Front Porch Blog

Mountain Monday: Bush Attempts 11th Hour Steamroll of Appalachia

Two really important things in this week’s edition of Mountain Monday, and i hope you’ll read them both.

1) The Bush Administration is attempting to repeal the Stream Buffer Zone rule, a 1983 Reagan-era rule that creates a 100-foot protected area around streams that can not be disturbed by strip-mining.

2) Guest contributor Allen Johnson gives us a very special recount of the recent “Blessing of the Mountains” event in Anstead, WV. Allen is the head of Christians for the Mountains.

Without further ado…

1) Stream Buffer Zone to be repealed?
The Bush Administration is attempting an 11th hour repeal to of the “Stream Buffer Zone Rule,” one of the last legal protections from strip-mining for our Appalachian Mountains and headwater streams. The Stream Buffer Zone, a 1983 rule enacted under the Reagan Administration, creates a 100 foot “do not disturb” area around our streams. The Bush Administration would like to see this rule effectively repealed on their way out of office as a favor to Big Coal. This month the final rule was sent to EPA for final approval before it is signed into law. EPA has 30 days to review the rule. So, within days Appalachia stands to lose even more of our beautiful mountains and bountiful headwater streams to mountaintop removal mining. Both Presidential candidates have said they are against mountaintop removal mining, but Senator Obama and Senator McCain have so far been silent on this Bush Administration rollback of our clean water laws.

Action: Please take action by asking the EPA not to finalize this rule. There is too much at stake. You can also send a letter to Senator McCain and Senator Obama asking them to stand up to Bush by publicly opposing this rollback of clean water laws.

Part 2
We are very fortunate today to be able to share this piece by Allen Johnson, head of Christians for the Mountains, on the third “Blessing of the Mountain” event. We covered some of the efforts around Anstead, WV before when speaking about Gauley Mountain, one of America’s most endangered mountains, and I hope you’ll enjoy Allen’s words here below.

Blessing Of The Mountains III
by Allen Johnson

The hardwood trees towering overhead had the yellow tinge that signaled the breath of fall. Sunlight dappling through the leaves of a bright blue sky day glinted onto a cross leading a processional of celebrants (or were they mourners?) up a dirt road.

The procession stopped. A barricade blocked their path, and a sign warned that trespassers would be prosecuted. The coal company that was destroying a mountain which could be viewed at the end of the road had made preparations for the prayer vigil, too. God would not be invoked on their property. “The Earth is the Lord’s and all that it contains” (Psalm 24:1).

A robed priest gave an invocation. A song rang out from 40 throats, giving voice to the silent cry in every supplicant, “God, the mountains you have so wondrously created are being ripped apart. Please, this must stop!”

Blessing of the Mountains III was held near Ansted, West Virginia on Sunday afternoon October 5. The event, simply stated, was to worship God, to thank God for the wondrous creation that surrounded us, to repent for its looming destruction, and to ask God to strengthen us to protect this creation.

A year earlier, the first “Blessing of the Mountains” was held at the end of our now-blocked road a mile or so further up the mountain where an overview of a recently started mountaintop removal operation. Thousands more acres of mountains stand poised to fall to blast, dragline, and bulldozer if this first mine is not thwarted.

The heart of the local economy is the tourism industry due to the nearby presence of the New River and the Gauley River. The rivers are rated among the top whitewater rafting rivers in the East, and have gained federal designation—the New as a National Scenic River, the Gauley as a National Recreation River. Nearby Hawk’s Nest State Park overlooks the infamous 3-mile tunnel whose construction claimed about 700 lives out of 2000 workers by silicosis—due primarily due to the lack of safety precautions by Union Carbide. Many of the victims were poor, African-American migrant workers.

Roy Crist, a local Episcopalian Priest wearing his priestly garb, and an and event organizer, led a liturgy celebrating the goodness of creation. “You [God] make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal.” The priest continues to read from Holy Scripture, the people respond. “From your lofty abode you [God] water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.” Back and forth the reading flows. “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104, selections quoted here).

Blessing of the Mountains prayer gatherings are sponsored by the Ansted Historic Preservation Association. This association is working to protect the local ecosystem from obliteration by mountain top removal. These prayer events are for one purpose—to intercede in prayer for the mountains.

Last April, Blessing of the Mountains II was also blockaded. Furthermore, a large contingent of coal company employees and their families dressed in matching blue shirts had gathered to protest. As the Blessing of the Mountains prayer service commenced, the protestors rudely hooted and cat called. Unfazed, the worshipers continued, which apparently was more than one protestor could stand as he walked up to the speaker to shout his sermon to a stop. The assembled worshipers broke out into the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” which calmed the tension.

This October prayer event was peaceful and hope engendering. Yes, again we confessed our own destructive ways—all of us have complicity through the energy we consume. “Show us, lead us O God, into your right path!” Yet we also rejoiced in the goodness and wonder of God’s creation. “O God, may always remember and rejoice in your marvelous works!”

All of us were freshly inspired to advocate for God’s creation. Certainly much work needs to be done. And we need to continue to pray. There will be more prayer events in the days to come. We concluded the prayer event singing what has become the theme song of Blessing of the Mountains, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.”

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.


I don’t have time to do a blog roundup this week, but please check out the amazing work more than 750 bloggers have done in the Blogger’s Challenge.

Thats all for this week. Hope yall have a great Monday 🙂






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