Coal activists around the country have stepped up their efforts in recent years to fight the destructive mining process known as mountaintop removal, targeting politicians, coal companies, and banks that support and finance such projects. Activists in Charlotte were arrested earlier this year protesting Bank of America’s ties to mountaintop removal, while others staged a tree sit-in near Coal River Mountain in West Virginia to prevent a mountaintop removal project there.
In Kentucky, a state where mountaintop removal has destroyed more mountains than in any other state, protesters have staged sit-ins at the governor’s office and the statehouse throughout the year. Those activists visited the office of Gov. Steve Beshear (D) again yesterday, this time hoping to deliver a little holiday cheer and a few gifts for the governor who trumpeted his support for mountaintop removal and opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency during his re-election campaign in 2011, public radio station WFPL reports:
Governor Steve Beshear got an early Christmas gift from anti-mountaintop removal activists today. Protesters spent several hours in the governor’s office waiting for a chance to present him with lumps of coal.
The protest was an extension of a weekly event that’s been going on since February, but this time it had a holiday twist. Lexington teacher Martin Mudd dressed up as Santa Claus, and says he brought gifts for the governor.
“Santa brought the governor some lumps of coal and switches because he’s been a naughty boy in not doing everything that he can to protect the people of eastern Kentucky and our mountains and water,” he said.
Beshear’s support for the coal industry, and mountaintop removal in particular, has often placed him at odds with coal activists. In 2009, he angered activists by firing Ron Mills, the head of Kentucky’s mining permit division, after Mills refused multiple permits for Alliance Resource Partners, a Tulsa-based company with multiple mining sites in Kentucky. Beshear signed the permits over Mills’ objections, and Mills told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Alliance executives had lobbied for his firing.
But his support for mountaintop removal has drawn the most ire, and while yesterday’s protesters weren’t able to reach Beshear — both he and Lieutenant Gov. Jerry Abramson (D) were out of the office — they left a list of demands with their gifts. Among them: end mountaintop removal, employ workers left jobless by the coal industry through environmental reclamation projects, and help Eastern Kentucky build a sustainable economy that isn’t built on a destructive mining process clearly linked to cancer, birth defects, and numerous other chronic illnesses.