Appalachian Citizens Demonstrate at Governors Conference
Charleston, SC—The Mountain Justice Summer (MJS) campaign held a weekend of demonstrations and street theatre in conjunction with the National Governors Association conference in Charleston, SC. MJS is a grassroots campaign comprised of coalfields residents and their allies working to halt mountaintop removal coal mining across Appalachia and transition the Appalachian economy away from dependence on coal and toward a clean energy future.
At noon Friday, a plane carrying a banner reading, “Manchin: Stop Destroying my Mountains – God” flew over the governors’ exclusive golf outing on Kiawah Island, calling on West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin to end mountaintop removal mining.
Friday evening, as the governors were arriving on the historic Battery section for an evening of entertainment and refreshments, they were greeted by banners reading “End the destruction of Appalachia—Stop Mountaintop Removal.” MJS activists distributed literature and spoke to passersby.
Saturday morning, a handful of governors and their guests began a 5K fun run/walk for Healthy America. MJS participants gave them a cheery sendoff at the start and a warm welcome at the finish line. One MJS participant, Randal Pfleger, ran with the group. “After the governors run for their health this morning, I encourage them to run back and make strong stands against mountaintop removal. We cannot run from climate change or air pollution, and children can not run from asthma and coal dust,” he said.
Also on Saturday, demonstrators rallied outside the governors’ opening press conference at the Charleston County Courthouse. Activists shouted “Hey Joe, kids first” to greet Governor Manchin to remind him of his commitment to the health and safety of the students at Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, WV. The school building sits just 225 feet from a coal silo and 400 yards from a 2.8 billion-gallon toxic coal waste sludge dam.
On Sunday, a “wedding” will take place between King Coal and the Appalachian states’ governors in downtown Charleston at the Charleston Place Hotel at 2:30 pm.
Activities will continue throughout the weekend and on Monday, August 7.
As national leaders, our nation’s governors have a responsibility to address the crisis of mountaintop removal coal mining caused by our addiction to cheap energy. The governors of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia , and West Virginia have the power through their environmental departments to close loopholes in legislation and enforcement that allow mountaintop removal.
Mountaintop removal wreaks havoc on local communities when coal companies use tons of explosives to remove the mountain from layers of coal. Repeated explosions crack the foundations of homes; prized fishing streams become highly polluted; speeding, overweight coal trucks cause frequent accidents; leaking toxic sludge dams threaten communities with flooding and annihilation.
“Coal kills, from cradle to grave. Strip mining is destroying our mountains, communities, and culture, while coal-burning power plants dramatically increase asthma and mercury contamination. With our health at risk and global climate change a reality, we cannot afford to drag our feet any longer in moving away from coal and toward clean, renewable energy,” said Judy Bonds, who traveled from Coal River Valley, WV to fight for her homeland.
For more information, see www.mountainjusticesummer.org and www.mountainjusticemedia.org.