Bobby Kennedy Jr. battles big coal in documentary

Tue Jun 7, 2011 3:35am EDT
 
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A contentious U.S. debate over mountaintop removal coal mining is making its way to movie theaters in a documentary that its makers hope will rouse Americans to action over the environmental effects of "Big Coal".

"The Last Mountain," which opens in U.S. cities throughout June, shows sweeping aerial views of mined Appalachian mountains in West Virginia and settles on a battle by locals and environmentalists to stop mining in Coal River Mountain -- the last intact mountain left untouched in their surrounding area in West Virginia.

"Coal River Mountain has become the epicenter of the battle about coal in the United States and the planet's ecological future," said director Bill Haney, who said the film's $1-2 million budget came from private individuals.

In mountaintop, or surface mining, companies dig into mountains and dump debris in streams and valleys that environmentalists charge pollutes water and kills plants and wildlife.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr -- the environmental activist son of the late Bobby Kennedy -- says the practice ravages mountain tops, uproots communities, poisons fish, compromises government agencies and leads to a host of human health defects.

"West Virginia is the template for what is going to happen for the rest of the country," Kennedy Jr. told Reuters.

"They have buried 2500 miles of Appalachian rivers and blown up 500 mountains and the only reason that happens is because democracy has failed and they have been able to hide this story from the American people," he said.

Mountaintop mining is cheaper than underground mining, but the coal industry and U.S. government bodies argue that it is subject to stringent state and federal permits in which coal companies must specify how they will safely remove debris and are held responsible for re-planting forests after the mine is played out.   Continued...