Written by Connie Larkman
More than 800 delegates to General Synod 2013 completed their last item of business Tuesday afternoon and approved the resolution "Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in Appalachia" with the revisions made by Committee No. 4. Originally submitted by the Central Atlantic Conference, the documents calls on all settings of the UCC to share the word about the problematic practice of blowing mountaintops and carting the rubble into valleys in order to expose thin seams of coal.
Samuel Condi of the Florida Conference told the assembly about seeing the devastation while attending the funeral of his grandmother, buried on the mountain where she had been born and lived. "This mountain is a beautiful mountain that is a sacred part of God's creation," he said. "The reality is that my family could be on the next mountain."
Committee chair Carolyn Keilig of New Hampshire described her thoughts after learning, through the review process, about the consequences of mountaintop removal: 50 percent increased cancer rates, 42 percent increased birth defect rates, and entire communities driven from their homes when heavy metals from toxic rubble contaminated their water supply. Over 2,000 miles of watercourse have been filled with rock blown from Appalachian summits.
"Five hundred mountains have already been removed in Appalachia," she said, "and that would be all those in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, would go on to the Green Mountains of Vermont, and then some."
In addition to advocacy with state and federal legislatures, the measure calls churches and agencies of the United Church of Christ to identify the sources of their electricity: does it come from coal sourced from mountaintop removal? If it is, the resolution recommends that congregations change to renewable sources of energy.
After delegates voted the resolution with 96 percent in favor, the Rev. Sarah Lund prayed via Twitter: "God of the valley, God of the mountain, we honor God by honoring creation."