Join us on Facebook

Join FaceBook Group

Support These Groups
NY hearts MTN

Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now (CLEAN)

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Sierra Club


WASHINGTON, DC. - Maria Gunnoe, an organizer with the Huntington-based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), and heroine of "Burning the Future: Coal in America" has been awarded the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize for North America, the world's most prestigious environmental award.
On Monday, April 21, Gunnoe accepted the award at the San Francisco Opera House before an audience of 3,000. Mistress of Ceremonies CNN's Christiane Amanpour and San Francisco philanthropist Richard Goldman presented Gunnoe the award, referred to as the Nobel Prize of the environment.  
Former Vice-President Al Gore congratulated Gunnoe and six other 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winners. He asked the audience to demand that Congress act this year to stave off catastrophic climate change.
Robert Redford narrated a short film highlighting Gunnoe's efforts to protect West Virginia's mountains and communities from mountaintop removal coal mining.  Singer /songwriter Tracy Chapman serenaded the award winners and audience with two social justice and environmental-themed songs.
A similar ceremony was  held on Earth Day, April 22, at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum in DC. OVEC will hold a press conference, mountaintop removal ground tour with Maria and her colleagues on April 28 in Charleston, W.Va.
(See <>  for details on attending this press event.)
The Goldman Environmental Prize, now in its 20th year, is awarded annually to seven grassroots environmental heroes from around the world and is the largest award of its kind with an individual cash prize of $150,000.
This is really everyone's victory. We will not continue to sacrifice our culture, our people and future for energy, said Gunnoe, who has worked three and a half years from OVEC's Boone County office. We are asking the Obama Administration to give back some of what has been taken away from the people of the coal-bearing regions of Appalachia.  It's time to ban mountaintop removal coal mining and give Appalachia good paying renewable energy jobs with a real future.
We are so proud of Maria, said Janet Keating, executive director of OVEC. Her courage and determination, like so many other grassroots leaders, is an extraordinary model for all who want to save the land, water, people and culture of Central Appalachia by ending mountaintop removal.
Keating attended the San Francisco ceremony along with other OVEC staff and volunteers, and several representatives of The Alliance for Appalachia, a coalition of 13 organizations united around ending mountaintop removal and promoting a just transition to a sustainable energy future for Central Appalachia.
Gunnoe is the second woman from southern West Virginia - both former waitresses - to win the Goldman Prize for working to end mountaintop removal.  
Julia Judy Bonds won the award in 2003. The two women live in tiny towns just 16 miles apart as the crow flies.
(To take a Google Earth virtual flyover of the mountains and mountaintop removal operation between the women's homes, see <> .)
Both Gunnoe, who lives in Bob White in Boone County, and Bonds, from Rock Creek in Raleigh County, were daughters of coal miners. Both worked as waitresses when mountaintop removal operations closed in on their communities and forever altered their lives.  As they educate themselves and others about the ecological and cultural toll of mountaintop removal, both women face intimidation and even death threats.
Nonetheless, they have helped to build a national movement calling for an end to the destruction of the Central Appalachian Mountains. Director / producer David Novack's documentary "Burning the Future" features Gunnoe's work and writer Michael Shnayerson book's Coal River focuses on Bonds' work. Bonds is co-director of the Whitesville-based Coal River Mountain Watch.
Mountaintop removal is a crime against humanity and nature and should be treated as a crime, said Bonds. This second award illustrates the severity of the crime, and Maria's hard work has exposed the harsh realities faced by people living near mountaintop removal.
The peaks of Cook Mountain and Cherry Pond Mountain separate the two women's homes.  Coal companies are extracting the coal from those ranges by mountaintop removal, a process which involves razing the temperate forests, blasting away layers of rock to expose the coal seams, and then dumping the soil and rock rubble into the streams winding through the valleys. The resulting valley fills can be miles long and hundreds of feet high. Water running off these fills can contain toxic levels of metals such as selenium.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and parts of Virginia and Tennessee already have been annihilated by this extremely destructive type of mining. Entire communities have been driven into extinction.  Individual mine sites can be as big as Manhattan or the District of Colombia.
One of the most controversial of all mountaintop removal sites is located between the women's communities on Cherry Pond Mountain.  The expanding 2,000-acre mine site sits directly above the Marsh Fork Elementary School.  Daily blasting around a 2.8 billion gallon toxic coal sludge dam, just 400 yards above the school, poses a threat to the dam's stability and sends clouds of silica-laden dust down the valley and into the school playground. 

posted by: Somebody @ 1:36pm