Virginians to Call on EPA, White House to save Ison Rock Ridge from mountaintop removal mining

Citizens rally at EPA to protect Virginia’s Appalachian communities and mountains

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2011
Contact: Hannah Morgan, 276-494-5686
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hundreds of Virginians and citizens from across the region gathered Wednesday at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters to voice concerns about a proposed mountaintop removal coal mine that would destroy Ison Rock Ridge in Wise County, Va.. The group is calling on the EPA and the White House to block the permit and protect the five surrounding communities of over 2,000 residents.

“For more than four years, we have fought to keep this surface mine from moving forward in an effort to protect
our homes and our families,”said Jane Branham, Wise County resident and vice-president of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “The state has given A&G coal company permission to blow up our mountain and poison our streams. We are gathered today to send the EPA the message that we need them to intervene. The risks are too serious.”

The 1,200-acre mountaintop removal mine would add to the devastation that southwest Virginia residents have endured from mountaintop removal operations. More than 60 mountains have been permanently destroyed by mountaintop removal in Virginia alone and more than 500 mountains in Appalachia total. Residents have reported extensive damage to the foundations of their homes and private drinking wells from nearby blasting. Dangerous levels of ground and drinking water contamination, noxious dust blanketing entire communities, increased flash flooding, and constant dangerous coal truck traffic are direct results of nearby mountaintop removal operations. Public health risks connected to mountaintop removal are well-documented. Recent studies link mountaintop removal mining to increased birth defects and cancer rates in counties throughout Appalachia.

Mountaintop removal also correlates with poverty rates and has dramatically decreased the number of people employed by the coal industry. “The kind of jobs we have now with mountaintop removal are a few short term jobs,”said Inman, Va. resident Ben Hooper. “If they were to start mining tomorrow, how long would it go on? And then it’s gone. You’ve got a source of wind energy destroyed, the stream is gone, the mountain is destroyed, and that is forever.”

More than 8,000 comments were submitted to the EPA leading up to the rally to ask the agency to deny the permit for the mountaintop removal mine. The Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition (which includes the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Southern Environmental Law Center), Earthjustice, and Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light organized the rally in support of Wise County residents. In anticipation of the rally, these organizations sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to applaud the agency’s recent efforts to protect Appalachian communities from the impacts of mountaintop removal mining and to ask for the Ison Rock permit to not go forward under her watch.

Wise county resident Judy Needham echoed this sentiment, “I am so thankful for what the EPA is doing. Don’t back down, please don’t back down.”

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