Mr. King Coal's Neighborhood: Washington DC, Won't You Be My Neighbor?

does a Wyoming rancher, a Navajo elder, a Southern community organizer,
a Latino immigrant organizer from Chicago, a young indigenous Ottawa
woman from Michigan, and an Appalachian coal miner's widow have in

All of their neighborhoods are under deadly assault from King Coal.
And all of these six American heroes have journeyed to Washington, DC
this week, on their own dime--unlike the paid hacks from King Coal's
payrolls--as part of the First 100 Days of the Power Past Coal movement
to testify to representatives from Congress, the EPA and the Council on
Environmental Quality about their outrageous living conditions under
government regulated coal mining operations and coal-fired plants.

In Mr. King Coal's neighborhood, these are their daily burdens:
Mercury poisoning, gall bladder disease, black lung disease, devastated
and impoverished strip-mined communities, depleted and contaminated
watersheds, and toxic-draped and ailing neighborhoods.

If Washington, DC doesn't have time to journey to the coalfield
neighborhoods and toxic corridors of coal-fired plants, then the
coalfield neighbors and coal-fired plant residents have journeyed to
Washington, DC to bring a bit of truth and clarity to the clean energy

In truth, it's time for top level public servants--like Nancy
Sutley, Lisa Jackson and Ken Salazar--who are slowly determining the
fate of our nation's oldest and most diverse mountain range and its
abuse by one of the most scandalous human rights and environmental
violations, to actually see firsthand the horrific impact of
mountaintop removal on our nation's citizens in Appalachia, and
stripmining operations and coal-fired plants in other parts of the

It's easier to compromise with King Coal representatives inside the
comfort zone of the Beltway, than in one coal-slurry contaminated area
around Prenter, West Virginia, for example, where 98 percent of the
residents have had their gall bladder removed.

In the meantime, these are some of the stories Washington, DC representatives heard yesterday:

L.J. Turner is a rancher and member of the Western Organization of
Resource Councils (WORC), a network for grassroots organizations from
seven states that include 10,000 members and 45 local community
chapters. L.J. runs the ranch his family homesteaded in 1918, in
Campbell County, Wyoming. Strip mines encroach on one edge of his
ranch, while oil and coalbed methane development deplete and pollute
the water resources vital to his operation. Aquifers have been
destroyed and stock water wells impacted. The loss of water threatens
the ranch's viability. L.J.'s story is far from unique in the west, as
irresponsible energy development scars private and public lands in
rural communities. Strip mine pits have displaced grazing cattle and
shattered the western landscape's iconic imagery. L.J. is working to be
part of the energy solution and is negotiating to develop a utility
scale wind farm on his ranch. He is one of many cowboys who have been
fighting to keep their way of life for over 30 years. For a virtual
visit to LJ Turner's neighborhood, see:

Marie Gladue Dine comes from the Black Mesa region of northeastern
Arizona, where she works with the Black Mesa Water Coalition to fight
Peabody Energy's controversial Black Mesa coal mine and to promote
green jobs and clean energy among the Hopi and Navajo communities.
Peabody 's coal mining operations on Black Mesa have for more than 35
years been dependent on a sole source of drinking water for Navajo and
Hopi communities. Between 1969 and 2005, Peabody pumped an average of
4,600 acre-feet of water annually from the Navajo Aquifer, resulting in
significant damage to community water supplies. According to Gladue,
the coal mining operations have taken sacred lands. Her Indigenous
community recognizes Black Mesa as a female mountain, water as her
lifeblood, and the coal as her liver. Respect for Mother Earth would
mean leaving the coal in the ground. For a virtual visit to Marie
Gladue's neighborhood, see:

Mike Cherin, a resident of Rutherford County, N.C., lives 16 miles from
the Cliffside Coal Plant, the site of an 800-megawatt coal-fired
facility currently under construction by Duke Energy. The plant, if
allowed online, would emit 6 million tons of additional carbon dioxide
annually, threatening the health of nearby residents, and causing
significant environmental concern, including global warming and mercury
contamination. Cherin and many of his neighbors are diagnosed with
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and oppose the Cliffside
Coal Plant for its threat to public health. Cherin and his wife, an
R.N. at the local hospital, are community organizers with the Canary
Coalition, a clean air advocacy group in western N.C. which recently
helped rally several hundred community members in opposition to the
Cliffside Coal Plant, resulting in the highest number of arrests in
protest of coal in American history. Recognizing that his region has
one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, Cherin is an
outspoken advocate for green collar jobs to build solar panels and wind
turbines, which could fill the region's empty factories. For a virtual
visit to Mike Cherin's neighborhood, see:

Towana Yepa is 22 and a member of the Indigenous communities of
Jemez Pueblo and The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. She is fluent
in the Towa language and knows the traditional life ways of the Desert
Peoples cultures and the Great Lakes cultures. Her tribes' lands are on
the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, where the deposition of mercury
from coal-fired power plants across the lake has ruined the tribes'
water supplies and rendered the water unusable for drinking or fishing.
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians fought off a proposed coal
plant four years ago in Filer Township, MI. Now, the Indigenous Tribes
in Michigan are facing eight more proposed coal plants.

Lorelei Scarbro is a community organizer at Coal River Mountain
Watch. Lorelei is the granddaughter, daughter, and widow of West
Virginia coal miners. The home in which she lives was built by her late
husband, who passed away due to black lung. He was an underground coal
miner for 35 years. He is buried in the family cemetery which is
adjacent to their home. Lorelei's land, home, the family cemetery, and
surrounding environment are now faced with the threat of mountaintop
removal coal mining on Coal River Mountain. There is a 6,600 acre
mountaintop removal site proposed above her home - but she is joining
with local residents to promote a 328 MW wind farm instead. More than
15,000 acres in Lorelei's community have already been destroyed by
mountaintop removal - Coal River Mountain is the last remaining
mountain with wind potential in that area. The Coal River Wind project
would preserve her family's land and history for generations to come,
as well as prevent further destruction in her community. For a virtual
visit to Lorelei Scarbro's neighborhood, see:, and

Samuel Villasenor is the Clean Power organizer with the Little
Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), in the southwest
side of Chicago. Samuel arrived to Little Village from Huerta Vieja,
Iguala, Guerrero in Mexico, when he was two years old. Little Village,
Chicago is the second largest Latino community in the nation outside of
East L.A., with a population of 100,000 within a 5 mile radius. In
Little Village alone, 40 deaths, 2800 asthma attacks and 500 emergency
room visits annually are attributed to the two coal-fired power plants
situated near the residential area. To bring attention to the health
problems associated with coal burning, Villasenor has helped to
organize the Coal-Olympics, a creative community event that pressures
the Mayor to invest in long term green jobs, public transit, and
housing, instead of Chicago's Olympic bid. Villasenor's campaign also
trains young people in the community on weatherization and
retrofitting, to help older residents make their homes energy
efficient. The multi-generational activity promotes alternatives to
coal and job creation in the city. LVEJO saw a major victory last year
when the Chicago Mayor publicly recognized Little Village's two coal
plants as responsible for half of the city's pollution. For a virtual
visit to Samuel Villasenor's community, see:

Or, check out the inspiring work of his companera Marisol Becerra at Little Village Environmental Justice Organization:

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