Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine disaster that claimed the lives of 29 coal miners.
LinkTV.org will premiere a special show tonight at 9pm EST called “Explore: West Virginia – Hillbillies, Coal Miners, Treehuggers & God,” taking a closer look at the disaster and the lasting impacts on the community of Whitesville, West Virginia.
The candid interviews with local residents discussing the many challenges posed by mountaintop removal coal mining are a great way for people unfamiliar with this issue to learn about the disaster and the larger issues firsthand.
Documentarian Charles Annenberg Weingarten does an excellent job chronicling the stories of Appalachian coal country. The half-hour documentary special takes the viewer through the heart of Appalachia to examine how the Massey mine disaster and ongoing mountaintop removal mining have affected local communities.
The special includes a look at the controversy over Marsh Fork Elementary School, which sits below a massive coal slurry impoundment and is inundated with coal dust that threatened the schoolchildren every day. Thanks to a $2.5 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, a new school is being constructed to relocate the students to safety.
Author Jeff Biggers wisely suggests the new school should be called the Ed Wiley Elementary School, in honor of a retired coal miner and grandfather of a Marsh Fork Elementary student.
In 2006, Ed Wiley walked nearly 450 miles from Charleston, West Virginia to Washington, DC, pleading with state and federal officials to do something about the dangerous situation at Marsh Fork. Watch this 2006 clip of Ed talking about his granddaughter's health problems while attending Marsh Fork Elementary. Ed also appears in the documentary airing tonight.
My friend Bo Webb is interviewed several times throughout the documentary as well. Bo is an incredibly straight shooter who does not mince words about the disastrous impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. Anyone uttering the coal industry talking point about “clean coal” should meet Bo Webb for a dose of reality.
Or if you just have a few minutes right now, watch the trailer.
Explore: West Virginia – Hillbillies, Coal Miners, Treehuggers & God
Premiering April 5th at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PT
Link TV is available as basic service nationwide – including West Virginia – on DIRECTV channel 375 and DISH Network channel 9410. The show will also be shown on local West Virginia public access cable channels: Huntington Public Access TV (April 8) and Summersville Community TV (date TBD).