Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

Robert had been a regular guest on our Between The Lines and Counterpoint radio shows -- and many other progressive outlets across the U.S. over four decades.

His penetrating analysis of U.S. foreign policy and international conflicts will be sorely missed, and not easily replaced. His son Nat Parry writes a tribute to his father: Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews.

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Activists Educate Public on the Destruction of Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

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Posted March 20, 2013

Excerpt of a speech by Paul Corbit Brown and Elise Keaton, activists with Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus


The fight to end mountaintop removal coal mining in central Appalachia is a part of the bigger campaign to end coal extraction altogether, as it is the most polluting fossil fuel, both in terms of greenhouse gases and in its devastating health and environmental impacts. In the past decade, coal has dropped from providing 50 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. to a little over 35 percent, mostly replaced by natural gas. Renewable power sources also claim a small but growing share of energy production.

Still, blowing the tops off mountain ridges to get at the coal seams beneath – and dropping the rocks and other debris into mountain streams below – continues unabated, mainly in West Virginia. The mining method accounts for about 60 million tons of the total 150 million tons of coal produced annually in West Virginia each year.

Two activists with the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation toured Connecticut recently, speaking at area colleges and other venues. The foundation was established by Larry Gibson, whose ancestral home on Kayford Mountain is surrounded by an enormous mountaintop removal operation that created a moonscape, destroying virtually all the native flora and fauna. Mountaintop removal has been shown to contaminate air and water, as well as increase the incidence of several serious illnesses. Elise Keaton is an attorney and fundraising director of Keeper of the Mountains Foundation. Paul Corbit Brown is a board member of the foundation and a photographer who built a solar home off the grid to demonstrate that people in West Virginia don't have to depend on coal. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus recorded their talk at Quinnipiac University Law School on March 18. Here are excerpts of their talk.

PAUL CORBIT BROWN: I went down there and people in these communities told me what MTR is doing to their homes. They told me how every day, the houses would tremble on their foundations. They told me how every day you could wipe the coal dust off of everything inside the house. They told me how their wells were going dry, or they were getting water that was bright red, or black, or gray. They told me how they were harassed by the coal companies, because when the coal companies want to expand a mining operation, they'd come in and ask you to sell your home, and if you say, "No, I don't want to sell," they would harass you until you did. People always talk about Appalachia as being the greatest coal region – "the best coal, the best coal." Guess what? Appalachia used to be the source for the best drinking water for the entire Eastern seaboard of the U.S. That's what we really made the best, drinking water. Now three-fouths of the water in West Virginia is compromised beyond any reasonable use, including not just eating out of it, not just drinking it; you're not even supposed to swim in it, it's that bad. And guess what? Two weeks ago, the House of our West Virginia legislature passed unanimously House Bill 2579 that says, "We think the EPA is full of crap. We can put more selenium in the water than this. Go ahead, put more selenium in the water." Not a single dissenting vote, no abstentions. Everyone voted for more selenium in our water, even though 20-some peer-reviewed scientific studies in the last few years have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the water quality and the air quality and the soil quality as a result of this mining is causing record numbers of cancer, birth defects, heart attacks, liver disease, lung disease, kidney disease – including genetic mutations in the aquatic wildlife downstream from these fines.

The fascinating thing about coal production and one of the big arguments you're going to hear is that, well, this is job creation. But it's not job creation. When my dad was a union coal miner there were 150,000 men – mostly men – mining coal 30 years ago. Now, at this point in history, they're mining the same amount of tons every year, but with about 10,000 or 12,000 miners – about 150 tons a year in West Virginia, about 87 or so million of those tons comes from underground mines; the other comes from mountaintop removal mines. So what's happening is, start doing the math and you say, Wait a minute. If we've reduced our need for coal by 15 percent of our nation's electric supplies, why are they still mining that much coal? Little by little we build a social will, and we encourage people just like you, and you join us. Many fibers make the rope, and we move forward, a step, a step, a step, until we do these things. We create one house off the grid, then a small community off the grid, then a whole town off the grid, and we just keep educating and drawing people in about what's right about sustainable energy and what's not right at all about fossil fuels.

But it's exciting working with people and getting people involved and getting people motivated. Last week, we had a huge rally at the Capitol that said, No more MTR! No more fracking! And all these folks came from colleges and universities all over the place, and it was unreal! Because they marched through the entire Capitol building singing and chanting and just full of energy and passion.

ELISE KEATON: It's a strange site in West Virginia, actually. And what's interesting about this rally was it was the first time that the folks who are really trying to move away from fossil fuels – those folks outnumbered the coal miners who went out to protest against us, and that's because we joined forces with the anti-fracking folks, and this is really a critical point in this movement. We have Idle No More, we have the XL pipeline, we have the tar sands protests, we have the fracking protests, we have mountaintop removal. There are a lot of individual movements around this country that are all about the same thing, and that is preserving our communities and moving away from extraction. I hosted a tour up on Kayford (Mountain) that morning; I couldn't go to the rally, but all of those students came up to Kayford after the rally, and they were so excited. Nobody got arrested – great day! You saw the pictures of the cops with their knees and feet on the throats of people who are begging for clean water and clean air...

PAUL CORBIT BROWN: That was at the governor's office just a few years ago.

ELISE KEATON: That's really where we are here. We're fighting for our lives and the state police are aligned with the coal companies who are aligned with the courts who are aligned with the legislature. And it's really going to take all of us around this country coming together and saying we're not going to take it anymore; we're not standing up for it anymore. That's my mantra when I go talk to legislators, I say, "You don't understand – my generation, we're done with coal. We're moving toward wind and solar, and if you're not there with us, we got no place for you in the state house."

Learn more about mountaintop removal coal mining by visiting Keeper of the Mountains Foundation at

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