Ashley Judd says mountaintop mining not safe and we will be sorry

photo by dipka bhambhani

It was a tear jerking experience, lunching with actress gone activist Ashley Judd as she talked about the controversial practice of mountain top removal mining.

She calls it “warp speed strip mining overdrive on steroids.”

The newly-minted Harvard graduate told the National Press Club this week that coal companies are “raping” the mountains of Appalachia, blowing up the tops of mountains, killing trees, contaminating water and ruining the lives of the indigenous “hillbillies,” and must be stopped.

“Explosives are trucked in, explosives so volatile they must be carried on separate vehicles. Small holes are drilled into the rock of the mountains. And, every single day, in Kentucky and West Virginia, around the clock, seven days a week, 2,500 tons of explosives are detonated, blasts 1,000 times greater than the blast that brought down the Oklahoma City Federal Building,” Judd said.

As a journalist I’m taught to get the other side or at least realize there is one, however unpalatable.

The fact is when the Environmental Protection Agency issues a mining permit, it usually allows strip mining, which includes mountaintop mining.

That’s where the activists like Marie Gannoe, Julia Bonds, and now Ashley Judd, step in. I spoke with Gannoe last year. She talked about orange water coming out of taps, water that looks like tomato juice and smells like rotten eggs. She talked about pollution and political disregard for the fact that Americans live in an area that is blasted every single day.

Judd said, “What used to be home for human, flora and fauna, and the potential economic boom for a classically exploited and distressed area, has become, in the coal company’s calloused terminology, overburden.”

So why hasn’t Congress stopped this “horrific” practice? Perhaps it’s the tax revenue, increasing electricity demand. Or maybe it provides long-term jobs, offers safer mining.

Two major considerations–Coal is important for electricity generation; the US generates 50 percent of its power from coal.

Ninety-five percent of coal mined is used in electricity production. The recession has caused electricity demand to fall 9 percent.

Carol Raulston, spokeswoman for the National Mining Association says that equals a serious loss for the coal industry during this recession, especially for mining east of the Mississippi.

She says only about 10 percent of US coal is produced through mountaintop mining. But she adds that more than 40 percent of West Virginia and Kentucky coal is derived from mountaintop mining.

Raulston said that in 2007, West Virginia grossed $14 billion from coal shipments, $5.6 billion worth of that coal came from “surface mining.”

In other words, mountaintop mining.

Money speaks for itself, but what about the environment?

Currently there are 190 mining permits pending at the EPA where a new process has slowed down the rate of issuance, the association says. Judd told the NPC to “write Lisa Jackson at the EPA and say, ‘Veto the permit for Arch Spruce Mine Number One.’”

Judd said the mountains bring in tourist dollars, not just coal money. She said the Smoky Mountains in Kentucky brought in $1 billion in tourism revenue for the state just last year.

“Blowing up mountains is not appropriate,” Judd said.

One Response to “Ashley Judd says mountaintop mining not safe and we will be sorry”
  1. hulio says:

    i cant believe an educated woman would be so stupid, she dont know all the facts ..has she ever been on a stipped mine after its reclaimed … the wild life thrive there deer,elk,turkey , rabbits ..and they multiply better there then anywere ..
    also no one in kentucky ,west virgina ..likes being called a hillbilly thats so stereo typing ..also the golf course she talked about stays full and is one of the best golf courses in the state i golf there as often as i can please ashley stay the hell out of stuff u no nothing about and dont open your mouth about hillbillys because ur not one

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