Country Music Star Big Kenny Demands an End to Mountaintop Removal Mining

At Capitol Hill Rally, Big Kenny Tells Congress that "Big Coal Doesn’t Speak for Us!"

WASHINGTON (September 15, 2010) – As the coal industry brings in buses of employees this week to tell Congress to stop regulating the coal industry, Big Kenny of country music duo Big & Rich performed at a rally on Capitol Hill against the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.

This extreme form of strip mining extracts coal by using explosives to blow up mountaintop ridgelines to provide easy access to thin coal seams below and dump the leftover rock, rubble and mining waste into valley streams. To date about 500 Appalachian peaks have been flattened, leaving behind scarred moonscapes, polluted water and shell-shocked communities.

“The coal industry may be here with their so-called ‘FACES of Coal’ but we are here with our voices of the mountain,” Big Kenny told fans and advocates who gathered near the Capitol Building today. “The mining companies do not speak for those of us who love Appalachia.”

Big Kenny performed as part of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Music Saves Mountains campaign, an effort started in 2009 uniting artists such as Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews, and Sheryl Crow to draw attention to mountaintop removal and help bring an end to the destructive practice.

The Music Saves Mountains campaign is not an anti-coal industry movement. Rather, it seeks to raise awareness and put an end to just one destructive form of coal mining, mountaintop removal. Less than 7 percent of the coal mined in the United States comes from mountaintop removal, and yet its cost to local communities and the environment is irreparable and devastating.

“With the future of America’s oldest mountains at stake, it is time we all say ’Enough!’ and tell President Obama and Congress to stop this from happening once and for all,” Big Kenny said.

Big Kenny’s appearance today is a small sample of Appalachia Rising, a rally coming Sept. 25 through 27, when thousands of people from across Appalachia will travel to Washington to call for an end to mountaintop removal mining. He stood beside West Virginia and Kentucky residents who spoke about how mountaintop removal has affected the region.

“I am a child of Appalachia, and I am one of many standing up for our culture and our community,” said Annalyse McCoy from Kentucky, whose band 2/3 Goat is a part of the Music Saves Mountains. “With the highest cancer rates in the nation and the load of heavy metals in our drinking water from runoff and coal slurry spills, the pieces of the puzzle all fit together to reveal a devastating but obvious truth -- Mountaintop removal is killing us!”

“The coal industry is liquidating our mountain homelands for cash. Mountaintop removal coal mining isn't necessary, and it must stop now,” said Chuck Nelson, a retired coal miner and volunteer with Appalachia Rising in West Virginia. “We are American citizens, and we deserve the same protection as any other American citizen.”

“We’re coming to Washington to remind America that mountaintop removal is not coal mining,” said Bo Webb, an organizer of Appalachia Rising. “It is the most radical form of coal extraction in human history, and has inflicted cancer and other health problems on countless Americans living beneath these toxic bombing fields.”