Judy's Plank: Democratic Party Platform Must Call for End to Mountaintop Removal

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Common Dreams

Judy's Plank: Democratic Party Platform Must Call for End to Mountaintop Removal

The Democrats have nothing to lose.  And everything to gain--especially the health and lives of residents in the coal mining areas of central Appalachia.  

Calling it "Judy's plank," in honor of beloved West Virginia mountaineer Judy Bonds, whose untimely death in 2011 served as a wakeup call to the mounting humanitarian and health care crises from mountaintop removal mining, the Democratic Party platform should officially include a commitment for an immediate moratorium on the devastating form of strip mining at their national convention in Charlotte on September 4th.

Ending one of the most blatant civil rights and environmental crimes is not just the right and moral thing to do.  It would be a smart move for the Democrats and President Obama, whose recent pander to Big Coal in a bizarre Ohio ad against Romney was rightly denounced by environmentalists and health care advocates as a disgrace.

And Charlotte, whose bright lights and big city operates on coal-fired plants from mountaintop removal operations, would be a symbolic place to start.

Let's be real: Obama doesn't have a chance of winning West VIrginia.  A prison inmate gave the President a run for his money in the Democratic primary.  Most of West Virginia's top Democrats, like US Sen. Joe Manchin, Rep. Nick Rahall and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, are such sycophants to the Big Coal lobby that they aren't even attending the convention.

In truth, mountaintop removal provides less than 5-7 percent of national coal production.  It's simply not needed any more.  Meanwhile, as study after study is released documenting the link between mountaintop removal fallout and birth defects and cancer, among other diseases, as well as irreversible destruction of waterways and biological communities, a humanitarian crisis is growing every day.

The Democrats can not speak of being advocates for clean energy, civil rights and the environment if they turn their backs on besieged residents in Appalachia and quietly accept mountaintop removal mining.

In fact, Democrats should also ask someone like Goldman Prize recipient Maria Gunnoe to speak at the convention, as well.

Because, who speaks for Appalachia?  Out-of-state coal companies and their political lackeys, like Manchin, or deeply rooted and devoted citizens like Judy Bonds and her family. 

"My daddy was a mountaineer before he was a coal miner," Bonds reminded us. "You know the coal industry's trying to rewrite heritage. They're trying to say 'well, what about your coal heritage?' Oh yeah, my coal heritage. I got plenty of that. That's my history of resistance against the abuses of the coal industry. That's my coal heritage."

On September 4th, the Democrats should embrace that same inspiring heritage against the abuses of the coal industry and call for an end to mountaintop removal.

Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers is the author of The United States of Appalachia, and more recently, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (The Nation/Basic Books). Follow him on twitter: @JeffRBiggers

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