CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- A documentary to air on Sunday will chronicle the division over mountaintop removal in Sharples, Logan County, for a national audience.
The hour-long "Battle for Blair Mountain: Working in America," hosted by Soledad O'Brien and produced by CNN, will premiere on the news network at 8 p.m. It will be shown again at 8 p.m. Aug. 20.
The story follows a self-proclaimed "coal family" as they stand up for their livelihood, neighbors who are against mountaintop removal, environmentalists, Environmental Protection Agency officials and former Gov. Joe Manchin, among others.
"It's a metaphor for what is the future of coal mining going to be in this community. It's not really about Blair Mountain. It's about what people value, what the future is going to be and the battle over jobs," O'Brien said in a phone interview.
"It's the story of Sharples told by the people who live there. That, to me, was the way to tell the story."
The documentary shows the fight as one between jobs and saving the environment.
The crew began filming in November or December, she said. Filming lasts about nine months per documentary. She made the trip to West Virginia four times, once even bringing her 10-year-old daughter.
"As we started shooting it, more and more of the news was happening," she said. "It suddenly made our story more dramatic."
Clips include the March to Blair Mountain, which took place in early June, the EPA's ruling that rescinded a coal company's permit for surface mining on Spruce 1 and rallies for coal in Washington, D.C.
At one point, O'Brien takes a helicopter ride over Logan County.
"It's beautiful," she said. "I've never hopped in a chopper and had a chance to fly over the mountains."
During the ride over the mountains, she saw the barren sites that remain where the tops of mountains were removed to reach the coal underneath. The documentary details the process of reclamation — rebuilding the mountain and streams hurt in the process.
Mountaintop removal became even more controversial when Michael Hendryx, a professor at West Virginia University featured in the documentary, released a study in July linking the process to health affects including higher cancer rates and birth defects. The quality of water in the area also has been questioned.
The documentary includes the research and says coal companies haven't released evidence to the contrary.
This was not O'Brien's first time in West Virginia — she has been to West Virginia University and The Greenbrier — but it was her first experience in coal country.
"I think most people will find it really interesting. Most people don't understand the battle that's going on in coal country; they don't understand the connection," she said. "We all use coal in some way; every time you flick on a light, there's coal. I don't think you have to live in coal country to understand it."
CNN worked to tell all sides of the story, she said.