More than 35 people gathered in Richmond, VA to support the Wise County community group, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) in their call for Dominion to abondon it’s plan to build another power plant in Wise County. The Power Plant will burn coal and waste coal and consume up to 800,000 gallons of fresh water from the Clinch river daily. The Power Plant will add an additional 400-800 coal trucks a day, or one coal truck running through the small town roads every 3.6 to 1.8 minutes.
The group of Virginia residents and Mountain Justice Summer participants says that despite the company’s pledge to use the latest technology to reduce emissions, the plant will still be destructive. “Clean coal? From its birth to its burning, there is no such thing as clean coal,” said Kathy Selvage of Wise County. “They are taking the tops off of our mountains to get the coal, and the plant will still be pumping out carbon dioxide, the gas most responsible for global warming, not to mention other pollutants such as arsenic and mercury.” Mrs. Selvage referred to mountaintop removal mining, which community groups such as SAMS, say is driving out local communities.
“We used to live in a thriving community,” said retired mine inspector Larry Bush, chairman of SAMS. “But as the strip mines started moving in it all started drying up. Whole towns have been consumed by the strip mines.” The protestors say that the new plant will use locally strip mined coal which will increase this destructive practice. Despite the need for local employment, the plant itself will only employ an estimated 75 specially-trained professionals and is unlikely to employ local workers.
To make the connection between strip mining and coal-fired plants, MJS and SAMS began their march at the headquarters of Massey Energy, a particularly destructive strip mining company. A “baby shower” for coal was held where the parents of the newly strip-mined coal, “King Coal” and “Mother Massey,” gave gifts such as blackened drinking water, flooding, and asthma from coal dust to community members. After their skit the group placed “baby coal” in a coffin and marched a little over half a mile to Dominion’s headquarters, where they held a funeral before coal was “put to rest” in a Dominion power plant.
The eulogy at the funeral was a discussion of airborne pollution, water that the plant would draw from the Clinch River, and possibilities for change. The last speaker at the funeral was a giant wind turbine, who lamented Virginia’s resistance to sustainable sources of energy. “Wise County shouldn’t be a sacrifice zone for cheap energy,” Mountain Justice Summer volunteer Joe Overton said, “Dominion should be spending their money to create jobs in sustainable energy. Wise County doesn’t have to choose between their children’s health and a few jobs.”