Coal miner to Obama: Set strong carbon controls

My name is Nick Mullins and I am a 4th generation former underground coal miner from southwestern Virginia. On behalf of fellow fathers, Appalachians, and skilled workers, I am calling on this administration to move forward with strong standards that finally limit carbon pollution from our nation’s power plants.

Like many of the men in my family, I began working in the coal mines to support my family and to give my children a better future, but I soon realized that it came at the cost of more than just our battered bodies and polluted lungs. It also came at the expense of clean water and clean air for future generations.

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The proud heritage of the coal miner has been soiled by the greed of an industry that knows no bounds in its exploitation of decent, hardworking people and the lands they call home. While billions of dollars in coal profits have left our communities, thousands of people continue to face a seemingly endless cycle of poverty. Sadly, of the billions of tons of coal extracted from our mountains to power this great nation, most of it has gone up in waste for the sake of comfort, convenience, and enormous profit.

Few seem to realize that the careless energy use of our nation is directly responsible for enormous problems Appalachian people now face: poisoned water, flooding from eviscerated mountains, and a mono-economy that has stifled the economic diversity needed to provide our children with stable employment. But the problems in Appalachia are only some of the many caused by the overuse of a cheaply-extracted resource. Now we are facing the inevitability of human-created climate change, of which we can no longer be apathetic.

By limiting carbon emissions from power plants, we are taking steps towards a transformative future. Though many will find themselves fearing, and even resisting change, we need to realize that smart policies designed to protect public health and spur innovation are absolutely necessary. By creating a more energy efficient, carbon-conscious economy, we are also creating new jobs for thousands of skilled workers who can install equipment, upgrade infrastructure, and build a better, cleaner future for our children. In doing so, we are accomplishing the same generational goals that so many coal miners work hard towards every day—to provide their children with a better future. 

After decades of mining and mountaintop removal practices, I had to move my family away from our ancestral Appalachian home, fleeing from the detrimental health effects associated with decades of chemicals released into our environment from coal extraction and the “cleaning” process. No one within this great nation should have to face such a choice: move, or risk the health of their children.

I speak out for the 4,000,000 other Americans who support the administration’s plans to limit pollution from our nation’s power plants. We are standing together, calling for strong standards that ensure a healthier, safer, cleaner future for our children.

Mullins gave testimony at an EPA public hearing in Washington on Thursday on carbon pollution standards for new power plants.