I Love Mountains Day draws big crowd at state capitol | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Release Date: 
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Press Contact: 
Jerry Hardt
Communications Director

I Love Mountains Day draws big crowd at state capitol
Participants call for clean energy jobs and protection for water

Calling for a commitment to clean energy jobs, and an end to the poisoning of eastern Kentucky’s water from mountaintop removal mining, more than 1,200 people gathered at the state capitol on Valentine’s Day for the annual I Love Mountains rally.

They focused their demands on the governor and state legislators who have done nothing to address the increasing evidence linking mountaintop removal and other forms of coal mining to increased cancers rates, higher birth defects, lower life expectancy and a variety of other ailments.

“We finally have the peer-reviewed studies to back what we’ve been saying all along, that mountaintop removal’s been killing our people,” said Teri Blanton, a member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, sponsor of the rally. “We continue to tell our politicians that we all deserve a better planet.”

“We learn over and over that what we do to the land, we do to the people,” added KFTC Chairperson Steve Boyce.

More than a dozen scientific studies released over the last two years have shown that people living near strip mining are more likely to suffer from health problems. Researchers name polluted water and air, occupational hazards and an increased level of stress as contributing factors.

The findings include a rate of birth defects that’s 26 percent higher in Appalachian mining counties compared to non-mining areas, based on a review of 1.8 million birth records over an eight-year period.

“These numbers are shocking to many, but those of us that live in the coalfields understand them as part of our daily lives,” said speaker Ada Smith, of Letcher County. “We are asking for what we deserve: clean water, clean air and thriving communities.”

A West Virginia University researcher found cancer rates in a mining area to be 53 percent higher than in a non-mining Appalachia area. Applied region-wide, that would account for 60,000 additional cases of cancer.

To represent those people, rally participants carried 1,200 pinwheels to the governor’s mansion – each pinwheel representing 50 people with cancer linked to coal mining.

The group called for legislators to pass House Bill 231, which would prohibit the dumping of toxic mining wastes into streams.

Magoffin County native Cody Montgomery described why it’s important to end mountaintop removal and also to begin an economic transition in Appalachia.

“I want my grandchildren to have a life in the foothills. But if the next 30 years are like the last 30, that’s not going to be possible,” he said.

He lifted up the potential of new jobs in clean energy, sustainable agriculture and forestry to replace the disappearing coal jobs.

“I have witnessed with my own sweat the abundance that can be grown on less than a half acre of land. I’ve walked the ridges and hollers and held the potential of these hills in my own hands,” Montgomery said. “How so many behind these walls fail to see the same is a tragedy.”

Doing nothing is not an option, he said. “We can’t sacrifice another stream or acre of forest. We can’t keep killing ourselves to make a living.”

He and others called legislators to approve House Bill 167, which would promote energy efficiency and require utilities to eventually generate more of their electricity from renewable sources. A recent independent study found that this legislation could lead to the creation of 28,000 jobs in Kentucky in 10 years.

Speakers also drew connections between communities around the world that are exploited by extractive fossil fuel industries. Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta, Canada, described the impacts of 30 years of tar sands extraction on her community, including polluted air and water and higher rates of emphysema, asthma and cancers.

She said that while a billion dollars of oil has been extracted from the region of her tribe’s ancestral land, her family still does not have running water. Tar sands extraction in Canada, if not stopped, will eventually destroy an area the size of Florida.

“It is encouraging to be here today, to feel like you are standing with me as I am standing with you,” she said.

After the rally on the steps of the capitol, participants marched around the capitol and to the governor’s mansion, where they planted the pinwheels on the governor’s lawn and in a “mountain” that symbolized the mountains of eastern Kentucky.


Notes to editors:

To find the health impact studies referenced here, visit: http://ilovemountains.org/the-human-cost

To find the clean energy job study, go here: http://www.maced.org/REPS-release.htm

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