Carey Grace Henson | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Carey Grace Henson

Carey Henson arrest in DC June 2012I was among seven people arrested in Congressman Hal Rogers's office on June 6 [2012]. As a mother of five this was a drastic decision, but one I felt was necessary to bring attention to the issues facing the people of Appalachia.

Day of Action

Carey Henson was one of 22 people arrested on June 6 in the offices of four members of Congress who defend the sacrifice of our water, land, health and heritage to protect coal company profits. Kentucky's 5th District, represented by Rep. Hal Rogers, leads the nation in mountaintop removal mining, while it is near the bottom in most economic and quality of life indicators. Seven were arrested in his office.

Read more about the Day of Action here and here.

Group in Hal Rogers office June 2012

 “If your government will not rise to the level of common decency, if it will not deal fairly, if it will not protect the land and people, if it will not fully and openly debate the issues, then you have to get in the government’s way. You have to forbid it to ignore you.”

Wendell Berry

My husband and I ache to raise our kids amongst their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, as we were brought up. We want them to be able to roam the hills, climb the trees, catch crawdads in the creeks, and fish in the rivers.

I love the mountains. It wrenches my heart to see the destruction caused by mountaintop removal coal mining. More than that, my children's heritage is in eastern Kentucky. My husband was born and raised in Lawrence County; most of his family still lives there. My two oldest also have a grandmother and other relatives in Harlan County.

Instead, my husband became part of the exodus of young people: he left home right after high school and we decided not to move back. There aren't enough good jobs to support a family of seven. Educational opportunities are limited. Good health care is hard to find. The air is full of coal dust. The water is contaminated by lead, mercury, selenium, and other toxins – even municipal systems. We could wake up one morning to find that the mountain behind us is being blasted away and our creek is being buried by “overburden”, as has happened to too many people we know. The threat to our children's well-being is too large.

Eastern Kentucky's elected officials could fix these problems, but too many are puppets of the coal industry. Instead of insisting that the Clean Water Act be enforced, Hal Rogers attacks the EPA and blames environmental regulators for the loss of coal jobs. That's simply not true.

Years before production slowed, the number of workers decreased because of mechanization. Recently the demand for coal has declined because natural gas is cheaper and cleaner. If Congressman Rogers is doing such a good job of bringing money to the region (he is the Prince of Pork, after all), then why is his district still one of the poorest in the nation? Why does it rank dead last among Congressional districts in physical health? Why has the cancer and birth defect rate increased so dramatically in areas with mountaintop removal? Why do Kentucky mine operators owe 40% of the nation's past-due fines for safety violations? Why are internationally owned companies allowed to mine without permits?

There is no “War on Coal”, there is a war on the people and land of Appalachia, and I occupied Rogers's office to demand that he do something about it, now.

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