Thursday, June 30, 2011

Environment versus jobs in Battle of Blair Mountain

CNN In America's documentary, "The Battle for Blair Mountain," goes behind both sides of the fight over mountaintop removal for coal. Is it creating jobs or poisoning communities? See the battle unfold at 8 p.m. ET/PT Aug. 14.

In the excerpt below, Soledad O'Brien describes the conflict in West Virginia.


Blair, West Virginia (CNN) -- We're at the peak of Blair Mountain in the middle of southern West Virginia. It's about 85 degrees, the coolest it has been all week, and there's a slight breeze that carries voices before we can see the singers.

"This land is your land. This land is my land."

More than 600 dusty, sweaty people are singing as they hike through the hardwoods up the mountain. Their protest signs -- "Save Blair Mountain" and "Abolish Mountaintop Removal" -- poke through the leaves.

The song is a Woody Guthrie tune, the one that became a folk anthem of sorts in the 1960s, and it seems very appropriate for this moment.

"As I went walking that ribbon of highway, I saw above me that endless skyway," the marchers continue.

See a preview of "Battle for Blair Mountain: Working in America" Video

About 150 people in this group have been walking the twisting mountain highways through West Virginia's coal fields for six days. The 50-mile march is re-creating the 1921 March on Blair that led to a bloody battle between thousands of coal miners and coal company supporters. The fight eventually brought unions, along with respectable wages, to the coal mines of West Virginia.

But this time, the march isn't about unions. It's about saving a mountain. It has been organized to oppose "MTR," or mountaintop removal, a highly effective type of mining that involves blasting away slopes to get at the profitable coal seams underneath.

Coal companies own most of the land rights on Blair Mountain now, and they have fought national historic landmark status for the site, which would protect it from being destroyed...

Read the full "Environment vs. jobs in new Battle of Blair Mountain" by Soledad O'Brien and Robert Howell, CNN

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