Two Very Different Acts of God in Appalachia

Written by Amanda Starbuck

Topics: Coal

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The Church of Life After Shopping Visit Kayford Mountain

A few weeks ago, Massey Energy went on a PR offensive to promote the concept that the worst US mine disaster in 40 years – at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine in April – was an ‘Act of God’.

First Massey General Counsel Shane Harvey told a Wall Street Journal reporter on a press conference call on July 22 that it was a “distinct possibility” that “a natural event beyond the control of the company could have caused this event.”

And on the same day, Massey CEO Don Blankenship told a luncheon at the Nationl Press Club:

I believe that the physics of natural law and God trump whatever man tries to do. Whether you get earthquakes underground, whether you get broken floors, whether you get gas inundations, whether you get roof falls, oftentimes they are unavoidable just as other accidents are in society.”

Don is famous for his arrogance, but this was a step too far. The message did not go down well with the media or public, so much so that Massey issued a retraction in a press statement on July 23:

“Massey Energy has not used the phrase ‘Act of God’ when referring to the April 5 accident at the UBB mine”

While I realize that ‘Act of God’ is legal terminology to describe acts that occur without human intervention, Mr Blankenship’s choosing to reference to his own spiritual beliefs in a space where so many are looking for him to take responsibility for his actions, make me feel uneasy.

So, for a little balance, I would like to use this space to acknowledge a few of the many groups of faith who are channelling the strength from their spiritual beliefs into protection of Appalachia’s mountains and community:

Christians for the Mountains “is a fellowship rooted in the love of Christ, devoted to cultivating social justice, healthy communities, and the care for God’s creation throughout Appalachia.”

Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship. “The primary ministry of LEAF is to draw attention to the scriptural call for Creation Care in East Tennessee’s Christian churches… Most of all, LEAF feels called to educate Christians about the devastation caused by mountain top removal coal mining.”

West Virginia Council of Churches. “As people of faith, called upon by our covenant with God and each other to safeguard and care deeply for what God has created, we cannot stand by while our mountains are being devastated.”

EarthQuaker Action Team “is a new group of Friends and friends of Friends who join millions of people around the world fighting for our threatened planet…Our first campaign: Bank Like Appalachia Matters (BLAM!)”

Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping “In our Church, we respond to the words MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL like thousands of others. We hear the words of the people in those mountains and that is enough to get to work. Mountaintop Removal is unbelievable and we respond to the idea of it with belief. We will rise and rise and rise on the slopes of where the mountain is returning.”

2 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Those who oppose the wanton destruction of Appalachia are invited join us on September 25-7 in Washington, D.C. at Appalachia Rising, a mass mobilization calling for the abolition of mountaintop removal and surface mining. Appalachia Rising is is a national response to the poisoning of America’s water supply, the destruction of Appalachia’s mountains, head water source streams, and communities through mountaintop removal coal mining. It follows a long history of social action for a just and sustainable Appalachia.
    Appalachia Rising strives to unite coalfield residents, grass roots groups, individuals, and national organizations to call for the abolition of mountaintop removal coal mining and demand that America’s water be protected from all forms of surface mining.
    Appalachia Rising will consist of two events. First, the weekend conference, Sept. 25-26, Appalachia Rising, Voices from the Mountains will provide an opportunity to build or join the movement for justice in Appalachia through strategy discussions and share knowledge across regional and generational lines. The second event on Monday, Sept.27, is the Appalachia Rising Day of Action which will unify thousands in calling for an end to mountaintop removal and all forms of steep slope surface mining though a vibrant march and rally. An act of dignified non-violent civil disobedience will be possible for those who wish to express themselves by risking arrest.
    For more info, visit

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