The Fight Against MTR, Round-up #2

For the 300 or so families living in Prenter Hollow, WV, mountain top removal isn’t just destroying their viewsheds, wildnerness, and cemetaries. It is killing them.

Blasting from 11,000 acres of surrounding strip-mines has cracked their wells, and coal slurry, injected into underground mines,  has seeped in to contaminate the water. Outside experts have visited Prenter and found “high levels of metals that have well-known human consequences.”

Coal River Mountain Watch, a local community group fighting mountain top removal, has tried to bring national attention to the injustice. Its members have uploaded videos on YouTube showing what Prenter water will do to a penny  and a water filter.

With no access to the billions made from coal-mining all around them, most Prenter Holler residents cannot afford to import water, and like people living in third world countries, have no choice but to drink, cook with, and bathe in the water they know to be poisonous.

As a result, they are suffering and dying. According to Pam Johnson, a  health official, 98% of Prenter Holler adults have gall bladder problems.  Johnson noted, “Before I went down there I thought that people were exaggerating their problems, but when I got there, I realized they were underreporting their health problems.”  Other residents have noticed that their teeth are disentegrating. There are children under five with full sets of dentures. Even more disturbing is the high rate of unusual cancers in the hollow.

Because the coal industry will not be forced to take responsibility, Coal River Mountain Watch has started the “Prenter Water Fund” to supply Prenter residents with clean, imported water.  I just received this e-mail a few minutes ago from Emily Gillespie:

We have had some fantastic progress with the Prenter Water Fund in the past couple of months.  Thanks to some hard work and the support of folks like you, we now have all the equipment required for the water delivery project!  We have installed 101 barrels at 74 households throughout the Prenter community, and the enthusiasm for the project has been incredible.  We have also gotten some amazing media coverage.  But we need your help now more than ever.
The only thing preventing water delivery from beginning tomorrow is a lack of funds to pay our driver and the ongoing costs of the project.  With as little as $1500, Prenter residents won’t have to wait one more day for clean, safe drinking water.  If you considered giving to the project and haven’t gotten around to it, please give today.  If you have donated to us in the past, you have our deepest gratitude and please consider giving just a little more.  Our goal is to have clean drinking water at people’s homes in time for the holidays.  The greatest gift you give this season can be the gift of life-saving water.
Click here to donate online now or mail a check to:
Prenter Water Fund
c/o Coal River Mountain Watch
PO Box 651
Whitesville, WV 25209

To learn more visit

The same Coal River residents who are helping the folks in Prenter are doing everything they can to save their own community. Massey Energy, a notorious violator of labor and environmental laws,  has been granted a permit to begin mountain top removal mining on Coal River Mountain. However, people living below the ridge have discovered a much better use for the land. The mountain was independently tested for its wind power potential and was found to be an ideal location for turbines. Not only would a windfarm save the community from  permanent environmental destruction, it would bring more jobs, better jobs, and permanent jobs.  Mountaintop removal mining lasts only a few years, and different workers are used for different phases of the operation. Moreover, some of the phases are subcontracted to out-of-state companies who bring in out-of-state laborers  for a few months of work.

Despite the advantages of the windfarm, West Virginia Governer Joe Manchin has refused to rescind Massey’s permit. But the people of Coal River cannot give up, and they need your help.

Visit to learn more about the project and how you can help make it happen.

In other news, President-elect Obama continues to fill his administration with officials lauded by corporations and loathed by environemtalists. Coal stocks rose again after Obama announced his picks for Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Agriculture.

 I will leave you with a letter to the Charleston Gazette from a citizen in Southern West Virginia. It is directed to Nick Rahall, the Delegate representing Southern WV in the U.S. House. Rahall has always spoke strongly about protecting the environment, yet his district remains one of the most environmentally ravished in the nation.

Rahall should look to protect us first
Rep. Nick J. Rahall is hopeful that his chairmanship of the House Committee on Natural Resources will facilitate stronger measures under the Obama administration to protect the nation’s waters and endangered species. According to Paul J. Nyden’s article in the Nov. 23 Sunday Gazette-Mail, Rahall plans to lead his committee to improve the Endangered Species Act, push for stricter regulation and increased royalties from extraction of oil, natural gas, and minerals mined on federal land, and safeguard our lakes, rivers, and oceans. To this I say, “Amen.”
What is so puzzling about Rahall is that his district contains arguably the most egregious ongoing environmental catastrophe in our nation. Mountains and valleys are irrevocably destroyed, poisonous slurry impoundments loom dangerously over communities, and streams are buried and befouled. Rahall’s complicity in mountaintop removal will be his dark legacy for centuries to come.
Rahall continually refuses to acknowledge his double standard, a fact underscored in Nyden’s article that specifically omits any mention of coal extraction and processing abuse.
Perhaps Rahall feels that protecting land, water and species in other parts of the country will make up for his sins of allowing much of his own district to be ruined.
With the Obama administration tepidly speaking against mountaintop removal, and promising to combat climate change, Rahall as chairman of a powerful committee will have a fresh opportunity to either become a true champion of the environment or just remain lipstick on a pig.
Allen Johnson


2 Responses to “The Fight Against MTR, Round-up #2”

  1. More on Salazar, from Note what the article says about Salazar and strip-mining.

    How to Make Bruce Babbitt Look Like Ed Abbey
    Salazar and the Tragedy of the Common Ground

    Although America’s greatest Interior Secretary, Harold Ickes, who had the post for nearly a decade under FDR, was from Chicago, the playbook for presidential transitions calls for picking a Westerner for Interior, as long as the nominee isn’t a Californian. Pick someone from Arizona or New Mexico or Colorado. Of course, Colorado has produced two of the worst recent Interior Secretaries: James Watt and Gale Norton. Ken Salazar may make it three.

    And why not? After all, Salazar was one of the first to endorse Gale Norton’s nomination as Bush’s Interior Secretary.

    read the rest here:

  2. By nominating Ken Salazar for Secretary of the Interior, Barack Obama is once again reassuring the polluting and extractive industires that change is just a campaign slogan.

    Salazar has facillitated the transfer of vast public lands to timber, oil, and mining interests. He endorsed Bush Administration policies to gut the list of endangered species. He voted for coastal drilling. And he supports strip-mining.

    Mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club urged Obama to pick someone who was friendlier to the land, but have not expressed disapproval over Salazar’s nomination. Instead, they immediately released statements applauding Obama for finding “Common Ground.”

    Common ground my ass.

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