August 15, 2011

Midwest Rising to Arch Coal: Keep Your Hands Off Blair Mountain


Today hundreds of us joined Midwest Rising to take to the streets of St. Louis to confront corporate power.

I came to Midwest Rising to stand in solidarity with activists from across the region, and to take Appalachia’s demands to the heart of the problem.

A few months ago, led by the Friends of Blair Mountain, RAMPS, Mountain Justice, Keepers of the Mountains and other Appalachian leaders, we marched for 5 days as part of the March for Blair Mountain. We started with around 100 people, and by the end our numbers had swelled to over 700. Union members, community leaders and youth activists came together to demand we preserve Blair Mountain, a historic monument for working people, from disastrous mountaintop removal coal mining.

Today, I joined with activists across the Midwest to put this injustice to an end. I stood in solidarity with activists taking action on Monsanto, Verizon & the local Board of Ed, and delivered the letter below to the CEO of Arch Coal.

It’s been incredible to come together and stand in solidarity. After we protested at Arch Coal we marched down the street to join CWA workers striking against Verizon for corporate greed. Together our energy came together and our voices grow louder. Together we can take corporate power and stand up for our communities.

August 15, 2011

Steven F. Leer
Chairman and CEO
Arch Coal Inc.
1 Cityplace Drive
Creve Coeur, MO 63141

Dear Mr. Leer:

My name is Tyler Cannon and I have come from Logan, West Virginia to deliver this letter to you at your St. Louis headquarters. I am here with Midwest Rising standing in solidarity with the residents of St. Louis because you use the wealth that you steal from Appalachia to assert your role as a large corporation and sustain the growing class divide in St. Louis.

My county in West Virginia, Logan County, is one of the largest coal producers in the state, second only to Boone County. It is also home to the working class monument, Blair Mountain. I have spent much time in the hills of Blair and have found sanctuary there in times of personal struggle. The impending destruction of this mountain has prompted me to take a stand against mountaintop removal and those who facilitate this practice.

Mountaintop removal destroys the quality of our land, water, communities, and through that, our lives. The mountains not only physically sustain us with clean, fresh water, commonly utilized spaces for hunting and fishing, and the bounties of the forests, but they also nourish and replenish our spirits and shape our identities.

Because of your practices in Central Appalachia, we, the people of Appalachia, are losing sight of the once sustainable way of life that took place here. The people here can no longer freely drink from the creeks. The animals, that the people once used for sustenance, are being displaced from their habitats. The forests are lacking in health because of the nonnative species that you use to “reclaim” the land you have destroyed.

The communities around mountaintop removal mine sites suffer from increased cancer rates and have significantly higher rates of birth defects compared to non-mountaintop mine areas. Members of these communities die, on average, 24 years earlier than what the national rate designates. The mining and processing of coal releases mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, manganese, beryllium, chromium, and many other toxic and carcinogenic substances into billions of gallons of our water, which, unbeknownst to many, is a key factor in the early death of Appalachians.

All of the issues named in this letter are fueled by your practices. So, on behalf of Appalachia, these are our demands:

  1. Remove your claims on the historic Blair Mountain.
  2. Stop your practices of mountaintop removal.
  3. Insure the health and safety of the communities from which your wealth was stolen.

On behalf of my brothers and sisters here in St. Louis, where you are contributing to social inequity:

  1. Stop using your position on the Board of Trustees at Washington University to perpetuate the myth that coal can function as a clean, sustainable fuel source for the future.
  2. Withdraw your political influence through the funding of political campaigns.

Please contact me with a response.

For the sake of Appalachia, St. Louis, and the United States, and for the sake of a sustainable future on this planet, mountaintop removal must stop now.

With Sincerity and Urgency,

Tyler Cannon