Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
News Opinion Readers Respond

The lessons of Blair Mountain and Big Coal

In a typical year, more than one-half of the electricity generated within Maryland comes from coal-fired plants. Most of these plants burn coal shipped from West Virginia and Pennsylvania. In communities all throughout the Appalachian Mountains, the coal industry has dominated political, social and economic life for the past 120 years. Practices such as strip mining and, more recently, mountain top removal, have been used by coal companies for more than 60 years to break the once-powerful labor unions and cut jobs. These practices involve using explosives to blow the tops off mountains to extract the coal below. They lead to the destruction of beautiful mountains, biodiversity, and the pollution of air and water.

Today, Alpha Natural Resources (formerly Massey Energy) and Arch Coal are attempting to begin extraction on the site of the most important labor struggle in U.S. history, Blair Mountain in West Virginia. In 1921, 10,000 workers rose in arms for the right to organize in a labor union, the right to be paid in cash instead of company script, the 40-hour workweek, and other basic working rights. They marched from Marmet to Blair Mountain, where they battled against company thugs and police. Though they lost the battle of Blair Mountain, this struggle was the basis for some of the most important labor legislation in U.S. history as well as widespread membership in the United Mine Workers of America.

Hundreds of activists, including myself, and community leaders retraced the steps of the original coal miners earlier this month to stop the exploitation of Appalachian communities and mountains and save Blair Mountain. As consumers of coal, we have a moral obligation to demand a moratorium on mountain top removal.

In our backyard, we may find similar pollution and health risks stemming from irresponsible and profit-hungry extractive industries. Parts of Western Maryland rest along the Marcellus Shale, an area stretching up the eastern seaboard abundant with natural gas, and may be exploited through hydraulic fracturing, a process which pollutes water and air to the point that one can light their tap water on fire. It is common struggle from West Virginia to Maryland to demand that business respect our environments and communities. Now is the time to take a stand against extractive industries.

Ezekiel Perkins, Upper Marlboro

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Outpatient commitment is no solution to the problems at Perkins

    As one who has dealt both personally and professionally with Maryland's mental health system, I feel compelled to respond to reader Aileen Kroll's letter about the state's weak civil commitment law for people suffering from severe mental illnesses ("Problems at Perkins will continue until...

  • Taliban misrepresents Islam
    Taliban misrepresents Islam

    What possible crime could a young student have committed that he or she deserves death? Can't think of any, right? This is what was going through the minds of horror stricken parents in Peshawar, Pakistan ("Horror in Peshawar," Dec. 16).

  • In Md., deficits are nothing new
    In Md., deficits are nothing new

    "Somewhere along the way, as Maryland's revenue picture went from bad to worse, a scary term entered the Annapolis lexicon: the 'structural deficit.'" So said The Baltimore Sun on February 9, 2003 as then-Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. proposed a plan to wipe out a $2 billion dollar shortfall...

  • Md. leaders protect funds for bay cleanup
    Md. leaders protect funds for bay cleanup

    Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, along with Rep. Steny Hoyer, deserve our thanks for securing funding in the recent omnibus appropriations bill to keep Maryland on track to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams ("For better or worse, spending bill passes," Dec. 15).

  • CIA interrogators should not be punished
    CIA interrogators should not be punished

    I strongly suggest anyone who agrees with letter writer Max Obuszewski's idea to punish the CIA personnel who did their job under the direction of our government read about the torture inflicted upon our own troops in past wars and conflicts ("Failure to punish the CIA torturers means they will...

  • Revisit 'old-school' police programs
    Revisit 'old-school' police programs

    The recent influx of citizen unrest due to a rash of officer-related homicides has left the American citizenry skeptical of the greater good police departments bring to communities nationwide, especially that of traditionally violent neighborhoods that tend to have a majority of minority...

  • Torture can never be justified
    Torture can never be justified

    The Senate report's summary of the "enhanced interrogation" techniques the CIA used on terrorist detainees after 9/11 reads like something from a horror novel ("CIA strikes back after Senate torture report," Dec....

  • Obama is right on Cuba
    Obama is right on Cuba

    Bravo to President Barack Obama for undertaking the normalization of relations with Cuba ("Cuba releases Alan Gross; White House announces plans to re-establish diplomatic relations with Havana," Dec. 17).

Comments
Loading