On June 25, I gathered with my co-workers to watch President Obama unveil his vision for addressing climate change. It was encouraging to hear the president frame the issue in terms of a “moral imperative,” and the fact that he’s ready to take on power plant emissions — the single largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. — shows that he’s serious.
But no energy plan can be built on a moral foundation without ensuring that areas like Appalachia, heavily impacted by the country’s continued over-reliance on fossil fuels, don’t get left behind. The devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining has no place in a 21st Century energy plan.
President Obama must stop industry from pushing the costs of doing business off on communities and our environment. More than 20 health studies have shown that residents of Appalachian coal counties, particularly those living near mountaintop removal sites, suffer higher cancer rates, more birth defects, and have shorter life spans than other citizens.
The administration needs to address these immediate issues while also doing more to invest in energy efficiency and renewable sources — particularly in Appalachia. Such investments will go far to create jobs, economic security and environmental health for our region.
I applaud the president’s determination to make the issue of climate change a top priority on the national agenda. Appalachian Voices stands ready to work with his administration to achieve a new energy future, for Appalachia and America.