The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
This morning, three residents of Central Appalachia and two supporters with Mountain Justice chained themselves to an industrial tank of black water in front of Alpha Natural Resources’ headquarters in Bristol, VA, to protest Alpha’s mountaintop removal strip mining and coal slurry operations across the region. All five blockaders have been arrested.
“I’m risking arrest today because mountaintop removal has to end now for the future viability of Appalachia,” said Emily Gillespie of Roanoke, VA, whose work with the Mountain Justice movement is inspired by Appalachian women’s history of non-violent resistance. The tank of water represents coal contamination from affected communities across the Appalachian region.
The group called for Alpha to stop seeking an expansion of the Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment in Raleigh County, WV. “We want Kevin Crutchfield, CEO of Alpha Natural Resources, to produce a signed document expressing that they won’t seek the expansion of the Brushy Fork Impoundment before we leave,” said Junior Walk, 23, from the Brushy Fork area.
“I live downstream from Alpha’s Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment on Coal River. If that impoundment breaks, my whole family would be killed,” Walk said. “Even if it doesn’t, we’re still being poisoned by Alpha’s mining wastes everyday. I’m here to bring the reality of that destruction to the corporate authorities who are causing it, but who don’t have to suffer its consequences.”
More than 20 peer-reviewed studies since 2010 demonstrate a connection between mountaintop removal coal mining operations and increased cases of kidney, lung and heart diseases, as well as increased birth defects and early mortality. The Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act, currently in subcommittee in Washington, D.C., calls for a moratorium on new mountaintop removal operations until a definitive, non-partisan study can demonstrate the reason for these community health emergency levels of health impacts.
The impoundment at Brushy Fork holds back almost 5 billion gallons of toxic sludge and is considered the largest earthen dam in the Western hemisphere. Recently leaked records show that coal slurry impoundments in Appalachia failed 59 out of 73 total structural tests performed by the Office of Surface Mining. “Alpha is only profitable because they’re allowed to gamble with our lives—and we’re the ones who pay the cost of their negligence and toxic pollution,” Walk said.
Alpha has lost numerous lawsuits relating to pollution from mining wastes in recent years, but they continue to violate safety regulations and expand their hazardous operations. After refusing to take responsibility for the massive floods caused by the King Coal Highway and their destructive mountaintop removal mining practices, Alpha continues to push forward similar projects, such as the controversial Coalfields Expressway in Virginia.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dr. Brian R. Shmaefsky
One year after the Flint Water Crisis I was invited to participate in a water rights session at a conference hosted by the US Human Rights Network in Austin, Texas in 2015. The reason I was at the conference was to promote efforts by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to encourage scientists to shine a light on how science intersects with human rights, in the U.S. as well as in the context of international development. My plan was to sit at an information booth and share my stories about water quality projects I spearheaded in communities in Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Philippines. I did not expect to be thrown into conversations that made me reexamine how scientists use their knowledge as a public good.
The shipping industry is coming to grips with its egregious carbon footprint, as it has an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and to the dumping of chemicals into open seas. Already, the global shipping industry contributes about 2 percent of global carbon emissions, about the same as Germany, as the BBC reported.
The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC overlooks the Tidal Basin, a man-made body of water surrounded by cherry trees. Visitors can stroll along the water's edge, gazing up at the stately monument.
But at high tide, people are forced off parts of the path. Twice a day, the Tidal Basin floods and water spills onto the walkway.