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Kentuckians Confront Governor Beshear

Update: Great news!

Press Release: Fourteen Kentuckians Will Remain in Governor’s Office Over the Weekend in Protest of Mountaintop Removal Mining

Contact: Silas House/Jason Howard 606.224.1208

FRANKFORT – At least fourteen Kentuckians have decided to remain in Gov. Steve Beshear’s office over the weekend at the invitation of the governor himself.

Among those remaining in the governor’s office include Wendell Berry, 76, the acclaimed writer who has decried mining abuses for the past fifty years; Beverly May, 52, a nurse practitioner from Floyd County; Mickey McCoy, 55, former educator and mayor of Inez; Teri Blanton, 54, a grassroots activist from Harlan County; Stanley Sturgill, 65, a former underground coal miner of Harlan County; Rick Handshoe, 50, a retired Kentucky State Police radio technician of Floyd County; John Hennen, 59, a history professor at Morehead State University; and Martin Mudd, 28, an environmental activist.

“We have resolved to stay while Gov. Beshear reconsiders his position on mountaintop removal mining,” the group said in a joint statement. “As we are just steps away from the Governor’s Mansion, we invite the governor to join us at the Capitol—the People’s House—for more conversations over the weekend.”

The group is staying in the governor’s office in anticipation of I Love Mountains Day on Monday, an annual rally held to draw attention to mountaintop removal and the Stream Saver Bill, which has languished for six years in the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Gooch (D-Providence), a longtime supporter of the coal industry.

“We invite our fellow Kentuckians to join us in solidarity on the steps of the Capitol on Monday,” said the group. A march to the Capitol from the Kentucky River Bridge will commence at 11:30 a.m. The rally at the Capitol will begin at 12:15 p.m.

They expressed disappointment in today’s meeting with Gov. Beshear. “There are times when our elected officials must choose between being a leader and being a politician. This is one of those times. We call upon Gov. Beshear to lead by ending mountaintop removal, by beginning a sincere public dialogue about creating sustainable jobs for our hard-working miners, by putting the vital interests of ordinary Kentuckians above the special interests of an abusive industry.”

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A message from our brothers and sisters in Kentucky – jw

Contact: Silas House/Jason Howard 606.224.1208

FRANKFORT – A group of twenty Kentuckians has gathered at the state Capitol in an attempt to meet with Gov. Steve Beshear to discuss the issue of mountaintop removal mining. They plan to remain in his office until the governor agrees to stop the poisoning of Kentucky’s land, water, and people by mountaintop removal; or until he chooses to have the citizens physically removed.

Among the group are Wendell Berry, 76, the acclaimed writer who has decried mining abuses for the past fifty years; Beverly May, 52, a nurse practitioner from Floyd County; Erik Reece, 43, who has written extensively about the coal industry; Patty Wallace, 80, a grandmother from Louisa; Mickey McCoy, 55, former educator and mayor of Inez; Teri Blanton, 54, a grassroots activist from Harlan County; Stanley Sturgill, 65, a former underground coal miner of Harlan County; Rick Handshoe, 50, a retired Kentucky State Police radio technician of Floyd County; John Hennen, 59, a history professor at Morehead State University; and Martin Mudd, 28, an environmental activist.

While these Kentuckians realize they are risking arrest by refusing to leave the governor’s office, they say they have repeatedly petitioned Gov. Beshear for help, yet their pleas have been ignored. This action is a last resort to seek protections for their health, land, and water.

In a letter to Gov. Beshear, the citizens expressed their desire to communicate “respectfully and effectively” with the governor about the urgent need to stop the destruction of mountaintop removal mining. Among their requests were the following:

§ Accept a long-standing invitation to view the devastation in eastern Kentucky caused by mountaintop removal mining

§ Foster a sincere, public discussion about the urgent need for a sustainable economic transition for coal workers and mountain communities

§ Withdraw from the October 2010 lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, in which the Beshear administration partnered with the coal industry to oppose the EPA’s efforts to protect the health and water of coalfield residents

“The office of the governor must be held accountable,” they citizens explained in a joint statement. “We are once again asking Gov. Beshear for help.”

Hal Rogers district in eastern Kentucky (KY-05) has been the victim of more mountaintop removal than any other district or even state, for that matter. Out of 435 Congressional districts, it is #1 in destruction of mountains and streams, and yet it ranks:

– 435th in physical health (dead last)
– 435th in overall well-being (dead last)
– 435th in emotional health (dead last)
– 435th in life expectancy (dead last) (although it switches back and forth with Rahall’s district WV-03, depending on whose data you go by)

As a state Kentucky ranks dead last in healthy behavior, and 49th in overall well-being, emotional health, and physical health (behind WV of course). More mountaintop removal will only make these problems with the health of Appalachian people even worse. Its hard to get worse than worst, but many Kentucky Representatives are trying. Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends at the state house.

We stand in solidarity with Kentucky Rising, a group who entered the office of Gov. Beshear at 10 AM asking for a real discussion about stopping MTR and creating economic stability for the region.

If you’d like to help.
1) Call the Governor’s office and demand he meet with his constituents. 502-564-2611

2) Consider joining 100s of Kentuckians for “I Love Mountains Day” at the state Capitol on February 14th.

As always, Jeff Biggers has much, much more.

Raised on the banks of the Tennessee River, JW's work to create progress in his home state and throughout Appalachia has been featured on the Rachel Maddow Show, The Daily Kos and Grist. He served first as Appalachian Voices’ Legislative Associate and then Tennessee director until leaving to pursue a career in medicine in 2012.


5 COMMENTS
  1. Lyn hacker says:

    So, so, so much respect for this group and what they are trying to do. I would be happy to donate some CDs I made for your benefit in fundraising for these efforts. Please let me know.

  2. jw says:

    Thank you Lyn! Another very generous offer of some great albums, and we will definitely be in touch.

  3. Dawn says:

    Thank you for this article. I made a call to the Governor’s office to let them know of my support for your efforts.

  4. David Hoch says:

    It goes without say (but I’ll say it anyway) that these people are fantastic and that their cause is noble and righteous, but on a much lighter note: JW, I don’t know if you wrote this line, or Silas House or Jason Howard did, but I sure cracked up when I read, “Its hard to get worse than worst, but many Kentucky Representatives are trying.” Keep the faith.

  5. Sherman says:

    I live in Perry County, KY. I have my whole life, I don’t work in the coal mines, nor been brainwashed by coal compaines, but I do know that if it wasn’t for surface and underground, Perry County wouldn’t be what it is today. Here we dont have the fortune 500, dollywood, The KY. derby, or the population of Lexington or Louisville. What is here is what the coal mines, the railroad, and construction have offered. Almost all of our road’s was at one time strip road’s and auger road’s, that either the state or the mine’s themselve’s have blk.topped. Coal is the single highest paying employer of the mtns. Ppl. going on about the death rate and overall living here, but they don’t take in drug abuse, alcoholism, and tobacco use. Plus car wrecks we live in the mtns. big hills and steep curve’s car insurance is unreal here. Im 25 and out of my graduating class of 80. 18 of them are now deceased, and none of them ever steped foot on mine property, car wrecks and drugs claimed there lifes. Ppl. are so wrapped up in this mtn.top removal garbage. They say it pollutes water, which I dont disagree, but when the EPA permits (MTR), the army corp. of engineer’s are supposed to be disposing of the dirt themselve’s or directing the mine to do so, with supervision(Clean Water Act) look it up. Then this problem is ppl. placing there sewer’s in the creeks and rivers, I know so many that does this I can’t name all of them. But I have a neigbor thats sewer is running in the river right now, I called the EPA and they didn’t even show up. All I’m trying to say is we have people coming here that has never lived in a rural area or the mtns. and telling us mining is a No,No, we hurt our species of animal. I haven’t seen a decline in animal specie’s other than what is caused by poching. I mean they release wild Elk and Blk. bear’s here ten years ago, seriously “why would you re-introduce a species like Elk that haven’t been here in over 100 years if the mine’s and mine water is going to kill them”? You can get a permit to hunt them now. On top of that I haven’t seen the wildlife stop any hunting seasons because of mining. My point is we need help drug enforcement that works, classes on alcohol, protection of animals from poching. We need the mines and America does to, because if they ban mountaintop removal, next is underground, plus here you cant get all of the coal out just by underground, thats why (MTR) was invented to begin with to extract coal from unconsolidated ground(roof cave) and seams long but too thin to mine underground. I promise you let them ban (MTR) and in ten years it will be underground too. Then your electric bill’s will double, because it will be like oil, an import but from China not the middle east. And our jobs and money will go there. Because green energy as much as the envirnmentalist love it, it wont be practical for at least 50 years. Just dont let the environments and the EPA fool you KY, we dont need another resource being controlled by another country.

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