Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Pre-Summit Information


News Coverage:

Appalachian Voices

Coal industry critics 3-day summit in city this weekend

To some, view is a bird's-eyesore: Environmentalists take flights over mountaintop

Mining fills are dumps biologist says

We pay big for dependence on coal

The Coal Summit
June 20-22, 2002
The Charleston Civic Center

June 20-22, 2002
Photos by Vivian Stockman

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Over 150 folks from across the nation gathered for the Coal Summit, three days devoted to examining the true costs of coal, including the social and environmental impacts of the extraction and combustion of coal. Many participants witnessed the destruction known as mountaintop removal first hand, either on flyovers, provided by Southwings, or on fieldtrips to Kayford Mountain, the homeplace of OVEC board member Larry Gibson.

Groups involved in the planning of the Coal Summit included American Rivers, Appalachian Voices, Citizens Coal Council, Clean Air Task Force, Coal River Mountain Watch, Friends of the Earth, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Mountain Watershed Association, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Tri-State Citizens Mining Network.

Here's what one Coal Summit participant said in an e-mail:

"I found the speakers inspirational & the information educational (and often frightening)...On Thursday, I went on a flight over the southern coal fields, which certainly reinforced for me (and others) the extent of the devastation going on in that region from mountain top removal. Photos are one thing, flying over the areas is quite another. Seeing these huge wounds on the earth is overwhelming and disheartening. I wish that all West Virginians could view this terrible destruction. TV and print press interviewed a number of people after their flights.

All of the speakers and panelists were well-informed and gave compelling testimonies from their particular perspective...Joel Schwartz, of the Harvard School of Public Health talked about the human impacts of coal combustion. Professor Schwartz showed photos taken by NASA from outer space, which demonstrated the extent to which our planet is contaminated by pollution,from every area of our globe. He posited the question of why the public is not as fearful of known 'bio-terrorism,' i.e., coal & fossil fuel pollution, waste and billions of particulants lethal agents) thrust into the air and water by coal-fired energy plants,as it was when the anthrax scare was in the news? He offered that 'we know who the industrial 'terrorists' are!

Some issues addressed were: (1) mountaintop removal with its blasting, dust, slurry "ponds," narrow roads with monster trucks endangering people, floods, decapitated mountains which are not and cannot be 'reclaimed,' communities destroyed and Appalachian heritage in danger, health hazards, damage to infrastucture, destruction to water sources and septic tanks, soil; (2) acid rain - removes soil nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium which are necessary for plants to thrive, watershed sensitivity; (3) sulphur accumulation in soil, aluminum in streams; (4) health hazards (lung disease is now 3rd leading cause of death), inversion traps mentioned (such as in Los Angeles, which cause much illness in affected areas; (5) power plant waste (130 million tons produced per year) renders groundwater unusable for any purpose, contaminates lakes, rivers w/bio-accumlating toxins; (6) homeland security vis a vis sulfur dioxide emissions; (7) sludge used for fertilizer.

I was impressed by the number of people I met from other states. Most attendees seemed to be from environmental groups.

There were some excellent displays from various groups and lots of written material to pick up.

The heartening thing to me was to see so many young people, with the energy, intelligence and commitment that they brought to the forum. This, I believe, is a cause for optimism! Otherwise, it is all pretty depressing!"

Paul Wilson, of the Sierra Club (foreground) talks with OVEC organizer Dave Cooper at our Coal Summit booth.

OVEC wonders...Just what are the state's politicians thinking? Will eco-destruction tours bring as many people to the state as eco-tourism?

Harvard Ayers, of Appalachian Voices, introduces Kristen Sykes, of Friends of the Earth. Kristen introduced FOE president Brent Blackwelder as the first keynote speaker.

Brent Blackwelder likened mountaintop removal to a pox upon Appalachia and recalled how Jay Rockefeller, as a young politician in the 1970s wanted to abolish the outrage of strip mining. Now, as a US Senator, Rockefeller seemingly supports the "strip mining on steroids" that is mountaintop removal.

The effects of the extraction of coal, be it MTR or longwall mining (where subsidence destroys homes and highways) or deep mining with its acid mine drainage, or the outlaw behavior of the coal industry, are felt far beyond the coalfields, Brent said, because the combustion of coal results in deadly pollution worldwide. There is no such thing as "cheap" or clean coal when all the costs for coal use are tabulated.

We have the capacity to produce electricity from renewable sources and to drastically cut consumption via conservation and energy efficiency measures, but powerful energy industry lobbies have so far thrown up massive institutional barriers to change, Brent said.

Brent noted that we can create the change we need to protect our homeland (that is, the planet) by getting more and more people involved in both the electoral process and in applying CPR--Conservation, Restoration and Preservation--on a personal and national level. Nationally, we could start by putting miners back to work restoring Appalachian streams with the $1.5 Billion waiting to be used from the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund.

The Thursday night entertainment, provided by Kate Long and Robin, kept us smiling. Take, for instance, Kate's parody of "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love with You," a little ditty on the perils of living near the mountaintop removal blasting zones:

We Can't Help It If Our Homes Are in Your Way. 

Today you blasted near our street
And our homes cracked at our feet.
We can't help it if our homes are in your way.

Politicians by your side
They looked so satisfied.
We can't help it if our homes are in your way.

(Bridge) Pictures from the past come slowly stealin'
As a giant rock lands on my Chevrolet.
Suddenly, I've got that lawsuit feeling.
We can't help it if our homes are in your way.

instrumental break

(Nuther bridge) It's hard to know the sheriff's lips will kiss you
Where they'll kiss you, I can't say.
We'll slap you with a big injunction issue
We can't help it if our homes are in your way.

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