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Presbyterian, Unitarian churches oppose mountaintop removal

For Immediate Release

Contact: Lenny Kohm at Appalachian Voices (828) 262-1500

June 29, 2006

Two Major National Religious Denominations Pass Resolutions Against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Within a week of one another, two major national faith groups passed resolutions at their general assemblies opposing the widespread practice of mountaintop removal coal mining in central Appalachia. Mountaintop removal involves blasting off the top of mountains and dumping the waste into valleys below in order to access multiple seams of coal.

One resolution, passed on June 22 in Birmingham, Alabama by the Presbyterian Church/USA stated that, “Mountaintop removal coal mining contributes to a cycle of poverty that has created high unemployment, high illiteracy rates, record numbers of school closings and a lack of opportunity in areas where coal is produced.” The Presbyterian Church/USA has over 2.5 million members nationwide.

The effort to pass the resolution was spearheaded by West Virginia native Melissa Gee. “Someone once told me that Presbyterians don’t go alone. I now realize the similarity of that belief to the way I was raised in West Virginia. The need for this resolution was clear; the people of our nation’s coalfields should not be sent out alone in the fight to protect their homes and families,” commented Gee.

The resolution cited a decreasing quality of life for nearby families and communities due to flooding, blasting, dust and fallen rock, loss of home and property, and destruction of “both the beauty and productive capacity of the land” caused by mountaintop removal as a basis for their opposition. The resolution passed almost unanimously.

On June 26 the Unitarian Universalist Association, representing more than 1000 congregations nationwide, passed an action of immediate witness concerning mountaintop removal at their general assembly in St. Louis, Missouri. The action stated that the “Passage of H.R. 2719, the Clean Water Protection Act, would amend the Clean Water Act to eliminate mountaintop removal coal mining because coal companies would no longer be permitted to dump waste into nearby streams and valleys.”

Sarah Berel- Harrop, the sponsor of the resolution, said, “I was overwhelmed with the support from delegates around the country. I am hopeful that this action of immediate witness will spur members from their congregations to learn more about and become active on this issue.”

The two denominations have now joined several other national faith groups who have outwardly expressed their opposition to mountaintop removal, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.

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