A Policy Statement on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Adopted by the Executive Board, NC Council of Churches, December 1, 2009

As people of faith, we are convinced that “the earth is the Lord’s and all that it holds.” (Ps 24:1)

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…God said ‘Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it.’ And so it happened: the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. God saw how good it was. (Gen. 1:1, 11-12, 29-31)

This gift of creation and its relation to humanity were made firm in the covenant between God and Noah: “God said to Noah and to his sons with him. ‘See, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendents after you and with every living creature that was with you; all the birds of the air, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark.’” (Gen.9:8-10)

Like the patriarch Noah, humanity stands responsible for ensuring that all nature continues to thrive as God intended. Men and women are charged with preserving the beauty, diversity and integrity of nature as well as fostering productivity. Stewardship requires careful protection of the environment and calls us to use our intelligence to discover earth’s productive potential.  We believe that stewardship of God’s creation is a moral responsibility that affects the lives of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. As people of faith, as individuals, as institutions, as a nation, we must commit ourselves to preserving and protecting the planet for generations to come.

Mountaintop removal coal mining is a mining process that works against the preservation of the planet for generations to come and primarily affects the Appalachian Mountains.  The Appalachian Mountains in part define the state of North Carolina, as the state’s citizens and wildlife share in common critical economic, environmental, and cultural gifts of creation within or bordering these ancient mountains.

Mountaintop removal coal mining has permanently erased more than 500 peaks from Appalachia, buried or polluted more than 1,200 miles of pristine headwater streams, and swept away more than 800 square miles of one of America’s most diverse, beautiful, and valuable ecosystems. Parts of the majestic Appalachian Mountains have been flattened into lifeless moonscapes. Of all the methods of extracting coal, mountaintop coal mining poses the greatest risk to human health, local communities, the environment, real property, personal property and wildlife. Left unchecked, mountaintop removal coal mining will continue to irreversibly destroy the people, communities, cultural heritage, and environment of the Appalachian Mountains.

Of concern to us is the fact that sixty-one percent (61%) of the electricity used to provide power to North Carolina’s homes, businesses, and economy is generated by coal-fired generating units located in North Carolina. Fifty percent (50%) of the coal used to produce electricity in North Carolina is extracted by mountaintop removal coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains.

By consuming coal extracted by mountaintop removal coal mining to provide power to our homes, businesses, and industry, North Carolina is responsible, in part, for the permanent destruction taking place in the Appalachian Mountains and in the human and other-than-human communities that live there.

As a faith based organization, the North Carolina Council of Churches is called by God to preserve and respect the earth and so we take a stand against mountaintop removal mining. We recall the words of the prophet Micah, “Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice” (Micah 6:1).

Therefore the Executive Board of the NC Council of Churches recommends to Governor Beverly Perdue and all legislators in the NC General Assembly that they work to meet our state’s energy needs in a manner that is just, sustainable, and consistent with Christian values and that they enact legislation to prohibit our state’s utilities from burning coal extracted by mountaintop removal mining.

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