Pan Appalachian Defender

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Governors Conference protests

Mountain Top Removal and the Governors Conference.

Charleston, SC—The Mountain Justice Summer (MJS) campaign held a weekend of demonstrations and street theatre in conjunction with the National Governors Association conference in Charleston, SC, from August 4 through August 6, 2006. MJS is a grassroots campaign comprised of coalfields residents and their allies working to halt mountaintop removal coal mining across Appalachia and transition the Appalachian economy away from dependence on coal and toward a clean energy future.
At noon Friday, a plane carrying a banner reading, “Manchin: Stop Destroying my Mountains – God” flew over the governors’ exclusive golf outing on Kiawah Island, calling on West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin to end mountaintop removal mining.
Friday evening, as the governors were arriving on the historic Battery section for an evening of entertainment and refreshments, they were greeted by banners reading “End the destruction of Appalachia—Stop Mountaintop Removal.” MJS activists distributed literature and spoke to passersby.
Saturday morning, a handful of governors and their guests began a 5K fun run/walk for Healthy America. MJS participants gave them a cheery sendoff at the start and a warm welcome at the finish line with “Stop Mountaintop Removal” banners. One MJS participant, Randal Pfleger, ran with the group. “After the governors run for their health this morning, I encourage them to run back and make strong stands against mountaintop removal. We cannot run from climate change or air pollution, and children can not run from asthma and coal dust,” he said.
Also on Saturday, demonstrators rallied outside the governors’ opening press conference at the Charleston County Courthouse. Activists shouted “Hey Joe, kids first” to greet Governor Manchin to remind him of his commitment to the health and safety of the students at Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, WV. The school building sits just 225 feet from a coal silo and 400 yards from a 2.8 billion-gallon toxic coal waste sludge dam.
On Sunday, a street theater “wedding” took place between King Coal and the Appalachian states’ governors in three highly traveled locations in downtown Charleston. To cries of “King Coal: Off with his head!” participants beheaded a 12-foot pig King Coal puppet. Finally, demonstrators rallied outside the Charleston Place Hotel where Governor Manchin was touting his “coal-to-liquids” scheme.
As national leaders, our nation’s governors have a responsibility to address the crisis of mountaintop removal coal mining caused by our addiction to cheap energy. The governors of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia have the power through their environmental departments to close loopholes in legislation and enforcement that allow mountaintop removal.
“Coal kills, from cradle to grave. Strip mining is destroying our mountains, communities, and culture, while coal-burning power plants dramatically increase asthma and mercury contamination. With our health at risk and global climate change a reality, we cannot afford to drag our feet any longer in moving away from coal and toward clean, renewable energy,” said Judy Bonds of Coal River Mountain Watch, who traveled from Coal River Valley, WV to fight for her homeland.


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