This morning residents from West Virginia joined residents from three other states severely impacted by mountaintop removal coal mining in congressional office sit-ins in protest of their congressional representatives’ refusal to protect their communities from the extreme impacts of mountaintop removal. Constituents are currently occupying the offices of Congressmen Nick Rahall (D-WV), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Jimmy Duncan (R-TN).
Some quotes from folks on the ground in D.C. follow:
“After seven years of going in circles, asking just for basic protections for our people and being blocked by our own Representatives who are supposed to be passing legislation to protect our district, we don’t see any other way. Appalachia deserves better,” said Teri Blanton of Hal Roger’s district in Eastern Kentucky.
“Representative Rahall is not taking these studies or our health seriously. If they could actually see these waters, see what’s been done to our homes, see the children that are sick and the people that are dying, then maybe they’d be willing to do something about it,” said Donna Branham of Mingo County, West Virginia.
“I have been trying since 2009 just to talk to Representative Hal Rogers about the horrors of mountaintop removal. I’ve sent him letters, and tried to get meetings with him,” said Stanley Sturgill, a retired underground coal miner from Lynch, Ky. “I’m here for my health, to try to keep what little bit I have left. I’m here for my family, my children, and my grandchildren to try to keep a decent place for them to live. They deserve that and we’re not getting that with the things happening in the mountains.”
“It’s my belief that I have to be ready to go to any length to bring out the change that is required. If arrest is part of that, I’m willing to do that. A lot of people are going through a lot worse trials and tribulations because of mountaintop removal than spending a little time in jail,” said Patrick Morales of Tennessee. “I want Representative Duncan of Tennessee to examine his conscience honestly, and come up with some moral justification for his support of mountaintop removal and share that with me.”
“I never thought I would be cutting my hair off on the West Virginia Capitol steps. I never thought I would be in D.C. talking to Congress, and I never thought I would be risking arrest. But as a mother, I would cut off my foot for my children. As a mother, whatever it takes, I will do it for my children,” said Paula Swearingen of West Virginia, “And I will not allow mountaintop removal to continue to poison my children.”
“I told Congressman Duncan that he should know better than to get between a mother and the safety and health of her children. I am so frustrated that Congress allows coal companies to destroy our mountains and our health. I would do anything to protect the health of my children and grandchildren,” said Vickie Terry of Tennessee.
“We have no choice,” said Jane Branham of Virginia. “My health is failing; we have some very elderly people with us today. It is very hard for us to come all this way. But we are here, fighting for our very survival.”
“We came here to let people know, in this nation and around the world, that the people of Appalachia count,” said Larry Gibson of Kayford Mountain, W. Va. “We count. We aren’t going to be dismissed. We aren’t going to be ignored any longer. We count. We may have a little twang to our voice, but our mind and our soul is equal to everybody else’s. There ain’t no twangs there. We come here to make a statement and let people know, in Appalachia and the extractive communities, that they’re not alone anymore.”