Citizens occupy offices of Congressional mountaintop removal advocates | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Release Date: 
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Press Contact: 
Jerry Hardt
Communications Director

Citizens occupy offices of Congressional mountaintop removal advocates
They demand that coalfield residents be protected

Washington, D.C. — This morning residents from Kentucky 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 Hal Rogers (R-KY), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Jimmy Duncan (R-TN).

“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,” said Teri Blanton of Hal Roger’s district in eastern Kentucky.

The asks of the protesters include:

  • We demand the immediate stop of mountaintop removal coal mining
  • We demand a face to face meeting between Hal Rogers and concerned citizens of Kentucky
  • We demand the diversification of Kentucky’s economy- in particular redirecting coal subsidies towards energy efficiency, renewable energies, and the retraining of former miners.

With twenty-one recent peer reviewed studies highlighting the extreme health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining, citizens from Appalachia are demanding that Congress protect their communities. Rep. Hal Rogers district (KY-05) and Rep. Nick Rahall’s district (WV-2) rank first and second in mountaintop removal. By no coincidence, according to Gallup’s physical well-being index, these two districts have the highest rates of sickness in the United States. In addition, districts with mountaintop removal face some of the highest poverty rates in the United States, with nearly 40 percent of the children in Mr. Roger’s district living below the poverty line.

Recent peer-reviewed studies have confirmed devastating health impacts; citizens near mountaintop removal are 50 percent more likely to die of cancer and 42 percent more likely to be born with birth defects compared with other people in Appalachia. Mountaintop removal is responsible for public health costs of a staggering $75 billion a year. An additional 60,000 cases of cancer have been linked to the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.

“I have been trying since 2009 just to talk to my Representative Hal Rogers about the horrors of mountaintop removal. The last time I got face to face to him, he pointed his finger at me and told me to step away. 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.”

This is one of many incidents in the last month that signals an increase in the urgency of the campaign to end mountaintop removal. In addition to citizens traveling to Washington, D.C. to address the issue, concerned citizens from Appalachia have blocked train tracks, stopped coal trucks, stopped a coal barge, and walked across Pennsylvania and Virginia to bring attention to the devastating health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. Nearly 20 Appalachian women recently shaved their heads as an act of mourning and protest of mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal coal mining relies on heavy explosives to blast off several hundred feet of mountain to expose coal seams, and has impacted over 500 mountains in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee to date. According to the EPA, the practice has also buried or destroyed more than 2,000 miles of streams in those states.

Appalachian coal-mining regions have traditionally had high rates of unemployment, even prior to the current economic downturn, and the Central Appalachian region contends with some of the highest poverty rates in the country. According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, because the mechanized nature of mountaintop removal replaces men with explosives and large equipment, underground mines produce more jobs than mountaintop removal mines for the same amount of coal produced. Ending mountaintop removal could create more jobs in coal in the short term, and open up the possibility for a better economic future.


Issue Area(s):