Citizens protest mountaintop-removal mining



By Judah Taylor| @JTaylorKernel

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School buses and automobiles filed into park tightly along Capitol Avenue on Thursday afternoon.

Their passengers, numbering in the hundreds, climbed the 55 steps to the front of the Capitol Building in unison.

Some carried homemade signs that were made from cardboard and tape and others toted professionally made banners held up by PVC pipes.

Some were old enough to have protested the Vietnam War, while others were young enough to still be protesting brushing their teeth.

Still, all had the same message: stop mountaintop-removal mining in Kentucky.

Mountaintop-removal mining is a cheap form of surface mining that has been used in Appalachia since the 1970s.

It involves the use of explosives to remove the summit of a mountain, in order to get at coal seams near the peak.

Opponents of mountaintop-removal mining say there are adverse effects of the process that effect not only the environment, but the health of local communities who can often breath air and drink water that has been polluted by the mining companies.

New York Times bestseller and Kentucky native, Silas House, energized the crowd as the keynote speaker.

“We can’t have hillbillies without hills,” he told the crowd. “Our hills are dying. Our water is being killed.”

To roaring applause, House said, “Let’s clean this house.”

The protestors rallied.

“They have realized that we can’t continue accepting it when politicians and billionaires tell us our greatest natural resource is coal,” House said. “We have at least two other natural resources that are far, far better: our water, and our people.”

The protestors chanted for change, demanding that new economic bills be passed and old ones be enforced.

Among those protesting were Phillip Davis, a student at Georgetown University, and his girlfriend, Devin Harris.

The couple spent their Valentine’s Day afternoon spreading their message of love for the environment together.

The two have been to six “I Love Mountain Day” rallies between themselves, and plan to keep rallying until their message is heard.

“It’s about creating a more sustainable energy source, and a sustainable way of life,” Davis said. “It’s about being a better kind of humanity.”

Protesters came from every walk of life. Some wore moccasins or went barefoot; others relied on worn out work boots and dusty tennis shoes to carry them up the Capitol’s steps.

Nick Mullins, 33, brought his family to the rally.

Mullins is a fourth generation coal miner from the coalfields of Clintwood, Va., whose family has lived in the mountains of Appalachia for nine generations.

He moved his family to Berea, Ky., to escape the suffocating environment created by the coal mines.

“It’s a night and day difference here,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about the water before you drink it.”

He said that the pollution has destroyed the environment, so much so that some of the damage may be irreversible in many places.

“It ain’t the same place it was when I grew up,” Mullins said.

Longing for something better for his children and everyone else’s, Mullins said, it’s time “to start looking to the future… to plan for real economic development. Time to start making mining safer for miners and also for the environment.

“Coal won’t last forever. It’s time to move on.”

Protestors of all ages brought Valentine’s Day cards for Gov. Steve Beshear, and other grassroots activists in the Capitol.

“Governor Beshear, happy Valentine’s Day,” read the card from Nancy Goodhue, a child from Louisville. “Help us keep our beautiful mountains and streams standing and clean. Help us keep the homes of all our citizens and beings safe.”

Jessica Williams wrote, “Gov. Beshear, I love mountains and I hope you do too. Let’s both think about what we love today.”

A young Cammi Reed scribbled, “Dear Gov. Beshear, I love mountains because they divide up land.”

Not all of the cards were so loving, though.

“Gov. Beshear, we don’t love greed. Make good decisions,” wrote Bereans for the Commonwealth.

UK Kentuckians for the Commonwealth president, Sanjana Pampti wrote, “Steve, Yo! Stop making it so hard for me to breath. We, as Kentuckians, deserve clean air and politicians who care more about people than profit. Happy Valentine’s Day, I guess.”