Coal River Valley, West Virginia is a community surrounded by lush mountains and a looming toxic threat. ON COAL RIVER follows a former miner and his neighbors in a David-and-Goliath struggle for the future of their valley, their children, and life as they know it.
Ed Wiley once worked at the same coal waste facility that now threatens his
granddaughter’s elementary school. When his local government refuses to act, Ed embarks on a quest to have the school relocated to safer ground. With insider knowledge and a sharp sense of right and wrong, Ed confronts his local school board, the state government, and a notorious coal company – Massey Energy – for putting his granddaughter and his community at risk.
Along the way, Ed is supported by his neighbors Bo and Judy, who are locked in their own battle with Massey Energy over their practice of “mountaintop removal” – blowing up mountains to extract coal. Together, Bo and Judy help Ed bring attention to the dangers at Marsh Fork Elementary, hoping that if they save the school, they can save the valley.
ON COAL RIVER is proud to have contributed to greater public awareness and policy maker scrutiny on the issues of mountaintop removal and coal slurry injection. The film screened in the US Capitol June 24 2010, sponsored by two members of Congress. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) personnel with authority over mountaintop removal were in the audience and said afterwards they were quite impacted by the film. One mining regulator commented that the film “hit him in the gut.”
ON COAL RIVER elicited public statements about mountaintop removal from celebrities Josh Lucas, Gloria Reuben, Woody Harrelson, and Hugh Jackman. Gloria Reuben personally gave her copy of ON COAL RIVER to Lisa Jackson, head of the US EPA. Shortly after our AFI/Discovery Channel – SILVERDOCS premiere, we helped facilitate an ongoing collaboration between Coal River Valley schools and the prestigious Sidwell School of Washington, DC, where President Obama’s daughters attend school.
In addition to the film, many non-profit organizations and individual activists have done a tremendous amount of work on the issue in the last few years. Although mountaintop removal has not yet been outlawed, the EPA is regulating the practice more closely, and a West Virginia state ban on the practice of underground slurry injection will soon be up for a vote.
Directors: Adams Wood and Francine Cavanaugh, Downriver Media
775 Haywood Road, Suite F, Asheville, NC 28806 USA
P: 1 (828) 230-7315,
By Jason Peters