by Jason Fults
As many Iguana readers are already aware, Gainesville Loves Mountains (gainesvillelovesmountains.wordpress.com/) has been working for the past few years to end our community’s relationship with mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining.
While Gainesville Regional Utility’s (GRU) overall MTR coal consumption has declined in recent years, they have offered no guarantee that it will continue to do so. As a result, we’ve worked with City Commissioner Lauren Poe to draft a policy for GRU that favors deep-mined over surface-mined coal without negatively influencing ratepayers.
On September 18, the City Commission will vote on this policy. Back in April, we scored an initial victory with all seven Commissioners voting in condemnation of MTR, and all but Mayor Braddy and Commissioner Chase voting to draft such a policy.
Since our April victory, however, a new Commission has been installed. We will need the full support of Commissioners Wells, Hinson-Rawls, and Warren since Mayor Braddy and Commissioners Chase and Carter have indicated that they will not support our policy.
King Coal has been dealt a string of recent defeats and the tide is finally turning against this criminal mining practice that destroys ancient mountains and deprives Appalachian residents of safe drinking water.
Our small but idealistic community could provide yet another important victory and set an example for coal-consuming communities elsewhere. As Dr. Matt Wasson of Appalachian Voices said recently, “… if successful, this policy would have teeth and send an important signal to the mining industry.”
If you’re ready to help us with this victory as we near the home stretch, here’s what you can do:
Plan to join us at the September 18 City Commission meeting. We had a fantastic showing at the April meeting, and it was clear that citizen support for this issue makes a huge difference. We’ll be posting more details about the meeting on our website (gainesvillelovesmountains.wordpress.com/) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/GainesvilleLovesMountains) as we get them, but for now, please put September 18 on your calendar and invite your friends.
Personal contacts to our Commissioners, particularly Helen Warren, Randy Wells, and Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, are crucial. Even a brief personal phone call or email with the simple message “I want Gainesville Regional Utilities to bring a permanent end to their consumption of MTR coal” will go a long way. You can also spread the word via our online petition (www.change.org/p/gainesville-fl-city-commission-end-gainesville-regional-utility-s-purchases-of-mountaintop-removal-coal).
Finally, we need as many volunteers as we can get in the next few weeks to help with phone-banking and to be out at public events talking with citizens, telling our story. If you have even an hour or two between now and September 18 when you can help out, please let us know (email@example.com; 352-610-1090) and we’ll put you to work.
We can win this victory for Appalachia and our own community’s energy future with your help.