Committee commends end of mountaintop removal to Synod delegates
Written by Eric Anderson
June 30, 2013

The ancient mountains of Appalachia have provided energy to U.S. citizens for over 150 years in the form of coal. Traditional mining methods have created uncountable tunnels beneath the earth, but today energy companies take a quicker approach: they blow the tops off the mountains, and dump the rubble into the valleys below. The rubble, laden with toxic minerals, has poisoned streams and driven communities into exile. Committee 4 has recommended that General Synod 2013 approve a resolution from the Central Atlantic Conference that calls for the practice to end.

Heather Moyer, a member of Six:Eight UCC in Baltimore, presented the shocking facts: over 500 mountains, over a million acres –– they’re gone and they won’t come back. Local residents see little economic benefit from mountaintop removal, which employs far fewer people than traditional methods. The Appalachian counties are consistently among the poorest in the United States, and populations are falling, with good reason. Cancer rates are 50 percent higher and birth defect rates are 42 percent higher in communities affected by mountaintop removal.

The committee considered broadening the resolution to include other massively destructive situations, including mountaintop removal in other parts of the world, but chose to keep the resolution focused. “We need a victory,” said the Rev. Jim Deming, minister for environmental justice. A victory on this issue promises momentum to take on the next.

“The simpler the language and the more focused it is,” he told the delegates, “the better off we are politically right now.”

After a team of designated wordsmiths reviewed the text, the committee added language that encourages UCC members to educate themselves on the issue, and to promote legislation that ends mountaintop removal and valley fills. It further asks the UCC leadership to engage members of other religious traditions and environmental advocacy groups to invite their aid.

In the end, the committee applauded the completion of their work, anticipating, and praying for, the day when Appalachia’s mountains can stand tall without fear.

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