West Virginia sits atop a treasure chest of coal resources.

Coal began to define the state’s culture, history, and the economy as early as 1742, when John Peter Salling unearthed the coal in present-day Boone County, West Virginia. Today, all but 4.5% of the state’s electricity comes from coal, and arguably there is no greater consequential and polarizing topic today for West Virginians than the debate over what should be done with the state’s coal resources.

But there are two things about coal that are undeniable: coal has an impact of human suffering, and coal contributes to climate change.

For me, it took a ground tour of mountaintop removal sites to fully realize the impact of coal in West Virginia, and how its primary extraction method, mountaintop removal, has far-reaching effects. Guided by Dustin White and Vivian Stockman, West Virginia locals and activists with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, we trekked for hours looking at the impacts of mountaintop removal at sites such as Hobet 21 and Samples, which are both owned by Patriot Coal and subsidiaries.

Charles Orgbon III | The Huffington Post

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