Ashley Judd and Mountain Top Removal
In a recent article in the Huffington Post, a topless poster of Ashley Judd was displayed at a coal-industry sponsored golf tournament in Kentucky. The poster was displayed with the text, "Ashley Judd makes a living removing her top, why can't coal miners?"
The Huffington Post summed up the arguments around mountaintop removal mining saying, "Coal industry officials, along with many politicians and business leaders in Appalachia, say the mining is crucial to the region's economy and a supply of affordable energy.
Environmentalists counter it dumps rock and rubble into streams and destroys Appalachian mountain peaks.”
The repercussions of mountaintop removal mining are much more than just “rubble” dumped into streams. Millions of pounds of explosives are used to blast hundreds of feet into the mountain. A machine called a dragline, standing nearly twenty stories high, is then used to dig the sides of the mountain to get into the coal. All the “rubble”, which consists of heavy metals and contaminants, is pushed off the side of the mountain into surrounding streams, leaking into waterways.
Coal has to be washed and treated before it can be burned. The leftover water is called slurry and ends up in huge ponds containing toxic chemicals such as arsenic mercury, lead, copper, and chromium.
I went to visit an MTR site in Wise County a few years ago. (I’m told the coal companies have now built a wall so the site is no longer visible from the road.) The noise and pollution was overwhelming. Dust surrounded our car, blowing over from the mining site. I found it difficult to breath. The sounds of the digging, the coal trucks obliviously bumping down the mountain roads, and the hot day made it an uncomfortable place to be.
I wondered who could possibly live there. And then I met some people, lots of people, who still call Appalachia their home. One family said they were really concerned that all their kids now have asthma, and spoke about a study on cancer rates in the area. Another resident showed me a water bottle filled with water from his faucet: the water was a disgusting brownish-black. I almost thought he was joking, but then I saw buckets of black water that these residents had recently collected as evidence.
One resident said they had to buy all their water in big jugs from the grocery store miles away because the water from their faucet is no longer drinkable. Another man spoke of the death threats he’s received because he has refused to move from his home near the mining location.
As we drove back down the mountain, closer to the bottom, we noticed a stream flowing over beautiful rocks and big trees full of foliage. The water was bright orange. I will never forget stopping at that stream to take pictures. It was surreal. Here we were, deep in the hills of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, watching endless flowing orange water like something from a sci-fi movie.
The claim that mountain top removal is just “rubble” dumped into streams is absurd. Mountaintop removal is, in Ashley Judd’s words, “rape of the Appalachians”. I applaud Ashley for boldly speaking out for the people of the region and for the mountains.