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Topic: Blankenship vs Kennedy on Coal and MountainTop Removal Mining in WV

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Blankenship vs Kennedy on Coal and MountainTop Removal Mining in WV

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Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship finished a year-long prison term Wednesday and immediately took to Twitter to criticize federal prosecutors and regulators and to challenge West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to a debate.

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In the valleys of Appalachia, a battle is being fought over a mountain. It is a battle with severe consequences that affect every American, regardless of their social status, economic background or where they live. It is a battle that has taken many lives and continues to do so the longer it is waged. It is a battle over protecting our health and environment from the destructive power of Big Coal.

The mining and burning of coal is at the epicenter of Americas struggle to balance its energy needs with environmental concerns. Nowhere is that concern greater than in Coal River Valley, West Virginia, where a small but passionate group of ordinary citizens are trying to stop Big Coal corporations, like Massey Energy, from continuing the devastating practice of Mountain Top Removal.

Film content

David, himself, never faced a Goliath like Big Coal.

The citizens argue the practice of dynamiting the mountains top off to mine the coal within pollutes the air and water, is responsible for the deaths of their neighbors and spreads pollution to other states. Yet, regardless of evidence supporting these claims, Big Coal corporations repeat the process daily in the name of profit. Massive profit allows Big Coal to wield incredible financial influence over lobbyists and government officials in both parties, rewrite environmental protection laws, avoid lawsuits and eliminate more than 40,000 mining jobs, all while claiming to be a miners best friend. As our energy needs increase, so does Big Coals control over our future. This fact and a belief that America was founded on the democratic principal that no individual or corporation owns the air and water and we all share the responsibility of protecting it, drives these patriotic citizens and their supporters from outside of Appalachia, like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., to keep fighting.

A passionate and personal tale that honors the extraordinary power of ordinary Americans when they fight for what they believe in, THE LAST MOUNTAIN shines a light on Americas energy needs and how those needs are being supplied. It is a fight for our future that affects us all.

Written, directed and produced by Bill Haney, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and founder and president of the eco-housing start-up, Blu Homes, THE LAST MOUNTAIN was co-written and edited by Peter Rhodes and produced by Clara Bingham and Eric Grunebaum. Narrated by William Sadler, the film features original music by composer Claudio Ragazzi and includes the song Your Control by Crooked Fingers and Neko Case.

DIRECTORS STATEMENT

Film Header

The central front in the battle for Americas energy future, with enormous consequences for the health and economic prospects of every citizen, is the fight for Appalachian coal. In valleys and on mountaintops throughout the heart of the eastern seaboard, the coal industry detonates the explosive power of a Hiroshima bomb each and every week, shredding timeless landscape to bring coal wealth to a few, and leaving devastated communities and poisoned water to many. With politicians siding with their corporate donors, it falls to a rag tag army of local activists to stand alone for the welfare of their families, their heritage and for a principled and sound energy future. Our film is their film the uplifting story of the power of ordinary citizens to remake the future when they have the determination and courage to do so.

Bill Haney

 


Interviewees

Maria Gunnoe
Maria Gunnoe

MARIA GUNNOE lives at the mouth of a narrow valley (hollow) in Boone County, West Virginia. Severe flooding on her property began soon after the 1,200 acre Jupiter surface mine started removing the ridge above Gunnoes ancestral home in 2000. The flooding continued on a regular basis and catapulted Gunnoe, a waitress and mother of two, into action. The daughter, granddaughter, and sister of coal miners, Gunnoe now works full time for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) and has become one of Appalachias most potent spokespeople and persuasive community activists. In 2009, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. Maria believes that the flattening of 500 mountains in Appalachia is destroying not just the mountains but Appalachias communities, culture and rich heritage.

Bo Webb
Bo Webb

BO WEBB is a Vietnam veteran, a coal miners son, and a former tool-and-die shop owner in Cleveland who moved back to his family home in West Virginia in 2001. Webbs hopes for a peaceful retirement of hunting and fishing were never realized. Instead, he found that his property, homesteaded by his family in the 1830s on the banks of the Coal River, was under siege by a coal companys blasting of a mountain ridge right above his house. In 2004, Webb co-founded the grassroots environmental group Mountain Justice Summer. He has organized dozens of protests and acts of civil disobedience, has been arrested himself five times for his efforts to save Coal River Mountain from obliteration and feels that Coal River Mountain stands as a symbol of what could be, and what the future of America not just Appalachia but what the future of America can hold.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, Jr.s reputation as a defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful lawsuits against polluters. Mr. Kennedy was named one of Time Magazines Heroes for the Planet for helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River. The group's achievement has spawned more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations on six continents. Kennedy is Chief Prosecuting Attorney for Hudson Riverkeeper, President of the Waterkeeper Alliance and Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He is also a Professor at Pace University School of Law and co-director of the Law Schools Environmental Litigation Clinic. Kennedy has been widely published in periodicals and written several books, include the New York Times bestseller Crimes Against Nature (2004), which calls into question the environmental policies of the US. In 2009 Kennedy was named one of Rolling Stone's "100 Agents of Change."

Jennifer Hall Massey
Jennifer Hall-Massey

JENNIFER HALL-MASSEY lives in Prenter, West Virginia, just 36 miles outside of the capital, Charleston. Her small town has lost six neighbors to brain tumors, including Hall-Masseys 29-year-old brother. According to a Sept. 2009 New York Times article tests showed that their well water contained toxic amounts of lead, manganese, barium and other metals that can contribute to organ failure or developmental problems. The Times also reported that in the eight miles surrounding Mrs. Hall-Masseys home, coal companies have injected more than 1.9 billion gallons of coal slurry and sludge into the ground since 2004. Hall-Massey and 264 neighbors have sued nine coal companies, accusing them of contaminating local water supplies with dangerous waste.

Joe Lovett
Joe Lovett

JOE LOVETT, founder and executive director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, has fought on behalf of dozens of communities across West Virginia whose health, property, and livelihoods have been damaged and polluted by large coal companies. He has served as counsel in landmark legal cases challenging coal mining practices. Lovett's work has resulted in the contribution of millions of dollars to the West Virginia Coal Mining Special Reclamation Fund.

Bill Raney
Bill Raney

BILL RANEY, president of the West Virginia Coal Association which represents more than 90 percent of underground and surface coal mining production in the state, calls his constituency practicing environmentalists and feels that protecting jobs is his top priority. Raney says, "Ive got people who depend on mining coal [T]heyre making electricity for you.

Don Blankenship
Don Blankenship

DON BLANKENSHIP was CEO of Massey Energy until retiring on the heels of civil and criminal investigations of the company in December, 2010. Massey is the largest coal company in West Virginia, has more mountaintop removal mines across Appalachia than any other company and controls all mining in the Coal River Valley. Blankenship, who grew up in the coalfields, has succeeded in evicting the unions from Massey mines and replacing jobs with explosives and massive earth moving machines. Through mechanization over the last 30 years the coal industry in West Virginia has increased production by 140% while eliminating more than 40,000 jobs. Blankenship led Massey throughout its expansion of mountaintop removal operations and as it suffered the worst U.S. mine disaster in 40 years, killing 29 miners in April 2010. In 2008 Massey paid the EPA $20 million, the largest fine in EPAs history, for committing more than 60,000 environmental violations. Blankenship denies that global warming exists, and in 2009 said I really believe that the climate is changing naturally and that the temperature for the last eight or nine years has been cooling, and that the Arctic ice has been increasing.

Ed Wiley
Ed Wiley

ED WILEY is a former Massey Energy contractor turned activist. His granddaughter Kayla who Wiley calls Possum, attended Marsh Fork Elementary School in the Coal River Valley which sits next to a Massey-operated industrial coal processing plant. The Marsh Fork children and teachers have been afflicted with more than their share of respiratory ailments and cancer and Wileys mission has been to have the school moved away from the dangers of nearby coal toxins. He has staged numerous protests, confronted the Governor, and walked 455 miles from West Virginia to Washington, D.C. to present his grievances to the late Senator Robert Byrd.

Lorelei Scarbro
Lorelei Scarbro

LORELEI SCARBRO, the granddaughter, daughter, and widow of coal miners, lives in the shadow of Coal River Mountain, the last mountain left intact in the Coal River Valley. Massey Energy owns four permits to demolish and mine over 6,000 acres (10 square miles) of the mountain. But Scarbro and fellow community members at Coal River Mountain Watch propose a 328-megawatt wind farm on the high ridges of the mountain instead. The proposed wind farm would generate more long-term jobs and revenue than the mountaintop removal coal mine and provide electricity to 70,000 homes. Scarbro notes, This county stands to gain $1.742 million dollars from this mountain annually [from a wind farm], as opposed to the $36,000 the county would earn [annually] from the mountaintop removal operation.

David Aaron Smith

David Aaron Smith

DAVID AARON SMITH, from Louisiana, is a member of Climate Ground Zero. He has participated in a number of protests including a tree-sit in January 2009 when he and two others perched themselves 60 feet up in three trees just yards from explosives, in a bid to prevent Coal River Mountain from being blown up for the coal underneath.

Susan Bird
Susan Bird

SUSAN BIRDs Shippingport, Pennsylvania house is located a few miles from the Bruce Mansfield power plant, one of the nation's largest coal-fired utilities. She joined a state environmental group, PennFuture, after toxic fly ash from the power plant carpeted her neighborhood. Birds son is autistic and she says, As a parent, you sit there and wonder, Did I do this? Did I cause some of this? You know, if I lived somewhere else, would he have been healthier?

TheLastMountainMovie.com/film



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EPA Guidance Will Not Protect Appalachian Communities

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

After hearing that EPA Would Rely on the Best Science to Protect People from Mountaintop Removal Mining Waste, This Guidance is a Bitter Disappointment

ilovemountains.org/news/867



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Robert Kennedy Jr. battles Big Coal in 'The Last Mountain'

Environmental lawyer Bobby Kennedy Jr. comes by his activism naturally. Back in the early '60s, his dad, Robert Kennedy, waged a battle in the U.S. Senate against strip mining in Appalachia.

"I was about 14 and I can remember my father saying that strip mining in West Virginia was not only bad for the environment but it would permanently impoverish these communities," recalled Kennedy. "My dad said, 'You can't regenerate an economy from the barren moonscapes these mining companies leave behind.'" More

Blankenship vs Kennedy on Coal


Part 1 - The Forum on the Future of Energy is a public forum that will include a conversation between Don Blankenship, chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and an environmentalist.

Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr. (born January 17, 1954) is the third of eleven children born to Ethel Skakel Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and is the nephew of John F. Kennedy. He is an attorney specializing in environmental law and is co-host of Ring of Fire a nationally syndicated American radio program. - www.robertfkennedyjr.com

Part 2

Mountaintop removal / valley fill coal mining (MTR) has been called strip mining on steroids. One author says the process should be more accurately named: mountain range removal. Mountaintop removal /valley fill mining annihilates ecosystems, transforming some of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world into biologically barren moonscapes.

Mountaintop Removal
Mining Fact Sheet
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What You Can Do to Help Stop Mountaintop Removal
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Mountaintop removal has been practiced since the 1960s. Increased demand for coal in the United States, sparked by the 1973 and 1979 petroleum crises, created incentives for a more economical form of coal mining than the traditional underground mining methods involving hundreds of workers, triggering the first widespread use of MTR. Its prevalence expanded further in the 1990s to retrieve relatively low-sulfur coal, a cleaner-burning form, which became desirable as a result of amendments to the U.S. Clean Air Act that tightened emissions limits on high-sulfur coal processing.

Peer-reviewed studies show that mountaintop mining has serious environmental impacts, including loss of biodiversity, that mitigation practices cannot successfully address, as well as human health impacts from contact with affected streams or exposure to airborne toxins and dust.

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Mountaintop Removal in the news - Click HERE

Appalachian Voices 191 Howard St, Boone, NC 28607 ~ 1-877-APP-VOICE (277-8642)

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