Thousands of protestors descended on Washington, D.C. today to send a simple message to the Obama Administration – stop mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). The protestors included citizens from throughout Appalachia and representatives from more than a dozen environmental groups who were protesting in honor of longtime MTR opponent and environmental advocate Larry Gibson, who passed away a little over a week ago.
The protestors delivered a “Mountain Heroes Photo Petition” to the Obama Administration, a series of photographs of citizens declaring their opposition to MTR. At the time of delivery, more than 13,500 photo petitions were presented to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
The event was organized by EarthJustice, which has advocated on behalf of Appalachian citizens for years. Here are a few of the photos that they submitted to the Obama Administration:
You can view the rest of the photos on their website.
The photos represent the names, faces, and voices of Appalachia – people who are fighting to protect the natural environment and their own health. Living in areas where mountaintop removal mining is taking place puts them at an enormous risk for health problems, as I Love Mountains points out:
21 peer-reviewed scientific studies have proven the negative impacts that coal mining has on the economy, ecology and human health in Central Appalachia. The evidence is overwhelming. Coal mining has damaging effects on the ecosystem — and human lives.
People living near mountaintop mining operations have cancer rates of 14.4% compared to 9.4% for people elsewhere in Appalachia.
The rate of children born with birth defects is 42% higher in mountaintop removal mining areas.
The public health costs of pollution from coal operations in Appalachia amount to a staggering $75 billion a year.
These residents face greater rates of cancer, lower life expectancy, and the constant threat of toxic sludge and pollution that results from the blasting of mountaintops. These threats have been proven in numerous studies over the years. The people who attended the protests and submitted photos for the petition weren’t just upset that the natural beauty of the land was being destroyed, they were upset because their very livelihoods were being destroyed just so coal companies could put a few more dollars in their own pockets.
President Obama has received a decent amount of money from the coal mining industry, but not nearly as much as the Republican Party has received, according to OpenSecrets. In the 2008 election cycle, Obama received 27% of the industry’s donations, with the remainder going to his opponent.
So far, the coal industry has already pumped more than $8 million into the 2012 election cycle, with the majority of that money going to Republican candidates (Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has received more money from the coal industry this year than any other single politician.)
The coal industry has not been a friend to Appalachia, and certainly not to the Obama administration, so now is no time for the president to extend the olive branch. The industry has operated for too long with free rein to destroy our environment and our health, and it’s time for the Administration to show some courage and put an end to mountaintop removal mining once and for all.