A Film by Bill Haney
World Premiere 2011 Sundance Film Festival
Opens in Theaters June 2011
Publicity: Distribution and Marketing:
Los Angeles Dada Films
Fredell Pogodin & Associates MJ Peckos
Fredell Pogodin /Bradley Jones (310)273-1444
New York required viewing
FALCO INK Steven Raphael
Shannon Treusch/Janice Roland/Erin Bruce (212)206-0118
email@example.com Washington, DC
firstname.lastname@example.org SYNOPSIS In the valleys of Appalachia, a battle is being fought over a mountain. It is a battle with severe consequences that affect every American, regardless of their social status, economic background or where they live. It is a battle that has taken many lives and continues to do so the longer it is waged. It is a battle over protecting our health and environment from the destructive power of Big Coal.
The mining and burning of coal is at the epicenter of America’s struggle to balance its energy needs with environmental concerns. Nowhere is that concern greater than in Coal River Valley, West Virginia, where a small but passionate group of ordinary citizens are trying to stop Big Coal corporations, like Massey Energy, from continuing the devastating practice of Mountain Top Removal.
David, himself, never faced a Goliath like Big Coal.
The citizens argue the practice of dynamiting the mountain’s top off to mine the coal within pollutes the air and water, is responsible for the deaths of their neighbors and spreads pollution to other states. Yet, regardless of evidence supporting these claims, Big Coal corporations repeat the process daily in the name of profit. Massive profit allows Big Coal to wield incredible financial influence over lobbyists and government officials in both parties, rewrite environmental protection laws, avoid lawsuits and eliminate more than 40,000 mining jobs, all while claiming to be a miner’s best friend. As our energy needs increase, so does Big Coal’s control over our future. This fact and a belief that America was founded on the democratic principal that no individual or corporation owns the air and water and we all share the responsibility of protecting it, drives these patriotic citizens and their supporters from outside of Appalachia, like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., to keep fighting.
A passionate and personal tale that honors the extraordinary power of ordinary Americans who fight for what they believe in, THE LAST MOUNTAIN shines a light on America’s energy needs and how those needs are being supplied. It is a fight for our future that affects us all.
Written, directed and produced by Bill Haney, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and founder and president of the eco-housing start-up, Blu Homes, THE LAST MOUNTAIN was co-written and edited by Peter Rhodes and produced by Clara Bingham and Eric Grunebaum. Narrated by William Sadler, the film features original music by composer Claudio Ragazzi and includes the song “Your Control” by Crooked Fingers and Neko Case.
The central front in the battle for America’s energy future, with enormous consequences for the health and economic prospects of every citizen, is the fight for Appalachian coal. In valleys and on mountaintops throughout the heart of the eastern seaboard, the coal industry detonates the explosive power of a Hiroshima bomb each and every week, shredding timeless landscapes to bring coal wealth to a few, and leaving devastated communities and poisoned water to many. With politicians siding with their corporate donors, it falls to a rag tag army of local activists to stand alone for the welfare of their families, their heritage and for a principled and sound energy future. Our film is their film – the uplifting story of the power of ordinary citizens to remake the future when they have the determination and courage to do so. – Bill Haney
THE LAST MOUNTAIN FACTS Coal Facts
*Almost half of the electricity produced in the U.S. comes from the burning of coal.
*Sixteen pounds of coal is burned each day for every man woman and child in the US.
*Thirty-percent of that coal comes from the mountains of Appalachia.
*Burning coal is the number one source of greenhouse gases worldwide.
*Mountain top removal has destroyed 500 Appalachian mountains, decimated 1 million acres of forest, and buried 2000 miles of streams.
* Massey Energy is responsible for more mountaintop removal mining than any other company in the U.S. [Massey agreed to be purchased by Alpha Natural Resources in mid-2011.]
*Massey Energy is America's 3rd largest coal company by revenue, and it controls all the coal mining in Coal River Valley.
*Between 2000 and 2006 Massey committed more than 60,000 environmental violations according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
*There are 312 coal sludge impoundments in Appalachia.
*Massey's 28 impoundments have spilled 24 times in the last decade, contaminating rivers with more than 300 million gallons of sludge; two times the amount released in BP's Gulf oil disaster.
*In the last 30 years the coal industry in West Virginia has increased production by 140% while eliminating more than 40,000 jobs.
*The wind industry in the U.S. already operates more than 35,000 turbines, and employs 85,000 people-- as many as work in the coal industry.
The Political Influence:
*In the last decade the coal mining industry spent more than $86 million, the railroad industry spent $350 million and coal burning electric utilities spent more than $1 billion on political campaigns and lobbying.
The Health Impact:
* The health and environmental costs associated with mining, transporting and burning coal, as reported by a new Harvard Medical School study, are estimated to be $345 billion annually – or more than 17¢ per kilowatt hour. These costs are often referred to as “externalities” since they are costs borne by the public which are not reflected in the price of coal-fired electricity.
*There are 600 coal-fired power plants across the U.S., and over 600 ash ponds across the country, filled with 150 billion gallons of toxic sludge.
*Each year emissions from coal-fired power plants contribute to more than 10 million asthma attacks, brain damage in up to 600,000 newborn children and 43,000 premature deaths.
*The EPA has announced that in 48 states, it’s unsafe to eat many freshwater fish due to mercury contamination.
Electricity Costs from Wind and Coal Sources vs. the True Cost of Coal Electricity
* 7.9¢ typical cost of electricity from wind per kilowatt hour
* 6.1¢ typical cost of electricity from coal per kilowatt hour
* Per the Harvard Medical School report noted above, the cost of coal electricity goes up by approximately 17¢ per kilowatt hour, totaling 23.1¢ – or nearly three times that of wind – if you include the following costs borne by the public: Air Pollution Illnesses, Mercury Poisoning, Health Damages from Carcinogens, Public Health Cost to Appalachia and Climate Change Impact.
Supplying the U.S. with Wind Power
* The Wind Industry operates more than 35,000 turbines and employs 85,000 people in the U.S. – the same number the coal industry employs. In 2009, enough turbines were built to power 2.4 million homes.
* In 1991, the Department of Energy published a "National Wind Resource Inventory" which pointed out that three states – Kansas, North Dakota and Texas – have enough harnessable wind energy to supply the nation’s electricity needs. However, since the report was based on 1991 wind technologies and turbines are so much more efficient today, we now know that the DOE’s projection was a gross underestimate.
*According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 20% by 2020 would create: 185,000 new jobs from development, $25.6B in income to farmers, ranchers and rural landowners and $10.5B in electricity and natural gas savings to consumers by 2020.
BILL HANEY – Producer/ Director/ Writer
Bill Haney has written, produced and directed award winning documentary and narrative features for ten years. He is co-founder of Uncommon Productions.
His most recent feature documentary, The Price of Sugar, which he wrote, produced and directed, was short-listed for an Academy Award®, nominated for the NAACP’s Image Award and was the recipient of numerous other honors, including the Gabriel Award and the Audience Award at South by Southwest.
For PBS, he produced The Road to Reconciliation covering Northern Ireland’s Troubles and highlighting the contributions of victims towards peace. Also for PBS he wrote, produced and directed Gift of the Game in which U.S. baseball players retrace a league founded by Ernest Hemingway in 1940s Havana while exploring U.S./Cuban relations.
The documentary A Life Among Whales, which he directed and produced, takes a look at one man’s lifelong passion for the wild and won numerous awards including a Silver Hugo and the Earthwatch Film Award. His feature documentary Racing Against the Clock won the Mass General Hospital/Harvard Medical School Humanitarian Award and the Humanitarian Prize from the Senior Olympics.
Dramatic feature films written and produced by Haney include Tempesta, starring Malcolm McDowell; Crusade A March Through Time, starring Emily Watson and winner of major prizes for Best Children’s Film of the year in Toronto, Chicago and Dublin; and American Violet. The latter premiered at the 2008 Telluride Film Festival, won the Audience Award for Best Feature at The Mill Valley Film Festival, the national Excellence Award from the ACLU and was released in 2009 by The Samuel Goldwyn Company.
In addition to filmmaking, Haney is founder of the eco-housing startup Blu Homes, using advanced technology to make housing greener, healthier and more affordable. He is also chairman of World Connect, a non-profit supporting programs to help women and children in 400 developing world villages.
PETER RHODES – Writer/ Editor
Trained at the BBC in London, Peter Rhodes is a veteran editor of documentaries for PBS, the BBC and major film festivals, with over 50 credits since 1986. His recent work includes Inside the Meltdown for FRONTLINE; The Price of Sugar, short-listed for an Oscar® in 2008 for Uncommon Productions; Typhoid Mary: The Most Dangerous Woman in America for NOVA and The War that Made America, which both won Cine-Golden Eagle awards; Harvest of Fear, a FRONTLINE/NOVA co-production which won a Dupont-Columbia Award in 2001; and The People v. Leo Frank, PBS, which won a Special Jury Prize at the 2010 History Maker’s Conference. Additional credits for FRONTLINE include Let’s Get Married, Real Justice, Diet Wars and for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, Reconstruction, Public Enemy #1, Houdini and Race for the Superbomb. For Uncommon Productions, Rhodes also edited A Life Among Whales, Racing Against the Clock and Gift of the Game, which won “Best of the Fest” at the Woods Hole Film Festival.
CLARA BINGHAM – Producer
An award winning journalist and author, Clara Bingham is a former Newsweek White House correspondent and the author (with Laura Leedy Gansler) of Class Action: The Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law (Doubleday 2002). Bingham’s book was adapted into the 2005 film North Country (Warner Bros.), staring Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand. Both actresses received Oscar® nominations for their roles. Class Action was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year and won the AAUW Speaking Out For Justice Award.
Bingham is also the author of Women on the Hill: Challenging the Culture of Congress (Times Books 1997), and she has written for many publications including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Talk, The Washington Monthly, Ms., and United Press International. She is currently a contributor to The Daily Beast.
While reporting a story in West Virginia, Bingham, a Kentucky native, witnessed the destructive effects of mountaintop removal coal mining for the first time. Ever since, she has dedicated her time and energy to producing THE LAST MOUNTAIN.
ERIC GRUNEBAUM – Producer
Eric Grunebaum has written, produced and directed documentary films and other media for 20 years. For Uncommon Productions he co-produced the documentaries Racing Against the Clock and A Life Among Whales, and he produced the theatrically released documentary feature The Price of Sugar, which was short-listed for the Academy Awards® and nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
Previously, Grunebaum was a lead producer, director and writer for museum projects at the Chedd-Angier-Lewis Production Co. His media exhibits have been installed at cultural, art and science museums nationwide including Ellis Island, the Portland Museum of Art and the Cranbrook Institute of Science.
Grunebaum has hiked in New England since he was young and has a strong connection to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, part of the Appalachians. He finds it inconceivable that the form of mineral extraction and destruction seen in THE LAST MOUNTAIN would be permitted anywhere else in the U.S.
TIM DISNEY – Executive Producer
Tim Disney is the executive producer of Uncommon’s documentaries The Road to Reconciliation, Gift of the Game, Racing Against the Clock, A Life Among Whales and The Price of Sugar.
His feature credits include co-writer of Oliver and Company, an animated children’s film, and producer of The Giving, which was a gold prize winner for Best First Feature at the 1992 Houston WorldFest.
He directed A Question of Faith, selected for the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, and Tempesta, a Venice art world thriller based on the novel by Juan Manuel de Prada.
His most recent feature credit as a director, American Violet, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in 2008, won the Audience Award for Best Feature at The Mill Valley Film Festival and was released in 2009 by The Samuel Goldwyn Company. He is currently at work developing a play, several feature projects and has just completed a short film, Southbound.
SARAH JOHNSON REDLICH –Executive Producer
Sarah Johnson Redlich is an environmentalist, philanthropist and educational activist. She has executive produced social issue documentaries including Living in Emergency:Stories of Doctors Without Borders which was short-listed for the Best Documentary Oscar® and two films which premiered at Sundance, Connected: An Autobiography About Love, Death & Technology and Miss Representation, which explores media representations of women and their corresponding under-representation in positions of power. Redlich also spearheaded the drive to establish a new conservation biology department at St. Lawrence University and build a $60M state-of-the-art science facility based on principles of sustainable design. A former Portfolio and Operations Manager for Franklin Templeton Investments, she is active on the boards of St. Lawrence, the Aspen Science Center and Conservation International, among others.
TIM ROCKWOOD – Executive Producer
Tim Rockwood has helped produce coverage of international sporting events and critical social issues for 30 years. His credits include the Winter and Summer Olympics for ABC Sports; NBA Basketball and the Goodwill Games for Turner Broadcasting; the FIFA World Cup for German television; the Women's Health Alliance news reports for ABC Television stations; Discovery Health Channel's launch; and Avoiding Armageddon, the eight-hour PBS series on weapons of mass destruction hosted by Walter Cronkite. In addition to co-founding Solid Ground Films with Clara Bingham and executive producing THE LAST MOUNAIN, Rockwood is producer of the recent documentary feature The Motherland Tour: A Journey of African Women with Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
LAURA LONGSWORTH – Co-Producer
Laura Longsworth is a producer and director who has played significant roles in the making of nearly a dozen documentaries for PBS, primarily for the history series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and the public affairs series FRONTLINE. Most recently, she directed and produced Luckey, a film for the Sundance Channel about a family coping with a devastating accident, and she produced The People v. Leo Frank, a film for PBS about a young Jewish man who was lynched in Georgia in 1915. For AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, Longsworth produced Golden Gate Bridge and Gold Rush, which won the Erik Barnouw Prize from the Organization of American Historians for its telling of the chaotic pursuit of wealth in 19th century California. Work for FRONTLINE includes associate producing Inside The Terror Network (winner of a Columbia-DuPont gold baton) and Let’s Get Married, an essay-style documentary about some of America’s poorest citizens.
JERRY RISIUS – Cinematographer
Raised on an Iowa farm, Jerry Risius served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador in the mid-1980s, and began working as a director of photography in New York in the early ‘90s. Most recently, he field produced and shot the Emmy nominated documentary The Devil Came On Horseback and he shot much of HBO’s Brave New Voices and the soon to be released Mann v. Ford. He also shot The Price of Sugar for Uncommon Productions and two IDA Documentary of the Year projects: Our Brand is Crisis and A Walk to Beautiful, which also won an Emmy for Best Informational Documentary (Long Format) for PBS/NOVA. His 20-year career is dedicated to documentary filmmaking and he has worked extensively with PBS (Nature, Frontline, Independent Lens, NOVA, POV), HBO, Showtime, National Geographic, Discovery Channel and UNICEF, among others. He is also a professor in the new MFA program in Social Documentary at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughters.
STEPHEN McCARTHY – Cinematographer
Stephen McCarthy is a Boston-based director of photography with over 25 years' experience in non-fiction filmmaking. His work appears regularly in prime-time documentary series on PBS, HBO, Discovery, BBC, Channel Four Television and more.
Recently completed work includes Digital Nation for FRONTLINE, My Lai for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, Master Class/Rehearsing A Dream for HBO and Faces of America with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for PBS.
For director Marco Williams, McCarthy shot Banished which screened in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival's documentary competition. He is currently shooting a biography of President William Jefferson Clinton for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.
TIM HOTCHNER – Cinematographer
Tim Hotchner has produced, directed and filmed more than 100 productions ranging from commercials to feature films. Prior to THE LAST MOUNTAIN, Hotchner wrote, directed and shot the highly acclaimed feature documentary Accelerating America. Other credits include award-winning films for Americares which tell stories from Guatemala, Darfur and the post-tsunami relief effort in Indonesia, work for the Safewater Network, Newman's Own Foundation and The Hole in the Wall Gang. His work has aired on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Jane Pauley Show, CBS Sunday Morning, Larry King Live, Bravo Profiles and the Fox Movie Channel. He also produced segments for the documentary Tell Them Who You Are. In addition, he was a cinematographer for Uncommon's The Price of Sugar and HBO's Behind the Scenes of Empire Falls. Hotchner is a graduate of Brown University and is currently studying painting and sculpture at the Arts Student League in NYC.
CLAUDIO RAGAZZI – Composer
For over 15 years, Argentinean Claudio Ragazzi has composed for film and television and performed with respected musicians including Yo Yo Ma and Mili Bermejo. His work includes elements of jazz, Latin American and classical guitar traditions. His score for Next Stop Wonderland (Miramax) was on Billboard’s charts for three months and his score for the feature The Blue Diner blended Cuban and modern urban sounds. Ragazzi has scored numerous programs for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, National Geographic, Telemundo, and PBS – including Sesame Street, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and NOVA. Ragazzi also scored Uncommon films’ Gift of the Game and The Price of Sugar.
UNCOMMON PRODUCTIONS - Founded in 2000 by Tim Disney and Bill Haney, Uncommon Productions has built a reputation for producing quality, thought-provoking and engaging films. Since its inception it has produced four feature films and five documentaries. Feature films include American Violet which premiered at the 2008 Telluride Film Festival, won the Audience Award for Best Feature at The Mill Valley Film Festival, the national Excellence Award from the ACLU and was released in 2009 by The Samuel Goldwyn Company; and Crusade A March Through Time starring Emily Watson and winner of the major prizes for Best Children’s Film of the year in Toronto, Chicago and Dublin. Documentary films include The Price of Sugar, which was short-listed for an Oscar®, nominated for the NAACP’s Image Award and received numerous other honors, including the Audience Award at South by Southwest; A Life Among Whales recipient of the Earthwatch Film Award, Silver Hugo Award and more than a half a dozen others; and the crowd-pleasing Racing Against the Clock winner of the Mass General Hospital/Harvard Medical School Humanitarian Award. For more information visit www.uncommonproductions.com
And featuring in order of appearance as credited: BILL RANEY, president of the West Virginia Coal Association which represents more than 90 percent of underground and surface coal mining production in the state, calls his constituency “practicing environmentalists” and feels that protecting jobs is his top priority. Raney says, "I’ve got people who depend on mining coal… [T]hey’re making electricity for you.”
BO WEBB is a Vietnam veteran, a coal miner’s son and a former tool-and-die shop owner in Cleveland who moved back to his family home in West Virginia in 2001. Webb’s hopes for a peaceful retirement of hunting and fishing were never realized. Instead, he found that his property, homesteaded by his family in the 1830s on the banks of the Coal River, was under siege by a coal company’s blasting of a mountain ridge right above his house. In 2004, Webb co-founded the grassroots environmental group Mountain Justice Summer. He has organized dozens of protests and acts of civil disobedience, has been arrested himself five times for his efforts to save Coal River Mountain from obliteration and feels that “Coal River Mountain stands as a symbol of what could be, and what the future of America – not just Appalachia – but what the future of America can hold.” In 2010 Webb was profiled in the Los Angeles Times and awarded the Purpose Prize.
MARIA GUNNOE lives at the mouth of a narrow valley (“hollow”) in Boone County, West Virginia. Severe flooding on her property began soon after the 1,200 acre Jupiter surface mine started removing the ridge above Gunnoe’s ancestral home in 2000. The flooding continued on a regular basis and catapulted Gunnoe, a waitress and mother of two, into action. The daughter, granddaughter and sister of coal miners, Gunnoe now works full time for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) and has become one of Appalachia’s most potent spokespeople and persuasive community activists. In 2009, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. Gunnoe believes that the flattening of 500 mountains in Appalachia is destroying not just the mountains but Appalachia’s communities, culture and rich heritage.
MICHAEL SHNAYERSON is a contributing editor of Vanity Fair and author of Coal River (2008), a book about Massey Energy and mountaintop removal coal mining in the Coal River Valley.
JOE LOVETT, founder and executive director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, has fought on behalf of dozens of communities across West Virginia whose health, property and livelihoods have been damaged and polluted by large coal companies. He has served as counsel in landmark legal cases challenging coal mining practices. Lovett's work has resulted in the contribution of millions of dollars to the West Virginia Coal Mining Special Reclamation Fund. Lovett was interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show in 2010.
DR. ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ is a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and holds a doctorate in resource economics. His work at the NRDC focuses on issues of sustainable development and industrial ecology – in particular how forests are affected by development.
DAVID AARON SMITH, from Louisiana, is a member of Climate Ground Zero. He has participated in a number of protests including a tree-sit in January 2009 when he and two others perched themselves 60 feet up in three trees just yards from explosives, in a bid to prevent Coal River Mountain from being blown up for the coal underneath.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, Jr.’s reputation as a defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful lawsuits against polluters. Kennedy was named one of Time Magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River. The group's achievement has spawned more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations on six continents. Kennedy is Chief Prosecuting Attorney for Hudson Riverkeeper, President of the Waterkeeper Alliance and Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He is also a Professor at Pace University School of Law and co-director of the Law School’s Environmental Litigation Clinic. Kennedy has been widely published in periodicals and written several books, include the New York Times’ bestseller Crimes Against Nature (2004), which calls into question the environmental policies of the US. In 2009 Kennedy was named one of Rolling Stone's "100 Agents of Change."
JACK SPADARO is the former director of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, and he served as a mine safety expert for the U.S. Departments of Labor and Interior for 30 years. He is often retained as an expert witness for environmental groups in lawsuits relating to mine health and safety and mining related environmental issues.
DR. BEN STOUT III is a professor of biology at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. He became involved in the issue of mountaintop removal mining when he was asked to testify about stream ecology in a lawsuit over the legality of filling valleys with the rubble from mine sites. Since then, Dr. Stout has become a major scientific advocate for locals who contend that their water supplies have been ruined by mountaintop removal mining and other industrial mining activities nearby their communities.
JENNIFER HALL-MASSEY lives in Prenter, West Virginia, just 36 miles outside of the capital, Charleston. Her small town has lost six neighbors to brain tumors, including Hall-Massey’s 29-year-old brother. According to a Sept. 2009 New York Times article “tests showed that their well water contained toxic amounts of lead, manganese, barium and other metals that can contribute to organ failure or developmental problems.” The Times also reported that “in the eight miles surrounding Mrs. Hall-Massey’s home, coal companies have injected more than 1.9 billion gallons of coal slurry and sludge into the ground since 2004.” Hall-Massey and 264 neighbors have sued nine coal companies, accusing them of contaminating local water supplies with dangerous waste.
GUS SPETH retired as Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 2009 to assume a professorship at the Vermont Law School. Speth is well known as a prolific writer, an environmental lawyer and as a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
ED WILEY is a former Massey Energy contractor turned activist. His granddaughter Kayla who Wiley calls “Possum,” attended Marsh Fork Elementary School in the Coal River Valley which sits next to a Massey-operated industrial coal processing plant. The Marsh Fork children and teachers have been afflicted with more than their share of cancer and respiratory ailments and Wiley’s mission has been to have the school moved away from the dangers of nearby coal toxins. He has staged numerous protests, confronted the Governor, and walked 455 miles from West Virginia to Washington, D.C. to present his grievances to the late Senator Robert Byrd.
DON BLANKENSHIP was CEO of Massey Energy until retiring on the heels of civil and criminal investigations of the company in December 2010. Massey is the largest coal company in West Virginia, has more mountaintop removal mines across Appalachia than any other company and controls all mining in the Coal River Valley. Blankenship, who grew up in the coalfields, has succeeded in evicting the unions from Massey mines and replacing jobs with explosives and massive earth moving machines. Through mechanization over the last 30 years the coal industry in West Virginia has increased production by 140% while eliminating more than 40,000 jobs. Blankenship led Massey throughout its expansion of mountaintop removal operations and as it suffered the worst U.S. mine disaster in 40 years, killing 29 miners in April 2010. In 2008 Massey paid the EPA $20 million, the largest fine in the EPA’s history, for committing more than 60,000 environmental violations. Blankenship denies that global warming exists and in 2009 said “I really believe that the climate is changing naturally and that the temperature for the last eight or nine years has been cooling, and that the Arctic ice has been increasing.” Blankenship was profiled in Rolling Stone in 2010.
CHUCK NELSON worked as an underground coal miner for 30 years. After seeing the health hazards that the coal mining companies imposed on his community, he began to fight for health and safety improvements. He now donates his time to the struggle to end mountaintop removal mining.
LAWRENCE RICHMOND, a retired coal miner, was one of the last remaining residents of the small community of Lindytown, West Virginia after Massey Energy bought almost all of his neighbors out of their homes to make way for an expanding mountaintop removal mine looming over the town. Richmond passed away in August 2010 at the age of 85.
ANTRIM CASKEY is an independent photojournalist who has been covering mountaintop removal mining since 2005. In 2009 she became an embedded journalist with the activist group Climate Ground Zero which is based in the Coal River Valley.
LAURA von DOHLEN, from Richmond, Virginia, is a member of Climate Ground Zero. She has participated in a number of protests and provided direct support to activists who physically locked themselves to mining machinery in order to prevent blasting on Coal River Mountain.
NICK MARTIN, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a member of Climate Ground Zero. He has participated in a number of protests, including an action on Coal River Mountain where he and another CGZ member locked themselves to a drill rig in order to shut down mining operations.
JOSHUA GRAUPERA, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a member of Climate Ground Zero. He has participated in a number of protests including providing direct support for the January 2009 tree-sit on Coal River Mountain which stopped mining for nine days.
AMBER NITCHMAN, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a member of Climate Ground Zero. She has participated in a number of protests including a tree-sit in January 2009, when she perched herself 60 feet up in a tree just yards from explosives, in a bid to prevent Coal River Mountain from being blown up for the coal underneath.
JOE MANCHIN was recently elected Senator (D) of West Virginia, after serving as the state's Governor from 2005-2010. As Governor, Manchin declared himself to be a "friend of coal" and called West Virginia an “extraction state” despite its official nickname as “the Mountain State.”
RON BURRIS lived in Shippingport, Pennsylvania in the shadow of the Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, which is fueled by coal. He worked as a riverboat pilot for 38 years, mostly tugging coal. In 2004, he survived a brain tumor, but passed away from other cancers in 2008, at the age of 62.
DEVRA DAVIS, PH.D., MPH was the founding director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and recently founded the Environmental Health Trust, which provides basic research and education about environmental health hazards and promotes constructive policies locally, nationally and internationally.
SUSAN BIRD’s Shippingport, Pennsylvania house is located a few miles from the Bruce Mansfield power plant, one of the nation's largest coal-fired utilities. She joined a state environmental group, PennFuture, after toxic fly ash from the power plant carpeted her neighborhood. Bird’s son is autistic and she says, “As a parent, you sit there and wonder, did I do this? Did I cause some of this? You know, if I lived somewhere else, would he have been healthier?”
LORELEI SCARBRO, the granddaughter, daughter and widow of coal miners, lives in the shadow of Coal River Mountain, the last mountain left intact in the Coal River Valley. Massey Energy owns four permits to demolish and mine over 6,000 acres (10 square miles) of the mountain. But Scarbro and fellow community members at Coal River Mountain Watch propose a 328-megawatt wind farm on the high ridges of the mountain instead. The proposed wind farm would generate more long-term jobs and revenue than the mountaintop removal coal mine and provide electricity to 70,000 homes. Scarbro notes, “This county stands to gain $1.742 million dollars from this mountain annually [from a wind farm], as opposed to the $36,000 the county would earn [annually] from the mountaintop removal operation.” In summer 2009, the wind project was profiled in Orion Magazine.
BROTHER JOSEPH BYRON is a Benedictine monk who works at the Portsmouth Abbey boarding school on the coast of Rhode Island. He helped bring a 660kW wind turbine to the school to supply electricity for the campus. It was the first utility-sized wind turbine installed in Rhode Island.
GARY GUMP is the chairman of the Portsmouth, Rhode Island Sustainable Energy Subcommittee which advocated for a 1.5MW town-owned wind turbine which was installed in March 2009. It is the second utility-sized and largest wind turbine in the state and now produces about 75% of the municipality’s energy.
LISA JACKSON is the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson has been able to push for tighter regulation of mountaintop removal coal mining, but she faces intense pressure from coal state politicians.
US Government Accountability Office
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Special thanks to the Writers Guild of America
Thanks to those individuals at the West Virginia DEP who do their job with commitment and integrity.
And thanks to all those who’ve risked their liberty to end mountaintop removal and opened our eyes to the ill effects of coal. You know who you are!
Determining the causes of disease is complex. It is often difficult to ascertain the role played by specific contaminants associated with coal in any one case of illness. We thank those scientists and professionals who have helped us understand the complexity of these issues.
Our heartfelt appreciation for the investors who made this film possible:
Bosworth Dewey & Elizabeth Barratt-Brown
Mary Beth Harvey
Interface Media Group, Inc.
Shelly & Anthony Malkin
Shelley & Donald Rubin
Mary Yates Wallace
Thanks to everyone who appeared in this film and gave generously of their time:
Written by Eric Bachmann and Neko Case
Performed by Crooked Fingers and Neko Case
Courtesy of Constant Artists, Inc. & Red Pig Records
Dedicated to John Adams, co-founder of the NRDC, whose wisdom, passion, integrity and vision have done so much to protect the beauty and natural resources of our beloved United States, and to inspire us all.