Paula Swearengin, a coal miner’s daughter, and uncompromising leader in the fight for clean water and air in Appalachia, spoke with Senator Bernie Sanders at a Town Hall meeting in McDowell County, WV in March. “We need your help,” she told the senator. “I’m a single mom. I want to work together with you and do something for WV. We don’t have the support of our leadership here. Jim Justice is one of the biggest polluting coal barons in WV and he’s our democratic governor. His mine is three miles from my house. I buried my Daddy. I’ve buried so many family members. I’ve watched my friends die fighting for WV.” The two embraced warmly, with Sanders agreeing he’d do what he could.
In Charleston, the audience cheered at a Town Hall meeting when Paula told Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, “There’s not a stream in the southern part of the state that’s not been impacted by coal pollution. Our streams run orange and black. The cleanest water in the world is destroyed. Who’s going to clean up the mess when coal is gone, Senator? What is Plan B? And, fracking is not acceptable either. We are tired of being collateral damage. We want clean and safe jobs and a future for our children.”
In February, President Trump signed a bill lifting restrictions on pollution of waterways by coal industries. Before signing, Trump shook hands with the CEO of one of the largest coal companies who once called the Stream Protection Rule the coal industry’s “biggest threat.”
Editor’s note: Parts of this article were put together by the People’s Tribune from a video by Annabelle Parks and Stan Williams.