Pursuing the Past Over the Future

Mountaintop removal mining begins at Coal River Mountain

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The halls of Congress are echoing this week with debate over proposed legislation to fight global warming—a fight that can’t be won without addressing a primary cause of global warming: our dependence on coal. As the rumpus goes on there, a real-life battle between coal and the future of American energy has reached a pivotal moment in Appalachia.

In an effort to protect their familial homes and water resources, residents of West Virginia’s Coal River Valley have long fought to prevent Coal River Mountain from being blown apart for the coal beneath it. Local groups like Coal River Mountain Watch, an Earthjustice client, have argued compellingly that the mountain is an ideal site for a wind power facility, which could make the region a model for sustainable, green economic growth.

Unfortunately, earlier this week, Massey Energy started mountaintop removal operations at Coal River Mountain. The impending destruction of yet another beautiful mountain in the Appalachians and the negative impact it will have on the local community highlights how critical it is that we move rapidly towards a clean energy future. And in contrast to the wind power facility that could sit atop Coal River Mountain, the coal mined from the mountain’s belly will create additional global warming pollution when it’s burned.

Decision makers in Washington should heed the call of coal field residents tired of the destruction mountaintop removal is causing in their communities and consider that our addiction to coal, more than any other factor, is driving global warming. Coal is of the past, clean energy is of the future, and we can’t have it both ways. Ken Ward Jr. and Jeff Biggers have more on this sad development.

Sam Edmondson was a campaign manager on air toxics issues from 2010 until 2012. He helped organize the first 50 States United for Healthy Air event. His desire to work at an environmental organization came from the belief that if we don't do something to change our unsustainable ways, we are in big trouble.