The Marc Steiner Show

Day 2 in Coal River Valley

Butch & Patty Sebok at home in Seth, West Virginia. photo: Antrim Caskey

We spent our first full day in West Virginia visiting people in their homes, taping interviews. People shared incredible stories with us that we’ll be bringing back. I recorded about 6 hours of audio today alone. We saw a 90 year-old woman’s fingers turn black with coal dust from running them across her tv screen. Again and again, people expressed their respect for the old ways of underground mining. At the same time, they spoke with outrage about mountaintop removal and the unprecedented level of destruction coal companies have caused in this area over the past 25 years or so.

Antrim took this picture of Patty Sebok and her husband Harry "Butch" Sebok in their kitchen. Patty is a community activist who works for Coal River Mountain Watch. Butch is a union miner who worked underground for almost 30 years. He was forced to retire when a doctor told him he risked paralysis if he continued working after an injury on the job that resulted in a herniated disk.

We’ll be up bright and early in the morning to tape some more interviews before heading up Kayford Mountain to see an active mountaintop removal site and meet the last man holding onto his home as the mountain is destroyed all around it. I encourage everyone to do their own research to learn more about mountaintop removal and the history of coal mining in West Virginia and beyond. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts to share.

-Justin

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Written by Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner

The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday thru Friday from 10AM to Noon on WEAA 88.9 FM. The show covers the topics that matter, engaging real voices, from Charm City to Cairo and beyond. Call us at 410.319.8888 or email us to participate live in the show, or share your comments on our site! Aren’t in Baltimore but want to listen? Stream the show live.


Comments

  1. It would take a lot more research than i’ve done to fully answer your questions, but hopefully other people can chime in here to help supplement what I do know. Wyoming produces the most coal of any state in the US. There are huge surface mines there in relatively flat areas. I am not certain whether or not there is mountaintop removal there; I need to look into that further. Here’s a website for the Wyoming Mining Association that could serve as one place to start gathering info about coal mining there, from the industry’s perspective: http://www.wma-minelife.com/coal/coalhome.html.

    As far as other countries, China currently mines the most coal in the world. The US mines the second most. I haven’t seen documentation of mountaintop removal in China, but I know there are tremendous issues stemming from coal mining there. Here’s an interesting piece on Chinese coal mining from Frontline: http://www.wma-minelife.com/coal/coalhome.html.

  2. Justin,

    I’ve read a lot about mountaintop-removal mining in West Virginia and Kentucky, but how much of it happens in other parts of the U.S.? Also, I would really like to know if this desecration happens in other countries in addition to the U.S. This is something about which I am ignorant.

  3. Thanks for getting the word out to the rest of the world about the abuses of the coal industry here in Appalachia.

  4. I’m far from an expert on this. I know there is some mountaintop removal being done in southeastern Virginia, Tennessee and western Maryland. I just don’t know the extent. In traveling to Cumberland last month I saw a mountaintop removal site right off of the interstate. Ironically, I was going to a college there to show the Black Diamonds documentary which is about mountaintop removal. Some members of an environmental group there told me that there was a lot more of it going on in that area. It just isn’t visible from the highway.

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