A mountaintop removal coal company has begun to demolish the last intact mountain in West Virginia's Coal River Valley. Residents are demanding a wind farm instead.
Massey Energy, the fourth largest coal company in the U.S., has plans to level 6,000 acres of Coal River Mountain and its pristine hardwood forest.
Coal River Mountain is a place that inspires countless stories and where locals have enjoyed hiking, hunting, and gathering ginseng and morel mushrooms for generations. It’s also a top-rated potential site for the production of wind energy.
Lorelei Scarbro's property borders Coal River Mountain. She was born and raised in West Virginia and her father, grandfather, and husband were all coal miners. She lives in a house her husband built, next door to the family cemetery where he is buried. As Massey continues to blast, everything, including her life, is at risk.
Lorelei and others in her community have rallied behind an alternative to mountaintop removal—a 328 megawatt wind farm. The group formed the Coal River Mountain Wind Project and commissioned a study which found that a wind farm on the mountain would provide $1.7 million in annual revenue and create skilled labor jobs for the community.
Coal River Wind also teamed up with Appalachian Voices and Google Earth Outreach to create an interactive Google Earth tour and an accompanying video of the mountain's plight. The tour will be on display at the United Nations Climate Change Conference from December 7-18, 2009, as well as the Google COP15 site.
"Google Earth has made it possible for us to show the world that this mountain is a symbol of hope," Lorelei said. "If we can save this mountain and begin developing sustainable jobs and renewable energy, maybe we can have an impact on the climate crisis that faces us all."
The news of the blasting is hardly unique in a region where, each week, mountaintop removal coal mining operations detonate an amount of explosives equivalent to that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Obliterated mountaintops are pushed into neighboring valleys, burying headwater streams and contaminating drinking water with heavy metals. To date, a staggering 500 mountains have been destroyed, and over 2,000 miles of headwater streams have been buried and polluted.
A lot of people have asked Lorelei, "Why don't you move?" Her response is, "We don't live where they mine coal. They mine coal where we live."
Coal River Mountain Wind Project is hosting a demonstration on Dec. 7 in Charleston, W.Va., to save Coal River Mountain.