Sunday, October 29, 2006

Job and Environmental Blackmail: Alive And Well In West Virginia

Now that a few religious groups are starting to think that maybe blowing up entire mountains, removing the coal, and then dumping the leftover debris into neighboring valleys and streams (also known as "mountaintop removal") isn't what God intended us to do with her earth, the coal companies are politely informing them that although they're well-intentioned, they're also misguided:
Either allow us to rape your countryside, destroy your streams and flood your homes or we'll kill your husbands and fathers, lay off the survivors, wreak economic ruin upon your communities, and sow your fields with salt.
Well, that's not precisely how they word their defense of mountaintop removal, but it's the general idea. Their exact words were:
The coal industry asserts that mountaintop removal is a safer way to remove coal than sending miners underground and that without it, companies would have to close mines and lay off workers.

Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, a coal lobbying group, said that by fighting mountaintop removal religious groups might find their priorities colliding.

“They find themselves in a difficult position,” Mr. Popovich said, “because they’re expressing support for those who purport to protect nature, and, at the same time, that activism carries implications for the human side of the natural equation. Human welfare depends on the rational exploitation of nature.”
Here those nice coal companies are just trying to save miners' lives and provide jobs, and here come those shortsighted do-gooders trying to undermine human welfare in the name of those "purporting" to protect nature.

There are few things in the environmental realm that upset me as much as mountaintop removal and I can't for the life of me figure out how all this raping and pillaging and destroying is consistent with all of our environmental and clean water laws and regulations. I guess I'd have to be as smart as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to understand stuff like that.

But happily, some religious organizations, specifically the Mennonite church, are organizing against the destruction of God's earth. And maybe they're making some progress:
Late in the trip, the tour group drove Lucious Thompson, 63, a former coal miner, to the horseshoe of peaks above McRoberts, where he lives. The peaks have been leveled. The woods where he had hunted are gone. The new grass on the new plateaus barely clings to the soil, which means that McRoberts often floods now after hard rains, he said.

“I’ve been flooded three times since they started working on the mountaintop,” Mr. Thompson said.

He talked of neighbors whose house foundations had been cracked because of the daily blasting, of a pond lost to sludge and of respiratory ailments because of the coal dust flying from the coal trucks.

“The coal company says it’s God’s will,” he said. “Well, God ain’t ever run no bulldozer.”
And she don't run no coal companies either.