A mountaintop removal coal mining site in Appalachia.
Sam Broach is a retired coal miner turned activist fighting mountaintop removal in Virginia.
"When I saw what was happening to our mountains and our environment, I had to stand up and try to organize more people to fight this devastation," says Sam (pictured below), president of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS).
This week Sam and many other Virginians celebrated a decision that denied A & G Coal Corporation a permit to strip mine Ison Rock Ridge. The 1,200-acre permit, located on a forested ridge above the town of Appalachia, Virginia, would have had intense impacts on residents already affected by decades of mountaintop removal coal mining.
This victory came as many residents from across the Appalachian region were in Washington, D.C., this week to demand that Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency stop mountaintop removal coal mining.
They spoke with their members of Congress, met with EPA officials, and even brought jugs of water from their home taps that have been contaminated by mountaintop removal coal mining.
These amazing activists have worked tirelessly for years to end this destructive practice which has laid waste to their communities, their land, and their air and water.
"If the watersheds are polluted here, it will affect people downstream from us, too," Sam says. "The pollution from burning coal and from the coal that is extracted here affects people all over the world."
While I couldn't be there, I watched via social media and photos as the protest outside EPA's offices happened on Wednesday. Seeing moms, dads, kids, former miners, and many others coming together with those awful jugs of dirty water was inspiring -- and saddening, honestly. Why are we still letting the coal industry do this? Why is King Coal allowed to get away with befouling our air and water while destroying entire towns?
Mountaintop removal coal mining has damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 miles of streams and threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of mountaintops and forests by 2020. The mining poisons drinking water, destroys beautiful, biodiverse forests and wildlife habitat, increases the risk of flooding, and wipes out entire communities.
We can do better than this for Appalachian residents, and for all Americans. Investing in clean energy like solar and wind won't pollute our water or air. We need to move beyond dirty fuels and create jobs that won't destroy our mountains and communities.