Front Porch Blog

The 5 Worst Political Lies in Support of Mountaintop Removal

Part 1 in a 5 part series


According to some in Congress, supporting mountaintop removal is the same as advocating for a balance between the environment and economy.

Lie 1 of 5: Balance. According to some in Congress, supporting mountaintop removal is the same as advocating for a balance between the environment and the economy.

After spending a month back in their home states, Congress is back in session. Between the budget, the debt ceiling, Syria, energy efficiency bills, and the farm bill, they have plenty of work to do in a short period of time but rest assured the dialogue on Capitol Hill will contain the same old mix of logic and utter nonsense.

There are ethical and committed people working in Congress, both members and staff, but their work is often stifled by clever politicians catering to special interests and major donors. On every environmental issue under the sun, polluters and their allies are prone to misleading the public. Over the next two weeks, we’ll refute the five biggest, baddest lies about mountaintop removal coal mining.

1. When it comes to mountaintop removal, we need to strike a “balance” between the economy and the environment

Since arriving in Washington, D.C., six years ago and watching more Congressional hearings than I can count, one of the cliches that gets under my skin the most are the constant cries that we need a balance between the economy and the environment.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is obnoxiously fond of the phrase. Here are just a few of the numerous times he’s used his favorite talking point.

— “There’s a balance to be had, the economy and the environment has to work together …” [1]

— “I believe we can find a balance between economic viability and environmental stewardship and a dialogue is critical …” [2]

— “There is a balance to be had between our economy and our environment and West Virginia is leading the way in finding that balance.” [3]

— “There’s a balance to be found between the environment and the Economy and the EPA has worked very hard to avoid finding that balance.” [4]

The phrase is a lie not only because it’s entirely incorrect, but because the politicians who say it do not actually mean it. What they really mean is “stop regulating the coal industry polluters.” Politicians who advocate for mountaintop removal mining rarely attempt to explain how the devastating practice could possibly be considered a balance between the economy and the environment. That’s because they can’t.

At what point is mountaintop removal mining doing anything to add weight to the environmental side of this “balance?” Is it the deforestation? The destruction of habitat? The demolition of ancient Appalachian mountains? The dumping of mining waste laden with toxic heavy metals into streams?

You don’t need to read the dozens of health studies to know that mountaintop removal coal mining is an environmental catastrophe.

Though a healthy environment is necessary for a healthy economy, Appalachian Voices has always advocated for such a balance by acknowledging the importance of traditional underground coal mining to the region while transitioning to a sustainable, clean energy future. Matt Wasson, our Director of Programs, made our position clear before Congress during a hearing last year.

“I recognize that America needs coal to power our homes, factories and economy. Moreover, we will continue to rely on the hard work and sacrifice of American miners to supply coal for years, perhaps decades, into the future. While demand for coal is in long-term decline due to competition from other energy sources, there is no immediate alternative that can replace the 42 percent of our electricity and 20 percent of our overall energy supply that coal currently provides.

The best way to ensure a reliable supply of coal, as well as to honor the men and women that mine it, is to give agencies the authority and resources they need to ensure coal is mined in a manner that does not destroy the land, water and health of nearby residents and that clearly complies with laws passed by Congress to protect our natural resources.”

Mountaintop removal mining makes a true balance between the economy and the environment impossible. And the practice should have no place in America’s energy future.

Supporters of the devastating practice mislead Americans, and impacted communities most of all, by suggesting that blowing up mountains for coal is beneficial to jobs and the regional economy. It is not, and I’ll discuss why in the next installment.





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  1. Dr James Livingston on September 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    I’ve seen this process in action. It starts ugly, and gets worse from there. And it never gets better: the land is ruined forever. We need to stop it before it starts.

  2. Derek on September 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Land ownership determines future of community renewable energy prospects: Landholding corporations own the majority of land in West Virginia while paying little in taxes. This is what’s keeping people living in perpetual poverty. Imminent domain should be used to restore the land to the state so that wind and solar farms can be built, creating clean energy and clean jobs.
    “An estimated 60% of West Virginia ’s land is owned by landholding corporations. Landholding companies don’t pay their fair share of property tax, leading to lower tax revenues for the counties. The fact that West Virginians don’t own the vast wealth of their land is one reason why coal mining regions remain consistently poor.”

  3. Joseph Bollin on September 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    The whole problem with moderation is it softens the reality of what the corrupt Big industrial/energy complex is actually doing and we should tell it like it is.

  4. Joseph Bollin on September 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    The corruption in the coal/big energy complex runs wild. Our representative Democracy is rapidly becoming a non-representative Crimocracy. Include Big Oil in this web of lies and deceit. Our whole political process is being bought by Big energy, Big business, Corporate America. The whole scam being manipulated and controlled by corrupt power players like DR. Evil (ex Vice President Cheney, and the Koch bros.) among countless others. This whole process being supported by many members of our corrupt Congress. They are all being bought off by the beyond corrupt Big Energy Complex. truly disgusting and INSANE on their part. Our children’s lives and future are being destroyed in this corrupt process. Shame on corrupt politicians and corrupt political process.

  5. Ann Stockdale on September 10, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    It is amazing to me that we are taking down majestic mountains to supply CHINA with coal. Coal should be a last resort for energy use and certainly not used for profit in export. Now, in Washington State, the Coal industry wants to make huge coal export docks and use our rail system to accomplish this. So let me understand… The people who are making a profit with this coal export want permission to pollute our air by railroading their dirty coal through our communities?
    When will we humans stop cannabilizing our planet for short term gainns of the 1% ???

  6. al justice on September 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Exactly. I’ve said it exactly like this article for years. Though I want to support Manchin because of his family and background in business, I am sooooooooooo disappointed that he appears to have been bought by the coal industry.

    Moreover, besides actually destroying the economy of the coal fields in the long run, who the uh-heck wants to develop amidst this destruction–especially in terms of tourism and people industries. And, where ‘is’ the economic development that was to come with that type of destruction?

    And ya know? The proof is in the pudd’n. The attrition and further sliding toward a dangerous lack of voice in the coal fields has been going on since the very beginning of the War on Poverty… The Appalachian Regional Commission is where in all this?

    Finally, it’s a regional thing–not only nearby residents. Crossing Stony Ridge near Bishop VA, is just a really wonderful welcome sign to WV’s southern counties–and the main artery for thousands of families and people who live/lived here in getting home to the mountains. The destruction clearly visible is a unbelievably huge tragedy–oh, and they’re looking to expand.

    Oh yeah–there’s a balance. Wait the citizens and communities out until they’re ‘all’ gone, and make sure that diversified ‘balanced’ economic development does NOT take place… Do me once shame on me,,,,,,,,,,,,.

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