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"Appalachia Rising" Against Mountaintop Removal

September 17, 2010

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Some voices from the mountains are trekking to the Beltway to urge an end to surface mining and plead for economic and green investment in Appalachian coalfields. People who live there, members of grassroots groups and environmentalists who are part of the movement and event called "Appalachia Rising" are taking their message to the nation's capital on Sept. 27.

Julia Peckinpaugh, a member of Kentucky Mountain Justice and a junior at Transylvania University, Lexington, says it's time the country's leaders ban mountaintop removal.

"We invited people in West Virginia, and Kentucky, and Virginia and Tennessee who can't drink their water; they've been pushed out of their own homes. This is a chance for them to go and speak out about that and demand that this end."

Earlier this week, thousands of coal industry supporters rallied in Washington, bemoaning what they deem a "war on coal" by cap-and-trade legislation and other anti-pollution efforts. Coal advocates say mining keeps Kentucky's electric bills among the lowest in the nation, which aids in attracting jobs.

Social activists like Father John Rausch, director of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, say the movement supports miners, but not the industry that is using more machines than human labor. In his opinion, the economic benefits touted by coal supporters are questionable.

"The coal-producing counties represent some of the poorest counties, economically speaking, in the Commonwealth. This should be a moral cry to people saying something's wrong. Some people are getting rich, and others are being left behind and being neglected."

The societal cost of mountaintop removal is high, Rausch notes, even though the practice is cheaper than other types of mining for coal companies.

"You can dig up a mountaintop, but if the people in the valley now have orange water, if the people in the valley suffer flooding, then you have taken - or the company has taken - a cheap product but have shifted the cost of mining that onto the most vulnerable, who are the people living around there."

More information about the Sept. 27 protest can be found at www.appalachiarising.org.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY