Posts Tagged 'Coal mining'

UK presents “balanced” look at coal in Kentucky

And now, from the people who last fall brought you a day-long forum on coal that featured people who are seldom in the same room together — a documentary called Coal in Kentucky.

It premieres at a free showing at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Kentucky Theatre in downtown Lexington.

The documentary was created by the University of Kentucky Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments, also known as the Vis Center, and the school’s Department of Mining. Funding came from the Kentucky Cabinet for Energy and Environment.

“In recent years, coal has become a polarizing topic with strong feelings on all sides,” producer Julie Martinez said. “Our goal for the documentary is to present a variety of viewpoints that can help Kentuckians understand the issues surrounding coal. The questions at hand are so critical for our state that it is crucial that we all join in the conversation.”

The trailer above includes some of the views presented in the documentary. They range from coalman Joe Craft to Jason Bailey of the Mountain Association for Community Development.

For more information and clips, go to

Protesters arrested at Massey meeting

Massey protest 5/18/10

Massey protest 5/18/10

This from the arrestees’ peeps:

Update: Two mountain justice supporters arrested at site of Massey Energy stockholder meeting with shouts, banner

“Massey: Stop Putting Profits Over People” said banner

Richmond, VA – Two activists were arrested at the location of the Massey Energy stockholders meeting after unfurling a banner from the mezzanine above the elegant grand foyer of the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. The banner reads, “Massey: Stop Putting Profits Over People.” The arrests occurred toward the beginning of the meeting. The activists were reading an open letter (below) to Massey Energy demanding that the company cease mountaintop removal coal mining, a practice that is destroying central Appalachia. Several hundred mine workers and environmentalists are rallying outside the building on the street to demand that Massey Energy value mine safety.

The two individuals, Kate Finneran, 22, and Oscar Ramirez, 25, both members of the environmental group Rising Tide DC, were brought to Richmond City Jail at 501 North Ninth Street. According to Ramirez and Finneran, who were able to make phone calls from the jail, both were to be released this afternoon on their own reconnaissance and charged with a misdemeanor trespass charge.

“Coal mining is dangerous. It’s dangerous for our workers, dangerous for surrounding communities, and dangerous for the future of our planet. It’s time we move off of our dependency on coal and transition to a just, safe, clean energy future.” said Kate Rooth of Rising Tide DC. “Massey Energy is notorious not only for putting their bottom dollar over people’s safety, but for driving people out their communities and poisoning their drinking water.”

Massey, a company with a terrible track record of safety violations was also responsible for the April mine disaster at Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia which resulted in the death of 29 workers. In 2008, Massey made a $20 million settlement with the EPA for 4,500 Clean Water Act violations filed between 2000 and 2006. Now, in 2010, they are back in court for polluting America’s waterways again, this time for 971 Clean Water Act violations in 2008 and 2009.

The activists occupied the mezzanine level in the main foyer of the Jefferson Hotel and the banner they unfurled was a 10’ x 10’ hand-painted banner.

Over 500 mountains in the US have already been destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining.

For more information on mountaintop removal coal mining and Massey Energy, please see

# # #


Dear Massey Energy,

We interrupt this meeting of Massey Energy’s Shareholders in order to spotlight and oppose Massey’s terrible safety, environmental and human rights violations. It is our responsibility to stand in firm opposition to Massey’s corporate behavior. We are willing to face the legal consequences of our non-violent action, for we know we are not alone; millions in Appalachia and across the nation are coming to see Massey for what it is. Whether it is the mountains of Appalachia, the lives of underground miners deep inside them, or the wellbeing of communities living below, Massey continually puts profits over people. It is time for the people of Appalachia and America to reject Massey and work together to create something better in its place.

“Violations are, unfortunately, a normal part of the mining process,” Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey, has stated. In 2008, Massey made a $20 million settlement with the EPA for 4,500 Clean Water Act violations filed between the year 2000 and 2006. Now, in 2010, they are back in court for polluting America’s waterways again; this time for 971 Clean Water Act violations in 2008 and 2009. A 2006 fire at Massey’s Aracoma mine killed two workers. Massey settled wrongful death lawsuits for an undisclosed sum and paid civil and criminal penalties of $4.2 million. It is clear that neither the EPA, criminal, nor civil fines, can sufficiently motivate Massey, or Blankenship, to adopt a culture of responsibility in their business practices.

When it comes to mountaintop removal and coal sludge , there is no responsible course but to ban them entirely. Mountaintop removal is the practice of demolishing Appalachian peaks, in order to scrape out their coal seams. It fills neighboring valleys and streams with the resultant rubble, and damages the health of nearby communities. Coal sludge is the liquid byproduct of washing coal in a carcinogenic chemical bath to remove impurities, such as heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, lead, and others. We call for the abolition of both.

These two practices meet at Massey’s Brushy Fork sludge impoundment on Coal River Mountain.

The Brushy Fork Coal Sludge Impoundment is the tallest earthen dam in the Western Hemisphere, permitted to hold 9 billion gallons of sludge. Massey’s “sunny day” casualty estimation is that if the dam were to break, the flood would kill 998 Coal River Valley residents.

Coal sludge impoundments have failed in the past. A Massey-operated sludge impoundment in Martin County, KY broke in 2000, spilling 306 million gallons of toxic sludge into the tributaries of the Tug Fork, Big Sandy, and Ohio Rivers, killing wildlife, and contaminating 27,000 people’s drinking water. Brushy Fork sits above a honeycomb of abandoned underground room and pillar mines in which 31 pillars are of insufficient strength to reliably support the mine roof, let alone the mass of 9 billion gallons of sludge. Brushy Fork could also break through bottom failure, causing sludge to gush from abandoned mine entrances into the surrounding, populated valleys.

The peril of Brushy Fork is compounded by Massey’s mountaintop removal operations on the Bee Tree Permit , which surrounds the impoundment. Each day, Massey blasts within hundreds of yards of the impoundment. Every mine blast sends high and low frequency vibrations into the mountain. High frequency vibrations are the visible blast, launching fly rock and dust, and dissipate over a short distance. Low frequency vibrations, however, cause structural damages, often foundation cracks, miles from the blast site. Brushy Fork’s earthen dam structure is within hundreds of yards of blasting operations. Thousands of lives are at risk.

Massey must be stopped—that is why we are putting ourselves on the line today.

Shareholders – you have the power to intervene. Use your institutional power to demand Massey cease its mountaintop removal operations and production of coal slurry. Responsibly decommission the Brushy Fork Impoundment. Also, we ask that you join with the coalition of nine public institutional investors that are asking Massey to withhold support from Don Blankenship and Board of Directors Baxter F. Philips, Richard M. Gabrys, and Dan R. Moore “because they have failed to carry out their duties on the Safety, Environmental, and Public Policy Committee.”

Americans – coal from the mountains of Appalachia is burned all over the United States . It heats our homes, powers our factories, and illuminates our schools and offices. It is sometimes difficult connect one’s energy consumption to a struggle hundreds of miles away, but we urge you to take responsibility for that power and stand in solidarity with the people of Appalachia. We know that not everyone is able to put themselves at risk, but we firmly believe that all Americans can–and must– stand up and say: Massey Energy, Stop Putting Profits Before People!


People of the Earth and Appalachia

If you can’t get enough argument about coal, tune in Tuesday afternoon

It’s the Sierra Club v. Peabody Energy Tuesday night in what is being billed as “The Great Coal Debate.”

It is being billed as “a moderated discussion between two influential participants in the development of our future energy economy.”

WHO: Fred Palmer, Senior Vice President of Government Relations at Peabody Energy
Bruce Nilles, Deputy Conservation Director for the Sierra Club
Moderator: Bryan Walsh, Environmental Correspondent for TIME Magazine

WHERE: Graham Chapel, Washington University in St. Louis, Danforth Campus

WHEN: Tuesday, April 27, 5 pm (Doors open at 4:30 pm)

To watch:
The discussion will be will be streamed live via

Kentucky Coal Association: Bible backs mountaintop removal mining

Herald-Leader reporter Dori Hjalmarson found this on the Kentucky Coal Association Web site while looking up something else.

Mixing Religion and Mining

Under most circumstances, we are of the opinion religion should not play a role in political debate. Recently, however, we’ve learned some religious leaders are railing against mountaintop mining and, as we hear it, invoking the Almighty to bring an end to the mining method.

While these folks are certainly within their right to do so, it made us wonder, should we call for the same help to continue this mining practice, which is, after all, a temporary use of the land? Mountaintop mining employs thousands of people and makes it possible for them to provide for their households, (see 1 Timothy 5:8, below). It also can spur economic development, creating even more jobs in areas where people desperately need work. The reclaimed flat land is and can be used for building factories, schools, recreational and tourist-based businesses, and housing in areas where flat land is a premium and land development costs very high.

We, therefore, even though reluctant to inject them into the debate, enter this scriptural citations for reflection:

“Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:4-5, (New American Bible)

To see more, go here:

Kentucky legislature runs on coal, says Wendell Berry, others

By Andy Mead
FRANKFORT — In one hearing room, legislators listened to report by a director of the Harvard Medical School warning that coal, from mining to moving to burning, is killing Kentuckians.

One legislator responded by noting that obesity also kills people, and wondered if food should be banned.

Then, a little while later in an adjacent room, a group of environmentalists led by author Wendell Berry said they were fed up with the General Assembly.

“We have petitioned, marched, sung, written, lobbied, testified and pleaded — all to no avail,” Berry said. “But today we declare that business as usual in Frankfort — long intolerable — has now become unacceptable.”

The environmentalists, members of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), took turns reading a Declaration of Independence-type statement.

It called on the state’s political leaders to break their close ties with coal, remove legislators with ties to coal companies from leadership positions, and call for an end to “extreme and sometimes violent speech” directed at people who speak out against coal in the coalfields.

Their message: Coal production and demand is ebbing, but Kentucky is not taking steps toward new energy sources and jobs.

Environmentalists characterized the declaration as a major step, but its effectiveness is doubtful.

The declaration specified, for example, that Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, should be removed from chairmanship of the House Natural Resources Committee. A “stream-saver” bill that would curtail mountaintop removal mining in Eastern Kentucky is introduced every year, but can’t get a hearing before Gooch’s committee, the environmentalists said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo later said he had no plans to replace Gooch. Both men have close ties to the coal industry.

In speaking of what they characterized as hostile feelings against them stirred up by the coal industry, several environmentalists mentioned Haven King, the Perry County clerk. He is director of Coal Mining Our Future, an industry-sponsored non-profit that was formed to oppose the stream-saver bill.

A KFTC document listed several instances of hostility, including an unnamed coal company in Harlan County that was forced to shut down because it has put too much sludge in a pond. It laid off workers and gave them the names of people in the community who had complained about the pond, the document said.

King, contacted later, ran down a long list of charitable deeds done by his group, sometimes in concert with KFTC members.

“We’re out here helping the community,” he said. “We’re not trying to intimidate nobody.”

Asked about the report from the Harvard Medical School about the health effects of coal, King said this:

“I have all these people saying these things like global warming, I guess that’s why they’re having this much snow now.”

The report was by Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Harvard school’s Center for Health and Global Environment.

It was presented to the House Committee on Health and Welfare. There was no bill on the issue before the committee. KFTC’s Kevin Pentz said the group would like to see the legislature back a study of the overall costs of coal, but had little faith that would happen.

Epstein’s report said the public health costs of coal are immense.

“Each step of the coal lifecycle — extraction, processing, transportation, burning and waste storage — generates enormous public health burdens.,” he wrote.

The committee gave KFTC 20 minutes to present Epstein’s report and another by a West Virginia researcher, then moved on to other matters.

To read the KFTC documents, go here:

Can clean coal be Lorax-clean? Dr. Seuss’ people say no.

From the New York Times:

The company that protects the copyrights on the works of Theodor Geisel, better known as the children’s book author Dr. Seuss, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Massachusetts company looking to get into the coal business under the name Lorax — the title character of a story published in 1971.

“There’s no reason for them to use the term,” said Karl ZoBell, the longtime lawyer for Dr. Seuss Enterprises, “except to purloin the good will attached to the book and use it for a company that appears to be the opposite of everything the book is about.”

Read the rest of the article:

University of Kentucky students want coal off campus; offers T-shirts

A new UK Beyond Coal group is holding its first meeting on the campus Monday night.
Here’s where to find out more:

And here’s a press release about it (the press release is missing the time and precise location of the meeting; the web site says it’s 8:30 room 357).

Back to School? Not for Coal
University of Kentucky Part of New Campaign to Kick Coal off Campuses

Lexington, KY: UK Beyond Coal launched a new campaign on campus to move the University of Kentucky beyond coal, part of the Sierra Club’s nationwide effort on more than 60 campuses. The group aims to close polluting coal plants, like that on UK’s campus, and replace them with cleaner energy options and energy efficiency.

“We’re focusing on campuses because universities should be leaders in technological innovation and sustainability, creating models for green society,” said Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Campuses should be places of learning, development and growth where young adults can thrive, not homes to dangerous and polluting 19th century technology.”

Already the Sierra Student Coalition, working with students across the country, has been part of a national movement to secure commitments from over 600 universities to reduce their carbon emissions to zero through the Presidents Climate Commitment. One of these committed universities is the University of Louisville, one of UK’s biggest rivals. Yet many schools, including UK, continue to rely on coal to meet their energy needs. In fact over 60 campuses own coal plants on campus, making it impossible to meet the zero emissions goal.

While UK is taking notable steps to become a greener campus, such as recycling in all the academic buildings, improving bike lanes/paths, and hiring Ameresco to help put energy efficiency projects in motion all over campus, the campus still relies on dirty coal. One of these coal plants on campus is over 50 years old.

“UK is on the right track towards becoming a greener community, but needs to just take that last step and become a coal-free campus. Other top-notch universities around the country, such as Cornell, are already moving beyond coal and I think UK should follow suit. I think more research on renewable energy resources and implementing that research on UK’s campus could help UK become a Top 20 Research Institution,” says Allison Roland, a first year at UK.

UK Beyond Coal is holding a Kick Off Meeting on Monday, February 1 in Room 357 of the student center. Over sixty students are expected to attend and take part in the meeting’s activities. Keynote speaker, Tanya Turner, from eastern Kentucky, will talk about the impact of coal in her region as well as what it means to have a coal plant at UK, the flagship for the rest of the state. Students will work on different aspects of the campaign such as media, grassroots pressure, event planning and coalitions with faculty, alumni and student organizations. The meeting will Kick Off the campaign on UK’s campus to move the campus off coal.

The University of Kentucky anti-coal sign mystery (con’t)

Mysteriously posted on campus 1/25/10

Mysteriously posted on campus 1/25/10

Even when it’s cold and snowy out, there still are some people on the University of Kentucky campus thinking about how the school gets its energy. This sign allegedly went up sometime Tuesday. I received the following press release from “midnightactivist.”:

LEXINGTON, Ky: Tuesday, an anonymous group of students from the University of Kentucky hung a banner from a parking structure near Rose Street to protest the university’s use of coal power on campus. The banner, reading “COAL: A Tradition of Oppression. STUDENTS: Let’s Change Our Legacy”, included a reproduction of the familiar UK symbol, with a burning smokestack between the letters instead of the usual Memorial Hall steeple.

Deemed the “midnight strike force” by local news sources, the students are fueling a campaign to move the university beyond the “outdated” technology of coal power and in the direction of cleaner energies. One of the students, an economics and environmental studies senior, said, “You can’t argue facts. Coal is a finite resource and the shift to alternative energies has to begin immediately. Kentucky must realize its potential to be progressive and enterprising in the country’s transition toward environmental awareness.”

The students’ use of the word “oppression” alludes to the detrimental effects of coal not only on the environment, but on the miners and communities in coal-mining regions of the state. An estimated 12,000 coal miners have died from black lung in the past decade, and their families are equally affected. The real tragedy, though, lies in mountain top removal (MTR) coal mining, a practice that more and more coal companies are using to extract coal at a lower cost. MTR employs explosives to decapitate mountains, and the leftover waste is deposited in surrounding valleys. The chemicals and residue bury and contaminate freshwater streams, thus poisoning the water supply for surrounding communities and devastating local ecosystems.

While the university, directly, does not deal in MTR coal, Kentucky Utilities provides a significant portion of the campus’s power, and is a known distributor of energy derived from the controversial method.

“The University of Kentucky is the flagship university of the state, and as such, sets the example for the rest of Kentucky. Any change we can make toward cleaner energy and the diversification of jobs and economies will affect the entire Appalachian region drastically, and for the better. This change is one that can’t wait,” said an Appalachian Studies junior.

It seems momentum has not died from the announcement last semester that the new Wildcat Coal Lodge would be endorsed by the coal industry. Tuesday’s banner was one of a series that has hung on campus since October, indicating that the students have not forgotten President Todd’s decision, and that they still worry for the future of their school’s energy and integrity.

New Web site focuses on changing Appalachia

The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth have come together for a project called The Appalachian Transition Initiative. MACED’s Justin Maxson says the goal is “to promote an active, action-oriented, public conversation about the necessary transition to a new economy in Central Appalachia.”

A new Web site to go along with the project is

More from Maxson:

Our two organizations – a community development corporation and a grassroots social justice organization – exemplify the broad, diverse, and growing body of groups, individuals, and community leaders who agree it is time to transition. We are operating from a widely shared desire for and vision of a more just, healthy, and sustainable economy.

We believe the old extraction-based economy has produced poor results and offers a very limited future. We recognize global economic trends that may be threats to the old economy, but offer opportunities for transitioning to a new economy. And we see new initiatives with the potential to create new jobs and new strategies.

We know that transitioning to a new economy in Central Appalachia will not be easy or quick. In fact it will be hard as old habits, false assumptions, and powerful interests work to protect the status quo. And we don’t pretend to have all the answers. But we believe with a clear vision and a steady approach, together we can move to a new economy that sustains the people and the land of Central Appalachia.

The new website is a full and growing repository of information about our region, strategies for moving forward, organizations and individuals working on these issues, essays and more. The site features a blog that will have regular posts about relevant news and events. We expect to add information and perspective to the site regularly. We hope you’ll use the site and we’d be happy to hear suggestions as we continue to build the site.

The Web site was quietly launched last week Maxson says it will have much more content in the coming months.

After review of mountaintop mining, scientists urge ending it

Here is Renee Schoof’s Lexington Herald-Leader article about the Science piece coming out today on mountaintop removal. Also check out the entertaining comments at the end of Renee’s article.

By RENEE SCHOOF – McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Scientific evidence that mountaintop-removal coal mining destroys streams and threatens human health is so strong the government should stop granting new permits for it, a group of 12 environmental scientists report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.
The consequences of this mining in eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and southwestern Virginia are “pervasive and irreversible,” the article finds. Companies are required by law to take steps to reduce the damages, but their efforts don’t compensate for lost streams nor do they prevent lasting water pollution, it says.
The article is a summary of recent scientific studies of the consequences of blasting the tops off mountains to obtain coal and dumping the excess rock into streams in valleys. The authors also studied new water-quality data from West Virginia streams and found that mining polluted them, reducing their biological health and diversity.

To continue:

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