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Groups plan mountaintop removal protest in D.C.

Read more about the event

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mountaintop removal opponents are planning what they hope will be a major protest in Washington in late September to urge a halt to the mining practice, a switch to cleaner forms of energy, and a revitalization of the Appalachian economy.

A coalition of citizen groups is organizing the event, called Appalachia Rising, for Sept. 27. They are calling for a ban not only on mountaintop removal, but on all forms of surface coal mining.

"We have worked long and hard to raise America's awareness of this injustice, this insane crime that continues to eliminate our mountains, our communities, and our people," said Raleigh County resident Bo Webb, whose home at Naoma sits in the shadow of a mountaintop removal operation. "Now is the time for Congress to hear the voices of the victims of mountaintop removal."

Among the groups organizing or supporting the event are the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch, and the Rainforest Action Network.

A new website dedicated to the event says, "Appalachia is endowed with abundant resources too long plundered by outside interests. We call for the abolition of surface mining, a just transition for coalfield communities, and renewed investment in a prosperous and just economy in Appalachia."

Details of the event are still in the works, but a formal announcement issued Tuesday said coalfield residents are calling for thousands of people to join them in Washington "for a dignified day of action" to "increase public pressure on elected officials and regulators to ban surface mining."

The Obama administration has already been cracking down on mountaintop removal, with tougher permit reviews and proposed new water quality standards. The administration has promised "unprecedented steps" to reduce the impacts of mountaintop removal, a practice that scientists have concluded is causing "pervasive and irreversible damage" to the Appalachian region's environment.

Coal industry officials are concerned the Obama administration's moves will cost the area vital jobs. In 2008, surface mining produced about 44 percent of West Virginia's total coal production and about 40 percent of all Appalachian coal production.

Government studies, though, indicate that coal production in Central Appalachia -- where most mountaintop removal occurs -- will be cut in half by the end of this decade, with the decline driven by competition from other coal regions and the depletion of the area's best reserves.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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