Bringing a blown up WV mountain to JP Morgan Chase

per AutoMotivator

Back in January, the journal Science exploded the myth of clean coal, with a study concluding mountaintop removal (MTR) “permits are being issued despite the preponderance of scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and that mitigation cannot compensate for losses.” Guest blogger Anne Polansky has the latest on citizen action against MTR in this repost.

Polansky, a long-time friend and colleague, applies her training in the Earth sciences and public policy to effect positive change in government and the marketplace, with a strong focus on global climate disruption and sustainable energy policy and practices.  The awesome poster above is courtesy of thatvisionthing.

You gotta admit, it’s creative.  Smack in the middle of the floor of an otherwise sparkly clean lobby of a JP Morgan Chase bank branch in Manhattan sits a big pile of dirt, shaped like a mountain.   Atop sits a letter to the CEO of the behemoth bank, Jamie Dimon, begging for mercy on behalf of huge mountains just west of here (DC) being blown to smithereens by the likes of Massey Energy to get at the solid black gold laced throughout, the stuff that powers our homes and quite likely, this blog post.  As are an increasing number of us, Reverend Billy and his choir are really ticked off about Mountaintop Removal and show it by ceremoniously carrying plates of “overburden” fresh from the country roads of West Virginia, singing the gospels of mountain beauty and inspiration, inviting the rest of us to join in the righteous indignation.  You go, Rev, and keep it up.  You speak (and sing) for me, too.   Earth-alujah!!!!

Link here for the Rev’s diary of the action; he even facebooked it.

There you’ll see links to a couple of must-see videos:


And a photo taken a little while later:  the cops arrive, visibly baffled….

Q:  Hey Joe, what on Earth is this stuff?   A:  The Earth (or used to be!)

To be fair, to walk into a bank and see a big pile of dirt (without a dirty bomb inside) put there on purpose probably is a bit baffling.  Let’s help them out a little bit.

So Officer Joe, and other curious passers by, here’s the deal on MTR (mountaintop removal).

  • Coal is used to generate more than half of the USA’s electricity. One could say that “America is the Saudi Arabia of coal” as the US has about 250 years’ worth of coal reserves at our current burn rate.  More than 100 new coal-fired plants are on the drawing board, despite the many problems that coal burning creates, climate change being at the top of the list.  In other words, there’s lots of coal swirling around inside Appalachian Mountains, and lots of coal-fired power plants willing to pay for it to be extracted.
  • JP Morgan Chase finances and underwrites coal mining companies like Massey Energy Co. and electric power generation companies that continue to burn cheap coal to make electricity, despite the risks to planet Earth.
  • MTR is wildly destructive.  We’ve essentially detonated, decimated, and put some lame bandaids on tracts of land that, taken together, exceeds the square miles of Delaware.
  • The cookbook version of MTR goes something like this:
  1. Remove the forest. (Note, the US EPA estimates that 2,200 square miles of Appalachian forests will be cleared for MTR sites by the year 2012.)
  2. Scrape away topsoil, the larger the steam shovel, the better.
  3. Insert bomb.  (States engaging in MTR each detonate about 1,000 tons of explosives a day and some blasts have lopped as much as 800 feet off a mountain.)
  4. Remove coal, sell on open (highly subsidized) market.
  5. Use bulldozers to put “overburden” (sterile dirt) back to try and make mountain look “good as new.”
  6. Push and shove leftover rock and soil debris into hollows and stream beds, ignore fish screams.
  7. Repeat.

To add idiocy to injury, we can look inside the mind of CEO of Massey Energy Company, Don Blankenship, who has been whining about reduced profit margins from his quarterly coal revenue of a half a billion dollars. Commenting on the 4th Q of 2009, Massey said:

“We were pleased with our control of costs and our positive cash generation during the fourth quarter in spite of very difficult market and operating conditions.”

What are these difficulties he’s all upset about?  Whether he realizes it or not, he’s upset about an increasingly disrupted climate system as the result of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, like coal burning, for example.  In his own sadly ironic words:

“The weak global economy and lower total energy demand from electric utilities and steelmakers weighed on the quarterly sales volumes. In addition, weather, weather-related power outages and disruption of rail and ocean transport significantly impacted Massey’s operations. Produced tons sold in the quarter totaled 7.8 million compared to 10.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The shipping delays caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida as it pounded the east coast of the United States in November were only exacerbated by the heavy snowfalls and extreme low temperatures of December. The impacts of the adverse weather on mine operations and transportation and regulatory constraints prevented us from reaching our quarterly shipment targets. However, other projections for revenue and costs per ton were within guidance tolerances.”

So — when will oil and coal barons get a clue that the very business they are engaged in is itself creating market conditions that will make it increasingly difficult to continue the very business they are engaged in….

This is in the category of DUH.

— Anne Polansky

20 Responses to Bringing a blown up WV mountain to JP Morgan Chase

  1. A picture is worth 1,000 words. It’s really offensive to see mountains without their tops.

  2. Rahj Majendra says:

    Iron ore for iron to make steel and wind turbines is mined the same way

  3. wag says:

    crime scenery in the Bay of Bengal: island disappears under rising seas:

  4. mike roddy says:

    Rahj, #2, I’m not sure what your point is, but iron ore and coal mining are not comparable.

    The Mesabi Range in Minnesota, where our iron ore comes from, is a barren and uninhabited area, with little wildlife and minor leaching and pollution issues.

    Coal comes from one of the most diverse and biologically rich temperate forests in the world. Local inhabitants are poisoned and driven out. Blasted mountaintops may never recover, and adjacent streams carry toxins for miles downstream, probably for centuries.

    Everything about mining and burning coal is an atrocity, and a testament to greed and callousness gone berserk.

  5. Fred-o says:

    Have you commented on a Global Warming news story yet today? Written a Letter to the Editor? Repetition is key to educating a confused public. Your knowledge is needed.

    Set your homepage to include “global warming” search results right now—and get your voice out there several times a day.

    Trillion-dollar fossil industries are at war with your scientific epistemology—and your children’s future. They will gladly destroy both if they can. Don’t go down without a fight.

  6. Mark says:

    Excellent idea to tie corporation’s brand names to the effect that they are having on the world.

    JP Morgan Chase – Enabling mountain top removal.
    Massey Energy – We poison your water.

  7. Anne says:

    re: 6. Mark

    Yes — “branding” is a technique the Repubicans have learned to use effectively, even to promote illegal invasions (e.g., Iraq) and restrictions of privacy in the name of the “war on terror.” Progressives on the other hand have been lousy at messaging, and could stand to learn lessons from the right wing on the art and science of this powerful communications technique.

    A couple more potential slogans come to mind….

    “This decimated landscape brought to you by Massey Energy… there’s no mountain too high to prevent us from bringing you the dirt-cheap energy you deserve!”


    “Do all your banking business with JP Morgan Chase, we use every dollar you entrust with us to ensure rapid ecological devastation — so you don’t have to bother.”

    (Thanks for the crosspost, Dr. Romm!)

    ~ Anne

  8. Second Ave Deli says:

    It’s also interesting that there in front of the Chase branch that replaced the much missed 2nd Avenue Deli.

  9. tvt says:

    Reply to Mark:

    GE — We Bring Bad Things To Fish

    “Corporations do everything people do except breathe, die and go to jail for dumping 1.3 million pounds of PCBs in the Hudson River.”
    –Stephen Colbert—let-freedom-ka-ching

  10. Mark Shapiro says:

    Every time you name a bad corporate actor, like JP Morgan Chase, name (and shame) the CEO, like Jamie Dimon.

    Why? Corporations have no nerves, no shame, no conscience, no morals, no mortality. They do have vast p/r and marketing budgets; millions of loyal customers, employees, and suppliers; and all the goodwill that comes with. CEOs are the opposite. They are much more vulnerable to bad press, and as multimillionaires they get much less sympathy. (That’s why they show “regular folks” in those ads, and not the CEO.)

    Most important, the CEO deserves the blame! Corporations don’t make decisions, CEOs do.

    So please, please aim your words where they are deserved, and where they might have the greatest effect. CEOs are the Achilles’ heel of misbehaving corporations.

    By the way, everything about Dimon goes double for News Corporation and its founder and CEO, Rupert Murdoch.

    You remember some of the bad things that Beck, O’Reilly, Hannity, etc have said? Yeah, I do, too. But Rupert Murdoch is the guy who pulled them off the street, and gave them millions of viewers and millions of dollars to spout their filth.

    Never let the CEO off the hook.

  11. Mark Shapiro says:

    tvt — thank you.

    That Colbert “Word” clip should have been submitted in the Citizens United case as evidence, or as an amicus brief.

  12. Michael Philips says:

    Coal companies are supposed to engage in repair and remediation of these destroyed mountains. Some of us have looked into whether that remediation might include installing wind turbines at coal company expense on these sites. It’s not as good as leaving the mountains intact in the first place, but it’s an idea worth exploring. One analysis showed the wind conditions are not as good on these lower elevation mountains. Another problem is that they are not near the grid, so the intertie costs would be high. Still, if the coal companies had to pay some of these costs as part of a remediation package, it might be economical to site turbines on these sites. I don’t think there would be as much of a NIMBY concern in these cases as there often is toward wind farms in the Appalacians.

  13. another alum says:

    a. I dont think a wind farm would look that good inside a bank office building either. I mean thats kind of silly

    b. Masseys comments on the weather – havent we been trying to beat into everyone’s heads that weather is NOT climate?

    c. JP Morgan Chase is a lender. Its really NOT their business to judge the social cost benefit of the enterprises they lend money to. Does JPMC lobby against needed legislation on climate change, as the coal and oil companies do? If so, than protest them (of course you can also protest their stands on financial reg reform, but thats a different issue)

    d. When people speak of clean coal, they usually mean wrt emissions. That may be a boondoggle, or not, but that coal mining has other costs is really a different issue. Neither unpleasantness in W Va, nor off the coast of Nantucket, is going to matter that much to the whole planet.

  14. another alum says:

    JPMC supports:

    “A policy dialogue to advocate that the US government adopt a market-based national policy on greenhouse gas emissions, which includes all sources of emissions and is fair. Options include either a cap-and-trade or tax policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost.”

    These people are taking the RIGHT approach on GHG’s. They are lined up with Apple, Google, etc on the GHG debate, not with the oil companies and coal companies.

    No, they don’t go telling their CLIENTS (and yes, thats what a big corporate borrower is to JPMC) that they wont offer loans cause of mountaintops. Its not JPMC’s job to do what the EPA should be doing.

    That may not be popular because its fun to attack big banks, if you are a progressive. And they sure screwed up in plenty of ways the last couple of years.

    But if you are going to attack like this, for reasons, like this, you will end up with damned small tent.

    Take a hint from Obama, who got doctors and hospitals and even Big Pharma on board, and got health care reform passed. Policy change OR “progressive purity” Pick one.

  15. tvt says:

    Reply to Mark: Also point could be made (was made in movie The Corporation) that “corporate persons” are clinically diagnosable psychopaths. So, framing:
    Jaime Dimon – humanity = JP Morgan Chase = psychopath.

    Or to continue with Colbert,

    Jaime Dimon – humanity = JP Morgan Chase = psychopath with lots and lots of paper ballots (dollar bills):

    “One dollar gives your candidate one vote. Twenty dollars gives your candidate 20 votes. And a 10 million dollar cashier’s check from Exxon gives your candidate a much better idea of where he stands on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” — Stephen Colbert—let-freedom-ka-ching

    I took this idea a little further last night on Daily Kos, where I point out that even if a corporation falls afoul of the law, it can’t go to jail, but it can buy its way to good graces again from the government via a nifty mechanism called “corporate monitoring.” What a convenient way to funnel money back to the government you want to buy, and what a nice payoff to your friends in the Justice Department like former AGs Ashcroft and Mukasey.

  16. Mark Shapiro says:

    Another alum @ 14 —

    thanks for pointing out JPMC’s enlightened corporate policy supporting a market-based price for carbon, and for the broader, more important point of not alienating potential allies.

    Yet another reason for not attacking the company, but the CEO. When you attack the company, you immediately lose sympathy from many loyal employees and customers. Folks can separate the CEO from the company, and know that powerful people, like CEOs, should know right from wrong.

  17. Mike says:

    A before and after pair of pictures might work even better.

  18. “One dollar gives your candidate one vote. Twenty dollars gives your candidate 20 votes. And a 10 million dollar cashier’s check from Exxon gives your candidate a much better idea of where he stands on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” — Stephen Colbert

  19. crime scenery in the Bay of Bengal: island disappears under rising seas:

  20. substanti8 says:

    Reply to Mike Roddy (#4) –

    “The Mesabi Range in Minnesota, where our iron ore comes from, is a barren and uninhabited area, with little wildlife …”


    When the Gray Wolf was added to the Endangered Species List in 1974, about 90% of the remaining wolves (in the lower 48) lived in the Iron Range and land up to the Canadian border.  Even after years of successful wolf recovery, northeastern Minnesota is still home to about two-thirds of the wolves today.

    Wolf Recovery in North America

    Gray Wolf Range Expansion in Minnesota

    Furthermore, areas that are “barren” (such as “lakes” created by open pit mines) only became that way after a century of human abuse, rather than any natural cause (such as climate).

    The implied point by Rahj Majendra is an accurate one – that “green” industrialism is still not sustainable.  There is no substitute for simply using way less energy.