intact, topped by a clean, renewable wind farm. In fact, Scarbro, a coal miner’s widow and wind energy proponent, made her voice heard that day in two places at once. She demonstrated in West Virginia, while the Climate Summit in Copenhagen used her taped voiceover during a presentation on several global crisis hotspots, including Coal River Mountain.
“If we don’t start building a clean energy economy and diversifying jobs in West Virginia, what will our children do for jobs in 20 years when the coal runs out?” asks Scarbro. “If we can save this mountain, then we can begin developing sustainable jobs and renewable energy, and we can maybe have an impact on the climate crisis that faces us all.”
Scarbro and others in Coal River Valley have made their choice: to protect their community by pursuing a green energy future. To make your voice heard on Coal River Mountain, you can contact Lisa Jackson at the EPA, or sign the petition at coalriverwind.org.