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Battle for Blair Mountain

Aired August 20, 2011 - 20:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The way it is in southern West Virginia, it is the coal fields. That's what we've done for a hundred years. Coal miners, they'll stand up at fight as long as they can. You know? But you can just do so much.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: James and Linda Dials live near Blair mountain in West Virginia. Ground zero in the battle over mountaintop removal mining. One side says it's a fight to preserve jobs. The other side says it's about preserving mountains.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: We've united people on one issue and that's stopping mountaintop removal on Blair Mountain! Woo!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how we support our families. I feed my kids with this.

CROWD: Go! Go! Go! Get out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If mountaintop removal does not end soon, everything you see here will be gone in 20 years.

O'BRIEN: Have you felt like it's been a big fight?

LINDA DIALS: Kind of feels like us against the world.

JAMES DIALS: If they lived our life, they would understand.

O'BRIEN: For James and Linda Dials, their way of life, and their future, are on the line.

LINDA DIALS: Coal means we're going to have a job. Coal means we're going to be able to support our family. We're going to be able to stay where we're at. We're going to be able to retire some day.

O'BRIEN: Do you think people are disrespectful of coal miners in general or maybe even people in West Virginia?

LINDA DIALS: They do. They think they're ignorant people that don't know any better. I think a lot of them think that they still mine coal with picks and shovels. I don't think they understand that it takes people with brains to do this.

O'BRIEN: How long you been a coal miner?

JAMES DIALS: 30 years.

O'BRIEN: So your whole adult life.

JAMES DIALS: Yes. I'm a carpenter. I build houses. I'm a mechanic. So I know different ways of life.

O'BRIEN: So why coal?

JAMES DIALS: It's better pay.

O'BRIEN: James makes about $65,000 a year. Compare that to teachers who make about $38,000. What are the big changes that you've seen?

LINDA DIALS: Used to be a lot more people.

O'BRIEN: The Dials lives in Sharples. In its heyday hundreds of families lived and worked here in the surrounding mines. Today Sharples is barely hanging on.

LINDA DIALS: As far as the community goes, it is not much left anymore. You know, there's still some people here, but in this area, that's all there is. If the coal company shuts down, be a ghost town. Nothing left.

O'BRIEN: Logan county, where Sharples is located and where James works, is one of the top ten coal producing counties in America. About half of America's power comes from coal. One way to mine it - mountaintop removal.

SCOTT SIMONTON, MARSHALL UNIVERYSITY: It's literally when they take the top off the mountain. They'll take hundreds of feet off the top of a mountain to get to a few feet of coal. If you're taking 100 feet of rock off to get five feet of coal or so, then you're going to have a lot of waste material left over. You've got to do something with that rock. And so one of the things they do is to dump it into the valley next door. Streams are buried. They're gone forever.

LINDA DIALS: What we do here is the only thing in this area for the boys.

O'BRIEN: Linda is committed to keeping her community alive.

LINDA DIALS: There's probably no two people in here that has clashed any harder than Billy and I have.

O'BRIEN: Billy is her neighbor, Billy Smutko.

LINDA DIALS: When you're here this is not about him against mountaintop removal and me for mountaintop removal. These are for these kids.

O'BRIEN: Was your dad a miner?


O'BRIEN: How about your grandfather. SMUTKO: He died in a mine not a mile from here.

O'BRIEN: Why are you not a miner?

SMUTKO: Never really was interested in doing that.

O'BRIEN: Billy's job still relies on coal. He works for the power company.

Can people co-exist with mining?

SMUTKO: They have for a hundred years until here recently.

O'BRIEN: And what happened recently?

SMUTKO: That's when it all began. When the mountaintop removal started, that's when the community started to disappear.

O'BRIEN: People have said to me, if you're asking me to pick between how a mountain looks and a job, I'll pick the job. I'll pick someone's job. You know, because that means feeding their family and giving them a livelihood and a community.

SMUTKO: But it's temporary. The job is temporary. What they've done here is permanent.

JAMES DIALS: Say that mountain right there. If they would restrict mountaintop removal and left it, I would be the first one to complain about it. That's my job. It's doing right for my (inaudible). Seeing that it's being done right.

O'BRIEN: James believes surface mining projects bring jobs into his area. It's not that clear-cut. The average surface mining job employs about 25 percent fewer miners than underground mining operations.

CHUCK KEENEY, ORGANIZER, MARCH ON BLAIR MOUNTAIN: Blair mountain was the site of the largest labor of uprising in the United States history. They can mine the coal around Blair Mountain without using mountaintop removal. Now they may not make as big of a profit. In fact, one of the reasons why they may not make as big of a profit is because they'll have to hire more miners. So this isn't about jobs at all.

LISA JACKSON, ADMINISTRATOR, EPA: They need to understand that, yes, you can mine coal. You can give jobs to people but you can't do it at the expense of their lives, their health, their water, their air. That's too much.

O'BRIEN: That's why, as 2011 begins, Lisa Jackson, the head of the environmental protection agency, is weighing whether to allow the largest mountaintop mining permit ever proposed in the state of West Virginia. It's called spruce one. It would eliminate nearly seven miles of streams and alter more than 2,000 acres of land.

JAMES DIALS: Everybody is kind of worried about what's going to happen.

O'BRIEN: Without new permits, mountaintop miners like James fear their jobs will dry up.

LINDA DIALS: You know they keep changing the date and backing it up.

O'BRIEN: For the Dials, the EPA decision looms.

JAMES DIALS: It's like if somebody be coming in your home and hold you hostage and you just go day by day. If you want to take it, take it. If you're not, let us have it.


JAMES DIALS: Ninety percent of the people live in this hall here are coal miners or retired coal miners. As far as I can remember, I never dreamed of being anything else.

O'BRIEN: Winter in West Virginia. James Dials and miners throughout the state begin the new year waiting for an EPA decision on the spruce one permit.

JAMES DIALS: Any direction you turn, you will see replay.

O'BRIEN: James is a surface miner. He drives a rock truck and works in reclamation.

That's the last stage of mountaintop removal where miners try to put the mountain back together.

JAMES DIALS: I built these mountains. They're not natural, they're man-made, but we did put them back to the best that a human can do.

O'BRIEN: This is how it starts. Powerful explosives rip open mountains and expose rich coal seams.

SIMONTON: You know I can look at a mountaintop removal site as an environmental person and think, oh, that's horrible. I could look at it as an engineer and think, wow, that's incredible that we are able to take the top off of a mountain.

O'BRIEN: Scott Simonton is a civil and environmental engineer who teaches at Marshall University in West Virginia.

SIMONTON: To me the problem is that we don't fully understand the costs of mining. I want to better understand who's bearing those costs.

O'BRIEN: When you say costs, do you mean costs to people's health? Cost to the land? Cost to jobs? Cost to what?

SIMONTON" All of the above.

O'BRIEN: Most mountaintop removal sites are hidden from roads.

To get a clear view of the aftermath, you need to go up. O'BRIEN: Here we go. This is mountaintop removal in process.

SIMONTON: Right. They're going to be taking al of that rock material. They're going to take it all.

O'BRIEN: Simonton sits on the board of the state's department of Environmental Protection which means he's made decisions for and against the coal companies.

SIMONTON: (Inaudible)

O'BRIEN: What was that?

SIMONTON: This would have been a headwater stream.

O'BRIEN: So where there was a stream is now steps and rocks.


LINDA DIALS: I can't afford to go up in an airplane and helicopter, go ride and see what the top of a mountain looks like. I see what's down here. What's down here is still beautiful. Still pretty. Clean.

O'BRIEN: Linda's neighbor, Billy Smutko, lives below what was a mountaintop removal site. That's now been reclaimed.

SMUTKO: Getting back to primitive.

This road went al the way through Blair Mountain.

O'BRIEN: So this is natural?

SMUTKO: Um-hmm.

O'BRIEN: This is reclaimed?

SMUTKO: Um-hmm.

O'BRIEN: OK. Let's go take a look.

They don't make it easy to get up here, huh?


O'BRIEN: OK. Thank you.

SMUTKO: This has been reclaimed almost 20 years ago.

O'BRIEN: And you can see the dirt isn't dirt.

SMUTKO: It's just rock. Nothing can grow on it.

O'BRIEN: I mean is every mountain going to be this?

SMUTKO: If things keep going the way they are, this is what this will look like. Because there's coal under here, too. They just don't show any respect for the mountains.

SIMONTON: There's tens of thousands of years of forest there and all the things that make that soil. You can't just put that back. You can't hide or see it and call it good. Systems take too long to put into place not to be able to replicate easily.

O'BRIEN: Another concern for those opposed to mountaintop removal projects, the blasting.

CHARLES BELLA, BLAIR: That shook the houses we will bad. It would shake pictures off the walls and sometimes even crack their porches. Ceilings in their houses. But you couldn't prove it was done by blasting. This was just a bad place to live.

O'BRIEN: Charles Bella lives in Blair, just down the road from James and Linda. When blasting began near his home in 1997, he was working in the mines.

BELLA: Every time I'd complain about the blasting, the superintendent said to me one day, he said, do you realize that you're biting the hand that feeds you? And I said, yes, but I also realize it's the hand that's killing me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You climbed up in that old tree.

BELLA: You did?


BELLA: And not only me, but my family and everybody else that lives down there in that valley.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me what that is?

BELLA: That's that mountain right there. While they was in the process of tearing it down. Reminds me of hell. That reclamation's been done 11 years ago. It still keeps slipping and sliding.

O'BRIEN: Do you worry about what the environmentalists say? That the streams are damaged, that the dust is in the air?

DIANE KISH, SHARPLES It's not healthy. You can't tell dust sniffing and you know it!

O'BRIEN: Another of Sharples' neighbor is Diane Kish.

KISH: Let me tell you, these (inaudible) are families.

O'BRIEN: So, you don't think it is unsafe?

KISH: No. I would take a drink of this water.

O'BRIEN: You would not take a drink of this.

KISH: Yes, I would.

O'BRIEN: Come on! Look at the color. I wouldn't let you.

KISH: Better than black.

There was three houses here. The church was here. Of all things used here is stoplight here.

O'BRIEN: So when did everything go?

KISH: When federal judges and the EPA come in, started messing with our livelihood.

O'BRIEN: When you look at this mountain, trees are stripped away, is that progress to you?

KISH: It's a job in the making.

JAMES DIALS: Well, I would like to, do I have a job or not?

O'BRIEN: Early in January James and Linda are waiting news from Washington on the spruce one permit.

LINDA DIALS: Nobody where it's at, nobody knows anything until we get word. I think we'll see it on TV first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now to a developing story --

LINDA DIALS: Look at there. Coal mine.


LINDA DIALS: If the spruce number one mine permit doesn't go through and they end up closing the strip down. People aren't going to want to buy property up through here. This would be a ghost town. Nothing left.

O'BRIEN: It's 13 days into the new year.

LINDA DIALS: Look at there, coal mine. Any time you hear something about a permit, it makes your heart thump.

O'BRIEN: This is the news Linda dials has been dreading.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. environmental protection agency has now denied the coal mining permit for the spruce number one mine in Logan County.


O'BRIEN: The mansion says the EPA decision will have a chilling effect on our investments and our economic recovery.

LINDA DIALS: You got your TV on?


LINDA DIALS: Not on "Dora." you need to put it on 13. They took the permit.


LINDA DIALS: They took the permit.


LINDA DIALS: No, I'm not. Just flat-out is gone.

O'BRIEN: After more an a decade of argument and challenges, the EPA says no to the spruce one permit. Linda is devastated.

LINDA DIALS: Just uncertainty. What happens now?

O'BRIEN: Her husband's job is now in danger.

JACKSON: It was a tough decision. Very tough. But in the end, we could not justify that filling seven miles of streams, destroying over 2,000 acres of forest wasn't going to have an effect on water quality, wasn't going to affect public health.

O'BRIEN: EPA administrator Lisa Jackson says the decision to veto spruce one was based on her authority under the clean water act to decide if a permit will have unacceptable adverse effects.

JACKSON: The people of West Virginia deserve jobs and the people of West Virginia deserve clean water.

O'BRIEN: The company that applied for the permit, Arch Coal, turned down our repeated requests for an interview. But in a statement, accused the EPA of overreaching and predicted the decision will have a chilling effect on future U.S. investment.

Even though spruce one had been approved five years ago by state agencies and the army corp. of engineers, the EPA action reverses those approvals. It's the first time ever the EPA has used its veto under the clean water act to block a mountaintop mining permit.

LINDA DIALS: It's just unreal.

The resulting rubble known as spoil would be dumped into nearby valleys and streams killing fish. Salamanders and other wildlife. Instead, they'll kill families off. Let's protect those fish and salamanders.

O'BRIEN: We talked to a woman named Linda Dials. And when you talk about sort of saving the ecosystem and protecting the environment, she thinks of what about protecting me? What about protecting my husband's job, what about protecting our community, which, without work, is going to die?

JACKSON: And I would say to her, and to that community, that EPA's sole job is to protect the water. Clean water is extremely important to the future of any community. It's not a decision we made lightly, but I believe very strongly that it is the right decision.

JIMMY WEEKLEY, DIALS' NEIGHBOR: no within haven't heard any news.

O'BRIEN: The biggest victor on this day, Jimmy Weekly, another neighbor of the dials.

WEEKLEY: They done the right thing, the EPA did. Praise god for that!

O'BRIEN: The last hold-out in this holler near Blair Mountain, he refused to sell his land to the coal company. His home stands directly in the path bulldozers would have traveled if spruce one had been given the green light.

WEEKLEY: It was just destroying everything. Seemed like it was just like a hurricane. When it goes through, it wipes out everything.

O'BRIEN: As the mining got closer, Weekley promised his wife he'd save their home. Cindy Weekley died four years ago.

WEEKLEY: It is a victory for her, too. Because she was with me at different meetings I spoke at. Yes, it is a victory for her, too.

O'BRIEN: Weekley hired environmental attorney Joe Loveitt to stop spruce one.

JOE LOVEITT, ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY: Almost all of my clients are West Virginians . I am a West Virginian. We are West Virginians and we appalled by this practice.

O'BRIEN: While the clean water act allows the EPA to veto a permit, it gives the job of issuing permits to the army corp. of engineers.

LOVEITT: I don't understand how the army corps can continue to maintain in the face of all evidence that streams can be created. It is a fantasy. The corps knows it is a fantasy, yet they persist to issue these permits on the fiction that streams can be created.

MARGARET PALMER, EXPERT, HYDROLOGY AND EXTREME ECOSYSTEMS: There is absolutely no evidence that you can create a stream de novo that is where one never existed before.

O'BRIEN: Margaret palmer is a leading expert on hydrology and extreme ecosystems.

PALMER: We are talking about a pile of rock that's been pushed on the side of a mountain and taking a low-lying area, a ditch, and making that into a living ecosystem, a stream, and there's absolutely no evidence.

O'BRIEN: In fact, the army corp. of engineers admits it's rethinking the process called mitigation.

Everybody sort of now says listen, we agree, we've learned, streams cannot be created.

MARGARET GAFFNEY-SMITH, CHIEF, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERING REGULATORY OFFICE: What I'm hearing from the scientists is that the manner in which we require this mitigation is not necessarily always compatible with a mine. And on-site mitigation, that preference, we've abandoned that preference.

O'BRIEN: So that's a long way of saying it doesn't really work?

GAFFNEY-SMITH: I'm saying in the context of the rock line difference, I don't believe that that's truly a fully functional stream.

O'BRIEN: A startling admission that calls into question the whole permitting process. How was it that streams were ever allowed to be destroyed, and what will be acceptable in the future?

LINDA DIALS: Be honest with you, just a piece of you that never thought this would happen.

It is terrible. You just don't know.

It's probably not going to make an impact today or tomorrow or whatever, but it's going to affect everybody.

JAMES DIALS: If they took this, they're going to take the rest. But I've got to work. And that's bottom line. I've got to work.

O'BRIEN: Linda decides she's got to work, too. Fighting hard to reverse the decision on spruce 1.

LINDA DIALS: We've still got a voice. It's not a done deal.


LINDA DIALS: Oh, Diane you got a hobby. I want mine.

O'BRIEN: January 20th, 2011, exactly one week since the EPA veto. Linda dials is heading to a pro-coal rally where she's speaking for the very first time.

LINDA DIALS: No hubby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready to pull out.

LINDA DIALS: I'm not a speaker. Just a housewife.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the EPA has done is fundamentally wrong. This rally is about jobs, plain and simple. Don't have this radical environmental philosophy, destroy the jobs of West Virginia.

LINDA DIALS: Wow! This is really kind of scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I have told the federal government, I don't need a handout. I need a work permit. You give us a chance to work and we'll show you how to rebuild America.

LINDA DIALS: I'm still not sure I can do this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The EPA would let the country think that we are ignorant people and we're controlled by one company. But we're smart people. We're survivors and we know how to live.

LINDA DIALS: The main thing is we need to join together as one huge coal family now and we need to fight this and we need to fight it hard. It is a huge family that we can be. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: The coal miner's wife from tiny Sharples --

LINDA DIALS: I survived.

O'BRIEN: Has now joined the fight with heavy hitters like Senator Joe Manchin.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The EPA should be working with us not against us. And that's all we're asking for. Be our partner. If we are doing something wrong, show us. But you have no scientific proof what you're doing.

O'BRIEN: What's the science?

JACKSON: We have science as well as now peer-reviewed science and there's actually been outside scientists and their language is strong. They say this process is leading to irreversible harm to water quality.

O'BRIEN: Arch coal applied for the spruce one permit. The company's declined to be interviewed but claim the veto cost Logan County 250 jobs. Arc Kirkendall, the county commissioner for 30 years, blames the EPA's decision for the loss of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

KIRKENDALL: Why do you think the oranges grow in California? Or the tobacco in the Carolinas? I mean I believe god had a plan for everybody to have certain areas with certain economic availability.

O'BRIEN: Do you think god thought I hope they lop the tops off the mountain and dig in and get that coal?


O'BRIEN: Do you really think God is saying I prefer mountaintop removal to underground mining?

KIRKENDALL: Well, if God wanted underground mining why would he put a 13-inch seam of coal ecology on man underground? Why would he have done that?

O'BRIEN: James had been counting on work connected to the new permit.

JAMES DIALS: That would have opened up more opportunities for more jobs and it's not going to be 15 or 20 men. It's going to be 300 or 400 men out of jobs.

O'BRIEN: By March, he's so worried about layoffs that he begins to look for a new job.


LINDA DIALS: He's got resumes and applications in. You know? He's got a decision to make. If he gets a call for another job.

O'BRIEN: Statistics show coal mining jobs in West Virginia are dying. Government projections say by 2035, coal production in West Virginia will decrease by 40 percent and require thousands fewer miners.

Wyoming has already replaced West Virginia as the top coal state, producing 400 million tons a year. That's four times what's mind in West Virginia.

KEENEY: You need to be very crystal clear about this message that you can hire more people without mountaintop removal than with it.

O'BRIEN: Chuck Keeney is a professor at the local community college.

KEENEY: It is not coming down to a job, and if they say it is coming down to your job, then they are lying to you. Working people stood up -

O'BRIEN: Keeney is crisscrossing West Virginia trying to raise support for a march on Blair Mountain. Right across the valley from spruce one.

KEENEY: Blair mountain was the site of the largest labor of Barazi in the United States, possibly the largest insurrection outside of the civil war.

O'BRIEN: The first march was led by Keeney's great grandfather in 1921.

KEENEY: Coal miners had been denied their basic rights, freedom of speech, freedom to unionize, freedom of assembly. They went on strike to unionize. They were kick out of their homes an they lived in tents.

O'BRIEN: The battle pitted nearly 10,000 miners against coal company supporters and ended only after the U.S. military was called in. The goal of Keeney's new march - to get area residents like Linda and James to believe their jobs depend on ending mountaintop removal.

KEENEY: I understand that this will engender many hard feelings. But if my great grandfather can risk his own personal life and the life of many others, I can deal with a little bad PR, I think.

Mountaintop removal actually destroys jobs.

O'BRIEN: James an Linda believe Keeney is trying to take advantage of the EPA decision to kill mining jobs.

LINDA DIALS: I think the underground miners and service miners are going to have to come together on this in order to get anything done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you! Shame on you!

LINDA DIALS: Just like back in the olden days when the miners all had to ban together. We're going to have to do that now.


LINDA DIALS: We're going to clean the lake up. Pick up all the garbage up. Just make it better.

O'BRIEN: Clean-up day at the lake in Sharples.

LINDA DIALS: This is the reclaimed mountain site. This was a surface mine. Thank you!

KISH: To be out and help your community is everything.

O'BRIEN: Today's clean-up was organized by the community advisory panel.

KISH: No chasing Linda with snakes. No chasing Linda with anything.

O'BRIEN: Linda and Diane are members, and so is their neighbor, Arch Coal.

KISH: They are part of our community. They are the biggest business in the community. We have a little grocery store. We have a little gas station and we have a whole company.


LINDA DIALS: That's nasty!


They keep trying to come up with scientific proof that coal has been the reason for everybody that's ever been in West Virginia to die.

KISH: A new study just out. Study, study, study. Well, I got news for them. I'm part of a heritage. I live right under the coal dust. Played in the black water. My children. We have no allergies. We never was in the hospital. I could go on and on.

O'BRIEN: Neighbor Billy Smutko lives just below this man-made lake built on what was a mountaintop removal site.

So where is your house from here?

SMUTKO: Just on the other side of the hill there.

O'BRIEN: And what happens to your house in.

SMUTKO: Well, the water continuously rinse into the yard in the back side.

O'BRIEN: Every day.

SMUTKO: Yes. Yes. And it's useless.

O'BRIEN: Billy shows us where the lake is leaking into his yard. He thinks it's because of cracks created by mountaintop removal mining. SMUTKO: The spring's right in behind that right there. That's where the badgers used to get their drinks of water when it was younger. I mean it's good water, it was. I wouldn't drink it now, but it was good water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why wouldn't you drink it now?

SMUTKO: It's coming from the lake. And it's coming off of the old mountaintop removal site.

PALMER: Minerals that are dissolved when the water runs through those valley fills include things like high levels of sulfate, manganese, iron, calcium, magnesium. You get this solution running out of the basin of the alley fill and into the stream that together are actually fairly toxic.

O'BRIEN: Researchers have begun testing the lake in Sharples. Michael Hendricks is a professor of public health at West Virginia university. For five years he's been investigating if there's a link between health problems in his state and mining.

MICHAEL HENDRICKS, PROFESSOR, PUBLIC HEALTH, WEST VIRGINIA: The more I look, the more it's there. And I think that it's the biggest public health problem that West Virginia faces.

O'BRIEN: Hendricks says almost 11,000 excess deaths occur every year in mining areas of Appalachia.

HENDRICKS: There's multiple illnesses that are problematic in mining areas. Higher rates of cancer is one of them. Heart attacks. Lung disease like COPD. Kidney disease.

O'BRIEN: As part of a new field study with a U.S. geological survey looking at kidney disease, Hendricks and his team are testing the water near mining sites in southern West Virginia.

HENDRICKS: Rates of disease are higher here in these areas that are closer to mountaintop mining activity, and we know it is partly relating to the polar economic conditions and partly related to other behaviors, but not totally. This area's got lots of coal just lying on the ground.

O'BRIEN: At CNN's request, they also test the stream right outside James and Linda's house.

WILLIAM OREM, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: We're learning that these streams that are connected to the coal mining activity have elevated contents of dissolved ions.

O'BRIEN: How did the dials' stream do?

OREM: The values are over 1,000 when they should normally be in the range of 200 to 400.

O'BRIEN: As much as five times higher than it should be. The researchers say the test is preliminary and will require retesting. Though the dials don't get their drinking water directly from the stream, the study is examining if dissolved particles eventually enter the drinking water supply, which could cause health problems over time.

So even testing water, and they tested your stream last month. They say it's sort of the highest levels of toxicity that they found. We're talking about your stream right there.

You worry about those numbers?

LINDA DIALS: What did it test 20 years ago? What did it test 40 years ago before those mines up here?

JAMES DIALS: Where is the levels coming from? I mean there's miles of this stream that people's sewers running in.

O'BRIEN: But do the numbers worry you? Even if it is not coal, even if it's someone's septic system?

LINDA DIALS: No, they don't.

O'BRIEN: Really?

LINDA DIALS: No, they don't.

JAMES DIALS: To me, they were not dangerous levels. Because if they were, fish would be floating on the water. Then I would have a problem with it.

If a deer can live down here like they do and get a drink out of the creek and find them laying here in the yard debt because they drank that water out of the creek, yes, I would be concerned about the water. But that don't happen.

O'BRIEN: Is it possible to be healthy and live near a mountaintop removal mine?


O'BRIEN: Bill Rainey is the president of the West Virginia Coal Mining Association and a lobbyist for the coal companies.

RAINEY: I think when you look at some of these studies, if you're referring to those that have been recently released.

O'BRIEN: Michael Hendricks, West Virginia University.

RAINEY: I think what you find there is a correlation as opposed to a causation, and again, it's got to be analyzed.

O'BRIEN: You don't trust the study?

RAINEY: I think there is a lot of questions in the studies. I spent time in Sharples talking to the people. They don't seem to be concerned by it. O'BRIEN: The coal industry disputes Hendricks' findings, though they haven't provided any science to refute it. They point to their efforts to try to minimize environmental impacts while still meeting the nation's energy needs.

KEENEY: Well, are they allowed to give people cancer for profit? Are they allowed to give people brain tumors? Kidney disease? Should a company be allowed to harm people to make profit? I don't think so.

O'BRIEN: Back at lake clean-up, plans start to heat up for the community's next team effort.

KISH: March on Blair Mountain is what the environmentalists are having a. They're marching through here on the 9th.

LINDA DIALS: It's not at all a fitting tribute. It's to dishonor the miners that are working today if you are in their trying to do away with their jobs.

O'BRIEN: Even to this day, they're still digging up artifacts from the 1921 battle.

KEENEY: We wish to honor a history that some would like to see destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to Blair!

KEENEY: I've said to many environmentalists, if you can't save this mountain, you can't save any mountain.


O'BRIEN: I am writing in response to an event set for June 6th through the 11th called the March On Blair Mountain Appalachia Rising.

O'BRIEN: June, 2011, the march on Blair Mountain begins.

BRANDON NIOA, ORGANIZER, MARCH ON BLAIR MOUNTAIN: We're marching to preserve Blair Mountain, demolish mountaintop removal in Appalachia, to strengthen labor rights.

LINDA DIALS: These organizers are not concerned about job creation in Appalachia. This group is focused on one thing - ending surface mining and in doing so robbing us of our jobs, our homes and our way of life.

O'BRIEN: Linda's letter to the local paper is an inspiration to coal mining families who turn out to let the marchers know how they feel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what supports my family. That's the main reason I'm here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are working. Get a job!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For some locals that they said we are making a mockery in the history. In my point has always been you make a mockery of history by allowing it to be destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're trying to shut us down. They don't even live here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go home, tree huggers!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I was a child, me and my family used to come to Blair. Please stop telling me to go home!


KEENEY: Initial goal here is to save Blair Mountain. If we can't save that, then all of the other goals are washed away.

LINDA DIALS: If you were standing on the street or sit out in your yard and the march is coming by, turn your back. I know it sounds like you're fighting for what you know is right but sometimes the easiest victory is one you don't fight. Linda dials.


O'BRIEN: But Linda can't join her neighbors.

JAMES DIALS: She's in Cleveland right now with her mother. She's on life support machines.

O'BRIEN: Linda's mother is dying and Linda must miss march. James stays behind but he's missing the march, too. He's got to work. His resumes have paid off. James has a new job. He's a mechanic on a mountaintop removal site. The money's better but it is an hour's drive from his home.

JAMES DIALS: The job I had is the job that the permit was pulled from, which is four miles from my house. You know there's nobody out here really wants to have to drive for an hour to get to work when you can drive four miles to work. But I can stay there like the rest of them until the very end, and then at the very end, you're going to have hundred of men looking for jobs.

SMUTKO: Takes a lot of nerve to do what they're doing right now. I'm glad to see they're here.

O'BRIEN: Billy Smutko welcomes the marchers as they get closer to his home.

How come you're not suiting up to march with them.

SMUTKO: For one thing - she's afraid if I do. I was wanting to. She's afraid someone in the community might shoot me.

O'BRIEN: Your wife.


O'BRIEN: She thinks it could get dangerous. SMUTKO: She knows it could. If not during the march, maybe later. They may hurt someone in the family because there's people that are upset over this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people are really showing their uglier side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No camping allowed in any of the park.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had a number of camp sites that have dropped us.

O'BRIEN: During their journey to Blair Mountain, the marchers faced plenty of obstacles.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coal companies have blocked this all out and this is state property.

O'BRIEN: While Linda cares for her mother in Ohio, her friends fight.

KISH: It's really been hard on her.

O'BRIEN: Does she want to be kept up with what's going on?

KISH: Absolutely. She would be on the front line.

KISH: Coal country!

O'BRIEN: Diane lets the marchers know they're not welcome.

KISH: My papa was in the first march! You have no right to be here.

KISH: I feel sorry for one. To me, they're sacrificing over something they don't even know. The reason I'm sitting here, if they really knew what we sacrificed and lost, I don't believe they'd be marching with them.

I thought you told me you weren't going to say a word. You were going to turn your back.

That's tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You put that sign down!

O'BRIEN: When the coal miners say to me, they really just want to take all of our jobs, aren't they kind of right?

KARA DODSON, MARCHER: No. I don't want to take anybody's job or ruin the entire West Virginia economy that's based on the coal industry. That's not -

O'BRIEN: You don't want to see coal mining.

DODSON: I don't want to see coal mining that drives away the biodiversity of such a beautiful, wonderful place and also drive away jobs that could be in place of mining that perhaps other people in this community would want to be part of.

O'BRIEN: So there's no room for compromise.

EMMAKATE MARTIN, MARCHER: If your compromise is still destroying the mountain, then there's no room for compromise.

CROWD: Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

We have to safe this historic site and I am not going to compromise on that now. I mean if somebody were to say you could blow up hat of Gettysburg, you know if there would coal underneath, would people stand for that? I would hope not.

O'BRIEN: Who owns Blair Mountain?

JAMES DIALS: The coal companies own it. The property belongs to coal companies.

O'BRIEN: Should it be preserved?

JAMES DIALS: I feel that it's a point that they want to argue, preserve the mountain because the battle was fought on it. I would hate to see it go, but if it meant 300 or 400 men losing their jobs, flatten it out.

O'BRIEN: As the march nears its final destination, Charles Bella joins the man who began the fight here. Jimmy Weekley.

WWEKLEY: I'm so happy to see you here!

O'BRIEN: After six days and nearly 50 miles in the sweltering summer heat -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You made it, folks.

O'BRIEN: The marchers reach Blair Mountain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're shaking this mountain. More than any mountain on top (inaudible) right now.

O'BRIEN: There are some people who are from here who say you're a tree hugger. That's a nickname for an environmentalists. Are you a tree hugger?

SMUTKO: I don't consider myself a tree hugger. But I am environmentally concerned for my children, and my grandchildren, and every generation after that coming.

O'BRIEN: Linda is back in Sharples. Her mother has died.

LINDA DIALS: You know, my mother was from here and my father was from Blair. This big mountain that they're protecting. So yes, in a way, with mom gone, it renews my passion, I guess you'd say, my fight.

JAMES DIALS: It's all about jobs right now. In two weeks we get a payday. In 30 years what do we get?

O'BRIEN: How do you think the battle for Blair Mountain ends?

JAMES DIALS: We will fight. We won't give up. I'll never turn my back on fighting for coal.

O'BRIEN: In my next documentary -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I and my sister firefighters and my brother firefighters were all there.

O'BRIEN: They fought for the chance to even be there, to risk their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I'm still here, I need to serve a purpose.

O'BRIEN: Beyond bravery - the women of September 11th, airing September 8th on CNN.