Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"We're Taking Our Country Back" Short in Chicago Video Contest

"We're Taking Our Country Back" is a short documentary a friend and I worked on for the "One Chicago, One Nation" Online Video Contest. It takes a look at the challenges communities face culturally, politically, and socially as a result of a growing faction in America known as the Tea Party. It asks communities to consider how they plan to confront the growing threat to public services and social safety nets in communities as a result of an agenda that cries out against Big Government, which is being pushed by Americans who despise America's first African-American president.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mission Statement for "Black Chicago"

Mission Statement

The film will follow individuals and leaders in two Chicago communities and take a look at what led these individuals to participate in a coalition with a campaign to force the coal plants in their communities to clean up their plants. By following these people, we will see how necessary it is for members of communities to take action to preserve their community because, especially with matters related to the environment, unless people take action, there’s no guarantee that generations and future generations will live in a clean, healthy city.

"Black Chicago" Treatment

A PERSON AFFECTED BY COAL appears in her home. The person discusses how long she has lived in the area and how long she has known the coal plant nearby was affecting her or her family’s life.

The person’s home is shown. The Fisk coal plant can be seen not too far from where the person interviewed lives. Smoke emanates from the power plant and a NARRATOR explains this is one of the two coal plants in Chicago.

MEMBERS of the Clean Power Chicago coalition meet in a room. Individuals sit around tables planning and discussing how they will pass a Clean Power Ordinance in Chicago that will clean up the power plants and prevent them from further polluting the air in Chicago.

Sierra Club member PAM RICHERT explains the motivation for launching the Clean Power Chicago coalition. Richert goes on to share how this local issue impacts Chicago residents.

Maps of wards in Chicago are shown, which provide statistics on the level of pollution that exists in each of the wards. Wards nearby the two coal plants are highlighted. The narrator introduces the Crawford coal plant.

The neighborhood nearby the Crawford plant appears. A FEW INDIVIDUALS appear on screen leading a “toxic tour” of the area. PRESS and CITIZENS listen and follow the individuals around as they show the impact of the coal plants on the community of Little Village in Chicago.

A leader of the “toxic tour” explains what it is like to live in Little Village giving special attention to the impact the coal plant has on the health of members of the community.

At a press conference at City Hall, EXPERTS and LEADERS stand behind a microphone explaining why the coal plants in Chicago must be cleaned up.

An ORGANIZER discusses in an interview why it is important for Chicagoans to take action to keep the air clean.

The coal plants appear. A NARRATOR describes the fight that organizers and Chicagoans will face but closes with a call to action.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Midterm Presentation on MTR

I. Intro

II. What Is MTR and Why Is It a Problem?

a. Process of Mountaintop Removal

b. Myths Believed, Why They are Untrue

III. Why MTR Is an Injustice

a. Why I Care About It

b. Why We Should Care About It

IV. What People Are Doing to Challenge It

a. End Mountaintop Removal Lobby Week

V. Conclusion


Myth: Mountaintop removal mining increases employment.

Fact: Mountaintop removal strip mining is so profitable for the coal companies precisely because it replaces most of the need for labor with highly destructive, but nonetheless efficient, explosives and machinery. Although coal production rose 32 percent between 1987 and 1997, mining jobs dropped by 29 percent over the same period.

Source: Citizens Coal Council

Fact: The number of people employed by the coal industry in West Virginia peaked around 1940 at over 130,000 people employed, producing approximately 130,000 short tons of coal annually. By 1997, less than 20,000 people were being paid by coal companies to produce over 180,000 short tons of coal annually.

Source: Coal Productivity, WV Office of Miners Health, Safety & Training

Myth: Mountaintop removal mining improves local economies.

Fact: Tourism pumps far more money into West Virginia economy each year than does the coal industry.

Source: Citizens Coal Council

Fact: Surface mining (which includes MTR mining), accounts for only 1.2% of jobs in WV and brings in just 2.6% of the state’s total revenues. The counties where surface mining predominates are some of the still poorest counties in the country.

Source: 2002 economic census data;

Myth: All surface-mined land is reclaimed equal to or better than it was prior to mining.

Fact: The Appalachian Highlands are characterized by some of the best and most diverse forest habitats in the world. Current reclamation practices are unable to restore native mixed hardwood forests, but rather replace these ecosystems with fields of non-native grasses. These changes in habitat may significantly impact neotropical bird populations, native salamander populations and other sensitive species.

Source: Trial Lawyers for Public Justice

Fact: The “Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the Clean Water Act do not require that sites forested prior to mining would be reforested as a part of the post mining reclamation requirements.”

Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

Myth: Coal Companies do all they can to reduce the negative impact mountaintop mining has on the environment.

Fact: Reclamation is usually done late in the mining process for ease of operation. In order to reduce the size of valley fills and reduce reclamation costs, coal companies should reclaim the land contemporaneously with mining.

Source: Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Fact: Valley fills are built from the top down. If valley fills are constructed from the bottom up, they will shrink in size due to leveling and compaction.

Source: Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Fact: Slurry produced by coal mining contains dangerous heavy metals, including: Antimony, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chlorine, Chromium, Cobalt, Lead, Manganese, Nickel, Selenium, Arsenic and Mercury.

Source: US Geologic Survey

Fact: In the Appalachian Plateau, iron and manganese concentrations exceeded US Environmental Protection Agency drinking water guidelines in at least 40% of the wells, and about 70% of the wells near reclaimed surface coal mines.

Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

Myth: The coalfields of Kentucky and West Virginia need more flat land for development purposes.

Fact: Over 300,000 acres of West Virginia have received surface mine permits. Less than 1 percent of mined land is currently reused for any development purpose.

Source: Razing Appalachia, by Maryanne Vollers, Mother Jones: July/August 1999 Issue

Fact: At the present rate of development, this is enough developable land to last 3,000 years. As of 2002 in the Coal River Basin area of West Virginia alone, there were 95,000 acres of flat land lying 600-800 feet above the existing infrastructure. This is enough land to build:

10 One hundred acre prisons

5 Five thousand acre parks

50 Shopping malls

400 Fifty acre schools

100 One hundred acre trailer parks

Source: Rick Eades, Speech at the Coal Summit, Charleston, WV, June 2002.

Myth: Appalachian coal reserves are large enough to provide coal for another century or more.

Fact: “In the northern and central Appalachian Basin coal regions… Sufficient high-quality, thick, bituminous resources remain in these beds and coal zones to last for the next one or two decades at current production.”

Source: US Geologic Survey

Independent Lens: RAZING APPALACHIA , Mountaintop Removal Strip Mining | PBS

-Mountaintop removal mining is the practice of blasting off the tops of mountains so machines called draglines can mine coal deposits. Coal mining companies dump the mountaintops into nearby valleys and streams to create "valley fills," converting mountain landscapes covered in hardwood forests into fields of sparse grass. Coal companies are stripping off the tops of mountains in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. Tennessee has three inactive mines.

-More than half of the electricity in the U.S. today is generated by coal-fired power plants.

-Demand for electricity in the U.S. has increased by 136 percent since 1970.

-In the 1999-2000 election cycle, the coal mining industry contributed more than $3.6 million to federal parties and candidates.

-West Virginia has 4 percent of the coal in the world. The U.S. has 21.1 percent of the world total.

-The U.S. is responsible for 22.3 percent of the world's coal-related carbon emissions.

-52 percent of U.S. energy is powered by coal.

-Over 1000 miles of streams have been buried by strip mine waste in Appalachia.

-In 2000, almost 170 million tons of coal were mined in West Virginia, with 60 million tons coming from strip mines.

-In 1950, West Virginia employed 143,000 miners. By 1997, that number was down to 22,000.

-75 percent of West Virginia's streams and rivers are polluted by mining and other industries.

-300,000 acres of hardwood forest in West Virginia have been destroyed by mountaintop removal mining.

-St. Louis-based Arch Coal is the nation's second-largest coal producer and accounts for about 6 percent of U.S. energy.

-In 2001, Arch Coal reported revenues of nearly $1.5 billion.


Arch Coal, Inc.

National Mining Association

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection

West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training