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Follow-up: “I Love Mountains Day” News Round Up

Photo of I Love Mountains Day by DL Duncan

By Beth Newberry

Photo contributed by DL Duncan

Tuesday, Feb. 14, marked the annual I Love Mountains Day lobbying event, march and rally at the Kentucky State Capitol. Sponsored by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a state-wide citizens’ group focused on social change, the event drew between 1,000 and 1,300 attendees from within the state and from citizen and environmental groups in neighboring states.

The San Francisco Chronicle said participants called on the legislature to end the surface mining practice of mountain top removal (MTR) and The Huffington Post reported the citizens present urged legislators to pass laws to protect waterways jeopardized by coal mining methods. They also called for passage of House Bill 167, the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, which they claimed could create tens of thousands of jobs. Public News Service also cited House Bill 231, a stream saver act, as a priority for the citizen activists. The Ashland (Ky.) Daily Independent wrote of the activists, “Their message was clear, though not everyone agrees with it.” They went on the describe that in the background of the rally of the capital’s steps “coal trucks — sponsored by the Friends of Coal organization — circled the capital in a protest of the protest.” Two legislators, Rep. Jim Wayne (D) of Louisville and Sen. Kathy Stein (D) of Lexington, the state’s two largest cities, spoke to the crowd endorsing their message, but “many of their colleagues would (not) come near the rally in a state legislature dominated by coal interests.”

A visual theme of the protest, in addition to hand-made signs, were pinwheels made by participants and placed on the lawn of Gov. Bashear’s mansion. According to KFTC, each of the 1,200 pinwheels represented 50 cancer deaths caused by strip-mining practices. In The State Journal of Frankfort, Ky., Terri Blanton of Berea, Ky said, “We finally have the peer-reviewed studies to back what we’ve been saying all along, that mountaintop removal’s been killing our people,” referring to 20 studies published in peer-reviewed journals from the last few years studying health risks related to MTR mining methods. Although in an interview with Louisville, Ky. ’s The Courier-Journal, Bill Bissett of the Kentucky Coal association “disputed assertions that coal mining imperils public health. He said researchers who have conducted some of the studies are biased. ‘These subjective health studies are another way anti-coal activists are using scare tactics in an attempt to move us away from coal,’” the paper quoted Bissett as saying.

The Website ilovemountains.org published this interactive map called “The Human Cost of Coal,” which was retweeted and posted across social media outlets on Feb. 14 and later in the week, which shows the prevalence of various health problems in relation to MTR mining sites. Ecowatch.org quoted Eastern Kentucky resident Ada Smith on its importance. “Though many of the (health) studies state the obvious for those of us living in these communities, the scientific facts give us much-needed evidence to make sure our laws are truly enforced for the health of our land and people,” she said.  “If we choose to not pay attention to these recent studies we are deciding to make Appalachia a sacrifice zone. What we do to the land, we do to the people.”

The Kentucky Kernel, the student paper of the University of Kentucky, covered the speech of Chuck Nelson, a former coal miner and West Virginia native. “We will win this battle. We will fight mountaintop removal,” he said. “Speaking from firsthand experience as a former deep miner of 30 years and a union worker for 21 years, Nelson supports the work of KFTC. He traveled to Frankfort to join Kentuckians ‘shoulder-to-shoulder to fight for clean air and our mountains,’” wrote reporter Kayla Phelps.

The Courier-Journal highlighted one of the day’s underlying messages of “we are all in this together.” Speakers “linked strip mining in Eastern Kentucky to tar sands oil extraction in Canada and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline,” wrote James Bruggers. “It’s all about an unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels, the speakers told about 1,000 people on the Capitol steps on a cold, wet afternoon.” Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta, Canada, a Tar Sands activist addressed the gathered crowd. She described the impact of the extraction methods on her community, according to a KFTC blog post, including polluted air and water and higher rates of emphysema, asthma and cancers. “It is encouraging to be here today, to feel like you are standing with me as I am standing with you,” she said.

Check out this photo slide show:

Watch this video of the day from Kentucky.com, the online site of Lexington, Ky.’s The Herald-Leader.

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