The Battle to Save Coal River Mountain
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Appalachian coal is a dead end road. With coal production declining across the Appalachian region and prices nearly tripling since 2007, economists and energy analysts are increasingly saying that Appalachian coal is the wrong investment for America.
In Appalachia alone, we've seen over 1 million acres of America's oldest mountains destroyed forever, 1200 miles of headwater streams buried, and some of the highest poverty in the nation due to mountaintop removal mining. But, though we have lost much, the people of Appalachia are fighting back through organizing and advocacy from Charleston to Frankfort to Washington DC.
Coal River Mountain, located in Raleigh County, West Virginia is one of America's Most Endangered Mountains. The communities surrounding the mountain have a rich and mixed history with America's most polluting fossil fuel. As the name implies, many of the towns in the Coal River Valley grew up with the expansion of coal-mining. But, 150 years after coal-mining began in Appalachia, much of the central and southern Appalachians stand devastated by mining, and impoverished by coal companies hell-bent on keeping coal "cheap" at the expense of our land and people. The communities of the Coal River Valley are no different. The people of the Coal River Valley -- having seen and experienced firsthand the devastation that the mining and processing of coal causes -- have seen enough to know that they need to take a new direction in choosing their future economic path.
When you're talking about Appalachia and coal, the word "battle" is not used lightly. From Matewan, to Harlan County, to Blair Mountain, violence and bloodshed are a very real part of our history. Now the inherently American legacy of the miners of Blair Mountain, courageous coalfield labor organizers, and the grassroots movement that led to surface mining laws in the 70s has reached a head. The Appalachian people have drawn our line in the sand. We stand here together to tell companies that would practice mountaintop removal to stop NOW. We have popular support for clean energy, a better economic alternative, and literally everything at stake, and the Appalachian people will win this battle of wind vs. fire.
Check out The Battle for Coal River Mountain to see maps of the area, more analysis, and job projections.
JW Randolph is a legislative associate for Appalachian Voices.