Toxic West Virginia: Mountaintop Removal- Episode 1

This video hits close to home because, well, it is close to home. Mountaintop removal has been an ongoing debate here in West Virginia for several years now. Living beside this and seeing it every day, I now have a blind eye to it. But after watching this video, I now see it in full again. What you see in this video is exactly what it looks like here in West Virginia.

I had never thought that folks who weren’t directly affected by the mountain top removal would be concerned, but I am glad to see that they are. And I am very glad to see you here in West Virginia spreading the word.:)

VBS: The first episode starts on a mountain.
Meredith: It’s Larry’s Gibson’s mountain. He worked for Ford Motors. He’s just a normal guy who had a cabin up there on Kayford Mountain. He’s a West Virginia guy: Born, raised, lives, and works in West Virginia. Kayford is his family’s mountain. I think he said they’ve had it for over 200 years. There’s a family cemetery there, and all kinds of people have summer cabins-second cousins, third cousins.
Right now this mountain looks like an island. If you see it from the air, it’s a little green island in a sea of red and black. This is because of mountaintop removal. Everything surrounding it has been scraped away like a slab and the one thing left is Larry’s little green oasis. And of course, he’s pissed. Property that was his has already been taken. Mining companies have so much power in West Virginia. They’ll take away land based on old deeds. Or they falsify deeds that are supposed to be from 150 years ago, like, “Your ancestors signed the rights away for two horses. See? They signed an X right here in 1857.”

That’s totally fucked.
Yeah, and it’s something I want to look into a little more-deeds, mineral rights, falsified ownership. Just imagine you own a house and it’s got a deep foundation. Maybe it’s a century-old house. Now imagine a mining company is putting explosives underneath your house for, let’s say, 12 months. What’s that going to do to your foundation and your plumbing? Basically they are extracting matter from underneath you. That’s going to drastically affect your foundation and the substructure of your house.

Is this a problem for Larry?
Well, every picture frame in Larry’s house is screwed into the wall. He has giant cracks in his house.
A mine blast is a mini-earthquake. When we were walking to Larry’s house we could see mine cracks where the land has just split open. These were these crevasses going deep into the earth. Our camera guy was straddled over getting some shots and all of a sudden-boom. An explosion goes off and we’re standing right there.

What exactly is mountaintop removal?
It’s a way of extracting coal from deposits under mountains. Instead of drilling into the mountain and sending men underground to take out the coal in the traditional way you think about mining, they just take the whole top of a mountain off. You see, a mountain is built like a cake.

What do you mean?
The Appalachian Mountains are structured in layers. You have your worthless rock-minerals, whatever, and then you have your icing, which is the coal. Then you have another layer of rock, another layer of icing, and so on. The layers of coal, which are called seams, can vary from two feet to twelve feet in height. In West Virginia there are huge seams of coal.
So, just imagine you have this cake and you want to get the icing out. Do you go in with your finger and try to get all the icing out from in between the two layers? Or do you just say, “Fuck it,” and take the top off?
It’s a great idea if you’re dealing with cake, but unfortunately it has really ill effects on the environment and anyone living within a 100-mile radius. This will eventually affect more and more of the country too, because all the shit that comes off the mountain goes into their water system, which connects to larger water systems.


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