Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition


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Highway to Hell

July 22, 2004
Photos by Vivian Stockman

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The Role of Mountaintop Removal in Economic Insecurity and Homeland Destruction

As soon as students in ShepPAC at Shepherd University heard that the West Virginia Coal Association was promoting a state-sponsored workshop coming to their town, the students contacted OVEC and Coal River Mountain Watch. Together, we organized a demonstration to counter the latest in WV Governor Bob Wises Energy Task Force Energy Roadmap Workshop Series--"The role of coal in economic and homeland security."

We wanted to make certain that people know that an energy roadmap which includes mountaintop removal / valley fill coal mining is no high road to the future, but is instead a Highway to Hell. There is no economic security in destroying ecosystem services which support our lives and culture. There is no homeland security when thousands of tons of explosives are unleashed upon the Appalachian Mountains each day. There is no homeland security when your home is destroyed by floods raging off denuded mountains, when your community is driven away by blasting.

Other groups joined us to make certain Americans understand other ways our continued heavy reliance on coal is harming our health and our futures. For instance, Tri-State Citizens Mining Network described the stream-eating, building-wrecking, union-busting ravages of longwall mining. Citizens for Alternatives to Longview Power reminded us that, compared to all other states in the country, West Virginians have the highest risk of dying from heart disease and lung cancer caused by power plant pollution. Pollution from these coal-fired plants can cause or worsen heart disease, asthma, lung cancer, and other lung diseases. In addition, these plants release mercury, which can cause brain damage in babies and children. 

Chesapeake Climate Action Network delivered a ton of coal, which marked the both the beginning and end of the Highway to Hell.

On a very hot and humid day, about 60 people rallied alongside the football field at the Shepherdstown Middle School, close to the Clarion Hotel where the coal cronies were engaged in their mis-information marathon. At our event, coalfield residents spoke of the horror of living near mountaintop removal operations. Musicians Ryan Harvey and Andrew McKnight presented rousing songs about injustice and activism against injustice.  We posted signs marking the Highway to Hell. As usual (despite the grueling transportation glitches), we had loads of fun while getting our message across.

Remember, if we obey the Stop Signs (Stop Global Warming, Stop Mountaintop Removal) and Yield to Alternative Energy, we can get off the Highway to Hell and onto the road to a sane, safer future. 

Participating groups for our July 22 rally included: Shepherd Progressive Action Committee; Coal River Mountain Watch, Sierra Club Environmental Justice Project of Central Appalachia, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other members of the Friends of the Mountains Coalition; Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Tri-State Citizens Mining Network.

Early on July 22, a crew from the coalfields gathers for breakfast at the campgrounds.


The right direction to go is clear. At the Clarion, it'll be the cheerleading 
session for coal, at our event, it's the true dirt on mountaintop removal.


Over at the Clarion, they were presenting the "Energy Roadmap Workshop Series: The Role of Coal in Economic and Homeland Security." That roadmap is a Highway to Hell! 


One ton of coal on the Highway to Hell.


Yield here, turn off the Highway to Hell.

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