Sunday, December 6, 2009

Just a little off the top

After the last posting several Mass Greens readers emailed me to let me know that they were writing Gerard Mestrallet (CEO of GDF Suez, the company that owns the coal-burning power station at Mount Tom, Holyoke) urging him to switch Mount Tom from coal to solar.

If you have written your letter already I extend a big, heartfelt thank you. If my request has slipped down or off your to-do list, here are three more reasons to join the campaign to stop the world's biggest energy giant from burning coal at Mount Tom: Donetta Blankenship and her two kids.

Watching the coal train roll through Amherst on its way to Mount Tom, I have sometimes wondered where the coal comes from. So when I picked up the current edition of Yes! magazine I was happy to learn that there is a way to trace at least some of the coal to its source. I typed in my zipcode and discovered my connection to Rawl, West Virginia, home of Donetta Blankenship and her two children.

Donetta lives with the consequences of Massey Energy's mountain-blasting activities including dust, debris, and a sludge impoundment (a vast pool of toxic waste). Her kids have asthma, and their drinking water contains elevated levels of arsenic, lead, and other toxins. Donetta says,

" [the water] runs out of the pipe like tomato soup; thick with orange sediment."

With mountaintop removal, companies like Massey Energy can mine coal with out coalminers. Instead of paying people a decent wage to go undergound and dig out the coal seam by seam, they just blow the tops of the mountains like the one near Doetta Blankenship's home. First, of course, they cut down and burn all the trees. Then they dump the debris -- rocks and topsoil that used to constitute the mountaintop -- into the streams and river below.

One of the two mountains in the image at the top of this post is Mount Greylock, here in Western Massachusetts. The other is in Rawl, West Virginia. You will notice that the summit of the Rawl mountain has vanished, replaced by a scarred wasteland.

Can you imagine what the Berkshires and the Holyoke Range would look like if we treated them the way our energy-providers treat the mountains of West Virginia? I really don't think we would stand for it, and I think we would fight back. That's what communities like Rawls are doing, demanding an end to mountaintop removal and a switch to clean, renewable energy.

Our electricity comes from places like Rawl, West Virginia, and the ordinary working people of Rawl -- families like Donetta Blankenship's -- are paying the price. One way to show solidarity with their struggle is to demand that GDF Suez switch from coal to solar at Mount Tom.

Click here for a video that shows the impact we are having on the people and landscape of Rawl, West Virginia. But before you click, please set aside 15 minutes to write GDF Suez. Here's the address again:

Monsieur Gerard Mestrallet
GDF Suez
22 rue du docteur Lancereaux
Paris 75392

1 comment:

Steve H said...

Great post, Peter. Check out this piece in the Washington Post from this morning: