What The Coal Industry Does NOT Want You To Know

This mountain is one of the 500 that have been decimated by mountain top removal. That is 1.2 million acres of ecosystems that have been reduced to mere moonscapes.

Massey Energy replaces the tops of the mountains claiming to restore them to their former glory, but an ecosystem is much more complex than a pile of dirt; it is an intricate system of interactions between organisms that cannot be repaired with a bulldozer.

One cannot neglect the effects mountain top removal has on humanity. It releases heavy metals such as Mercury, Selenium, and radioactive Uranium into the air. Communities near these projects have experienced persistent brain tumors. The odds of having a brain tumor are 1%, but in some places, small communities have had five residents battling tumors at once. Often times, those infected are children; pollutants have no bounds. Children near power plants are more likely to suffer from autism. In Shippingport, Pennsylvania outside the Bruce Mansfield power plant, Susan Bird’s autistic son attends school with eight other autistic children. When the odds of having autism 1 in 68, it is difficult to deny the odious affects of the toxic ash released by the plant. Bird often wonders, “…Did I do this? Did I cause some of this? You know, if I lived somewhere else, would he [my son] have been healthier?” Deep down Susan, among other parents know the gut-wrenching answer: Yes.

Massey Energy could care less and would go as far as to deny the negative health effects altogether. They proceed to violate environmental law. Between 2000 and 2006 Massey committed more than 60,000 violations. How have they gotten away with this? Without paying the price we are left to pay for with our own wellbeing? Government subsidies and successful lobbying.

Since 2000, the coal mining industry and coal burning electric utilities have spent over a billion dollars on political campaigns and lobbying. If the added costs of air pollution illnesses, mercury poisoning, health damages from carcinogens, public heath cost to Appalacia, and the climate change impact were factored into the cost of coal, the industry would not be able to survive.

So, is there a solution to the crime the coal industry has committed against humanity? Yes, sustainable energy such as wind turbines. Many mountains of Appalachia are perfect locations for wind turbines. Coal River Mountain, for example, is home to category five winds. If turbines were constructed, employment in the area would go up and the mountain would be saved. But Massey currently holds a permit that allows the company to blast the ridges thus cutting the sustainable potential of the mountain. The Obama administration attempted to re-enforce environmental law, but Massey refused to listen since their permits had been obtained while Bush was president.

It seems as though the people cannot win when the government is controlled by the whims of large companies looking for the cheapest way to produce products. The coal industry blames environmentalists for the jobs it has cut when in truth the coal companies are the ones to blame. Massey has forced its workers out of labor unions and cut employment with machine use, and when the coal reserves of a site have been sucked up the mine shuts down leaving the workers with nowhere to go. This leaves Appalachia stuck in an endless cycle of poverty and reliance on coal companies; however, the country began to switch to wind power 185,000 jobs would be created by 2020. And these jobs are not going to disappear. So long as the wind blows and we consume electricity they will be there.

Others would argue that turbines are not an efficient way to generate electricity. Those who claim that are greatly mistaken. If the United States reached its full potential for wind power, each home could consume at the current rate of consumption and every citizen could drive an electric car. With facts like these, how could the government continue to subsidize coal mining and support abusive corporations?

Because Washington has neglected the health of the country in order to let companies like Massey prosper, it is up to us, the citizens, to protest the irreversible degradation of biodiversity and unacceptable health effects created by the coal mining industry. Think of the mountains your children and grandchildren will never see. Think of the children like Mrs. Bird’s who are doomed to live life with mental disabilities that could have been prevented. Think of the men, women, and children—neighbors to one another—that lost their lives to cancerous brain tumors. And lastly, think of our Earth and all she provides for us. She has given us the gift of wind. Why should we let its raw power go to waste?

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