Yesterday, 14 people were arrested as part of a non-violent protest of a plan to blow up and pull down a mountain in West Virginia in order to obtain the coal that lies within. The protesters’ rallying cry: “Windmills, not toxic spills”. Right next to the mountain is an artificial lake of 9 billion gallons of toxic coal sludge, held back by a dam that rests above the town of Whitesville.
This is the same kind of toxic coal sludge that broke through a dam in Harriman, Tennessee. Massey Energy, the company that manages the coal sludge dam above the town of Whitesville, West Virginia, also managed a coal sludge dam in Martin County, Kentucky. Just a few years ago, that coal sludge dam broke, releasing 300 million gallons of coal sludge.
Now, they’re planning to set off high explosives near the dam above Whitesville. If the dam were to break, the coal sludge would surge toward a head start preschool and a senior citizens’ center that lie directly in the path of the potential disaster. The organization Climate Ground Zero delivered a letter to the CEO of Massey Energy. That letter included the following thoughts from Charles Ballard, a resident of West Virginia:
“I live up Dry Creek holler at the base of Coal River Mountain. I spent 22 years as an underground coal miner in West Virginia, and I’ve been around the coal mines all my life. What they’re doing to the mountains around here is messing up every damn thing we have in these mountains.”
There is an alternative to the destruction of Coal River Mountain: A feasibility study found that a wind farm on the top of the mountain that’s proposed for destruction could bring electricity to 150,000 homes in perpetuity. The coal that’s in that mountain can only be burned once, and then it won’t provide any power to anyone. It will just sit as toxic sludge behind another dam above another community until it breaks free in yet another coal sludge disaster.
Do you think that’s just a pie-in-the-sky vision that could never be accomplished? Think again. Just yesterday it was reported that the USA has become the world’s top producer of wind power, producing enough electricity to power 5 million homes.
It’s time for us to get smart. Instead of blowing up mountains and building huge reservoirs of toxic sludge, we can create clean energy. Wind power is a reality. It’s clean coal that doesn’t exist.