The government has failed to protect Appalachian communities by aiding and abetting the coal industry in evading environmental and mine safety protections. The result of this government failure is shattered health, widespread environmental destruction, and unemployment and economic depression throughout Appalachia. It is time for the government and the coal industry to end strip mining, repay their debt to Appalachia, and work to secure a healthy, prosperous future for the families and workers of this region.
- The scars of over 100 years of coal extraction can be seen in the black lung clinics, acid mine drainage, unreclaimed surface mines, communities with high rates of cancer and birth defects, and the many pensioners who wonder about promises made by their bosses in the industry.
- Patriot Coal, owner of the Hobet mine, the largest surface mine in West Virginia, is currently going through chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy was filed through a shell corporation in New York, created only months ago. In bankruptcy court, union contracts and pensions could be on the chopping block.
- Central Appalachian coal production is in the middle of a 50 percent, six-year decline, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Both UMWA pensions and reclamation of abandoned strip mines are funded by a per-ton tax on coal. This is no longer a viable option in the face of a declining coal industry.
- For each working miner, Patriot has more than four retired miners who have put their bodies on the line with faith that they would be supported in old age. This is a promise Patriot must keep.
- Patriot Coal, led by CEO Irl F. Engelhardt and its investors, are the latest in a long tradition of Appalachian coal bosses to leave illness and environmental devastation in their wake when profits dry up and they go bankrupt.
- Mountaintop removal is the most dramatic example of the coal industry extracting wealth from central Appalachia, leaving denuded land and polluted streams behind them.
- Coal companies must employ their surface mine workers in reclaiming to the highest standards all disturbed land. Government leaders should immediately allocate funds to retrain and re-employ laid off miners to reclaim Appalachia and lead America into a new, greener future.
- For the future of the state, the coal industry must be held accountable for the environmental destruction and human cost of its actions. No longer can we allow this industry to abandon its responsibilities to the land and people of Appalachia.