Tree Sit Halts the Blasting on Coal River Mountain

Cross Posted from Climate Ground Zero
Tree Sit Halts the Blasting on Coal River Mountain
Thursday, January 21st, 2010
posted by sophie

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JANUARY 21, 2010
Contact: Kim Ellis – 304 854 7372
Email: news@climategroundzero.org
Note: http://www.climategroundzero.org and http://www.mountainjustice.org

“Coal River Mountain was the last mountain around here that hasn’t been touched and they could’ve been using it for windmills…But Massey wants to get that coal. It seems like they just don’t care about the populace. Just the land and their checkbook.”
– Richard Bradford

MARFORK, W.Va. – Protestors associated with Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice halted blasting on Coal River Mountain today with a three-person tree-sit.  David Aaron Smith, 23, Amber Nitchman, 19 and Eric Blevins, 28 are on platforms approximately 60 feet up two tulip poplar trees and one oak tree.  They are located next to where Massey Energy is blasting to build an access road to the Brushy Fork Impoundment on its Bee Tree Strip Mine.  Their banners state: “Save Coal River Mtn.,” “EPA Stop the Blasting” and “Windmills Not Toxic Spills.”

“Massey Energy is a criminal corporation with over 4,500 documented violations of the Clean Water Act, yet the government has given them permission to blast next to a dam full of toxic coal waste that will kill 998 people if it fails.” said Blevins. This action comes at the heels of a rigorously peer-reviewed study published in Science Magazine which states “Mining permits are being issued despite the preponderance of scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and that mitigation cannot compensate for the losses.”

The sitters are calling for the EPA to put an end to mountaintop removal and encourage the land-holding companies to develop clean energy production.  The lack of EPA enforcement in mountaintop removal encouraged Josh Graupera, 19, member of the support team, to take part in this action “I knew that until I took an active role in the struggle to end MTR, I was passively condoning the poisoning and displacement of countless communities and in the obliteration of one of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on this continent.” Graupera said. Nitchman added, “I act out of personal concern for the safety of water from toxic sludge, air from smog, and mountains from annihilation.”

The Brushy Fork Impoundment is permitted to contain over nine billion gallons of the toxic coal waste, and currently contains 8.2 billion gallons.  Brushy Fork’s foundation is built on a honeycomb of abandoned underground mines. If the foundation were to collapse the slurry would blow out from all sides of the mountain.   According to Marfork Coal Co.’s emergency warning plan regarding the impoundment, in case of a frontal dam breach, a 40 ft wall of sludge, 72 ft at its peak height, would engulf communities as far as 14 miles away.

“Brushy Fork sludge dam places the downstream communities in imminent danger. The threat of being inundated by a wall of toxic sludge is always present.  Blasting next to this dam increases the risk as well as destroying the opportunity for renewable wind energy,” said Coal River Mountain Watch’s Vernon Haltom. According to the Coal River Wind Project, the wind energy produced by a turbine farm on Coal River Mountain could power 70,000 homes, provide more permanent jobs for local residents and annually bring over a million more dollars in tax breaks revenue to Raleigh County than coal currently does.

The sitters plan to remain in the trees as long as it takes to stop blasting on Coal River Mountain. Climate Ground Zero’s action campaign, begun in February of last year, has kept up a sustained series of direct actions since that time continuing decades-long resistance to strip mining in Appalachia.

West Virginia Blue:: Does “Clean Coal” make economic sense?

An excellent post by Clem Guttata over at West Virginia Blue. The short answer to the question is Hell No, coal aint economical and its tearing up our mountains, time to move on!

Does “Clean Coal” make economic sense?

by: Clem Guttata

Sun Dec 13, 2009 at 18:08:43 PM EST

By Clem GuttataI posted a version of this diary at DailyKos on Saturday morning. Thank you to everyone who engaged in a constructive dialogue on the topic there and on Facebook over the weekend.


If you’re not really sure what “Clean Coal” is, that’s easily forgiven. Clean Coal has meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Many decades ago, one enterprising company sold “clean coal” that burned with less smoke in your home heating furnace. Today, the term usually refers to carbon capture and storage (CCS) or coal-to-liquid fuel (CTL).

The Obama administration and leading figures in Congress are still pushing for tens of billions of dollars of investments in “cleaner coal.” With a pause in consideration on the energy and climate change legislation, it’s a good time to ask… just what we would we get in return for that investment?

:::

For those who like to cut to the chase, here’s the short answer. Carbon capture and storage is risky and expensive. Coal to liquid only makes sense if you ignore carbon emissions or if expect we’ll lose access to foreign sources of oil. But, read on. There’s another major challenge you probably aren’t aware of.

As a starting point, read what James B. Meigs writes in Popular Mechanics, “The Myth of Clean Coal: Analysis”

Sadly, although it might make little economic or scientific sense, the political logic behind clean coal is overwhelming. Coal is mined in some politically potent states-Illinois, Montana, West Virginia, Wyoming-and the coal industry spends millions on lobbying. The end result of the debate is all too likely to resemble Congress’s corn-based ethanol mandates: legislation that employs appealing buzzwords to justify subsidies to a politically favored constituency-while actually worsening the problem it seeks to solve.

The Meigs piece is good at laying out the basics of carbon capture and storage, but an even more detailed look at the economics is provided by Richard Heinberg, writing for the Solutions Journal. (All emphasis in quotes is mine.)

The “clean coal” argument runs like this: America is brimming with cheap coal, which provides almost half our electricity and is the most carbon-intensive of the conventional fossil fuels. The nation will need an enormous amount of energy over the next few decades, but renewable sources just aren’t ready to provide all-or even the bulk-of that energy. Meanwhile, preventing catastrophic climate change requires that we stop venting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is possible to capture and store the CO2 that would otherwise be emitted from burning coal, and elements of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology are already in use on a small scale. Put all of these factors together and the case for government funding of research and development of “clean coal” seems strong.However, several recent studies of US coal supplies suggest that much that we think we know about coal is wrong. If these studies are correct, the argument for investing in “clean coal” becomes tenuous on economic grounds alone. These studies call into question the one “fact” that both pro-coal and anti-coal lobbies have taken for granted: that the US has a virtually limitless supply of cheap coal.

Back in April, Democrat Rep. Nick Rahall (WV-03), spoke to this unpleasant truth. He noted “the state’s most productive coal seams likely will be exhausted in 20 years.” The backlash from in-state coal interests was strong. Rahall has not spoken about coal supplies since, and for that brief moment of truth his consequence is a coal-industry funded primary challenger.

USGS Chapter H Figure 11 on Flickr

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Growing in Community

This is a repost from Casaubon’s Book, a blog I perennially return to for inspiration and deep analysis of the nitty gritty reality of living at Peak Civ. She offers an analysis of the hard corner our society has backed itself into  It encoI really like this post for its encouraging words of DIY, just Do It, there is support in your community, you must only find itur, using the right search light, of course.

 

Growing in Community

Sharon November 5th, 2009

I think the question of land access may end up being the central political issue of the coming century.  In both the rich world and the poor world, we’ve systematically deprived people of easy access to land.  We have driven up the price of land in the rich world by encouraging sprawl, and thus forced out agrarian populations that previous fed cities.  We have pushed people into cities in the name of globalization and industrialization, and claimed their land for speculation.  The system is no longer working very well – there are now a billion hungry people, and the bust cycle is upon us – but land access remains constrained.  The poor sent to cities who can find no jobs can’t go home again in many cases.  The moderate income people who need land most to sustain their families no longer have access to the credit necessary since prices were artificially raised.

As time goes on and energy and resources are more constrained, the anger of people who cannot access land against those who can is likely to be an issue – it always has been through human history.  We have pretended over the decades that land was no longer wealth, that there could be such a thing as an information economy, but we are still caught in the old material economy, where the earth and its resources are the root source of our wealth – and they are increasingly controlled by fewer and fewer people, who care little about the future.  This makes those without access angry indeed.

But as yet, most people at least in the rich world, do not see these issues as political – whether you can afford to buy a small house with enough dirt under it to feed your family regardless of the state of the economy is deemed to be a purely personal question.

So we are brought to the question – how do you grow food if you don’t own land, or don’t own enough land?  How do we get access to land if we are poor, or if prices are out of our range?  I meet people by the dozens and hundreds who want to own land, who are saving for a day that may or may not come – and it is good that they are. But not owning land is not, for most of us, the end of the story – but the beginning.  If you want to grow and don’t own, there are places to begin.

Whatever you do, remember that allies are the key to success – you can do many of these things alone, but you don’t have to.  Chances are that if you care about the beauty and food security of your neighborhood, at least a few other people do too.  If you’d like a garden, a few other people may never have thought about it, but would be glad to see one and would like to help.  If you are struggling with landlessness, look around you and see who else needs access to land – poor college students, immigrants, the working poor – all people who may well want to grow, even need to, but can’t do it by owning land.  Seek allies among the powerful – sometimes they don’t care, but surprisingly often, they get it – they care about food security, they just haven’t had someone pushing them to put it on the priority list. It may not be as hard as you think to change the zoning laws, to get that land reallocated, to resist development, to start an easement program, etc…  Civic engagement counts.

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Honest reflections on Riot Porn, Goals, Strategy, Hope and The Better World

From Ryan Harvey with RiotFolk 

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By: Ryan Harvey – September 24, 2009

Original Link Here

My decision to release this writing took me some time to consider, but I think it’s for the best. If you disagree with this, that’s good. It means you are thinking critically at least. I want this to be taken seriously, it’s something that has been brewing in me for a very long time, and this is the first real attempt, besides my DNC/RNC writing last year, to convey my thoughts on this subject…

The G20 is upon us, and though BBC world news featured some of “the troubles” in Pittsburgh, on the ground reports hardly match up with the media-inflation, police-inflation, and activist-inflation of the actual thing.

As is often the case, the media makes things look a whole lot crazier than they actually are, if it’s in the interests of higher ratings. And though most Americans if surveyed would be against rioting, they love to watch it on TV. So the media is hyping the G20 protests up enough to get some extra points, but not enough to anger their parent companies.

The police of course have to inflate the threats posed by relatively small numbers of protestors to justify the gigantic amount of city, state and federal tax-payer money used to buy new weapons, vehicles, chemical munitions, and armor. They get to keep all these goodies to use against whomever crosses their path in the future. So little pebbles getting tossed at robo-cops become boulders and little marches becoming security threats.

To match these two forces, the protest groups, especially my own comrades in the anarchist groups, inflate their stories, numbers, and actions to try to gain support and build momentum, and to make them feel better. So a dumpster getting rolled down a street into an intersection will be heroized in well-designed pamphlets to come and talked about for years the way my generation still talks about the fence-chasing incident at A16, (World Bank/IMF protests on April 16, 2000 in DC).

What is so crazy about all of this, this inflation, is that it doesn’t seem to help. As an organizer with a decade of experience in all types of work, from anarchist organizations to peace groups to labor organizing, I don’t think over-hyping our actions does anything for us. In fact, I think it works to our disadvantage. It adds to a culture of dishonesty, of not addressing our short-comings, of not reflecting and refining our work.

Now Pittsburgh had a crowd of 4,000-10,000 people according to different reports. While this is a big number in general, it’s not so big compared to public opinions on such issues at the bailout, corporate executive bonuses, or the global economic order in general. Most folks in the U.S. are pretty angry, from the far left to the independent right/libertarians. Instead of congratulating ourselves on a “large turnout”, we should be asking why it wasn’t nearly size of most anti-war demonstrations that have happened. Continue reading

Four Lock Down to Coal Truck on Kanawha County Strip Site

Climate Ground Zero Strikes Again!

QUARRIER, W.Va.- Four protestors locked down to a coal truck entering a mine site in the vicinity of Quarrier and Decota at 7 a.m. this morning. Four other protestors joined them on the Kanawha County site, hanging two banners; one across the haul road and another on the back of the truck. The first banner read “Stop,” the second “Stop Mountaintop Removal.”

The nonviolent protestors intend to remain locked to the coal truck until law enforcement removes them. They have taken this action to highlight the detrimental effects of mountaintop removal mining, including its lack of economic sustainability.

“By blocking this road, we aim to bring attention not only to Appalachia’s disappearing mountains, but also to its disappearing job market,” said Jonathon Irwin, 23.

The highly active site is near Cabin Creek and Paint Creek, an area rich in union history. Continue reading

Virginian’s Take a Stand on Dumping Mine Waste in Appalachian Streams

Here’s a quick and dirty personal report from the Nation Wide Permit – 21 public hearing held in Big Stone Gap, Va a week ago. The Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comment on their proposal to discontinue the use of this permit, which allows coal companies to receive permits for surface mining and the subsequent dumping of mine waste into valley fills without doing an environmental impact statement or holding public hearings. There is also a video put together by Appalachian Voices. You can still comment on the Army Corp’s proposal here. I’ve pasted some reasons you can mention in your comments for why the NWP-21s should not be used any more.

From the Virginia NWP-Hearing

From the West Virginia NWP-Hearing 

Personal report:

There were probably around 700 people total, at least 500 on the industry side, many with black t-shirts with catchy slogans about how coal wont kill people and stuff. They were intimidating, and at the beginning heckled, booed, and threw stuff at our speakers. But, fairly soon into it all, the Army Corps chair of the meeting put his foot down and said we’re gonna keep it civil while people are speaking, and so it was for the most part after that. 

By the end of the night, the room was pretty close to half industry and half not industry supporters. A lot of us walked away feeling pretty good, even victorious. We had stayed civil and respectable, made solid comments that stayed on topic, in the face of ugliness from folks who talked about lots of things besides whether the Corps should suspend the use of NWP 21s.

It was not the craziness of Charleston or Ky, and sounds something akin to Knoxville. We had peacekeepers with white bandannas, we had food that the volunteer house here in APpalachia cooked for everybody. Kathy Selvage and Pete Ramey took the worst from the industry folks, and by the time the endless stream of Virginia Tech students calling for an abolition of climate changing coal said their piece, many of the miners had left for home.  

 

 

Some points you can make when making comments to the Army Corps of Engineers at their online comment area are:

1. I applaud the Army Corps of Engineers for its proposal to end the use of the one-size-fits-all NWP 21 permit which allows for a streamlined approval of mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia. For decades, mountaintop removal and valleyfills have had a devastating impact on local communities, the economy, and our environment.

2. NWP 21 for permitting mountaintop removal mining should apply to the entire Appalachian region, including northern Alabama. Failure to do so might lead the coal industry to simply relocate operations to those areas with the most lenient permitting process.  
3. No grandfathering of permits should be allowed. Past permits should be reviewed to make sure they meet the spirit and intent of the Clean Water Act.

4. NWP 21 should never have been issued, because filling these streams has more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.

5.  The use of NWP 21 is a violation of the Clean Water Act because it is suppose to be used for activities that produce “no significant environmental impact” and the destruction of entire mountains and mountain ranges cannot be considered an insignificant environmental impact.

6. EPA’s own scientists have determined that mountaintop removal and other surface coal mining activities authorized by NWP 21 are causing cumulatively significant degradation of streams and forests in Appalachia – including the destruction of ecologically valuable headwater streams and the pollution of downstream waters.

7. The Corps has long recognized that “the purpose of the NWP program is to reduce regulatory delays and burdens on the public, to place greater reliance on state and local controls, and to free our limited
resources for more effective regulation of other activities with greater potential to adversely impact the aquatic environment.” 56 Fed. Reg. 14, 598—14, 605 (Apr. 10, 1991).

 Possible points to make about this:

a. Constantly fighting coal companies and failed agencies to protect our homes, lives, water, and communities is a much greater burden on
the public.

b.  We have no state or local controls.  WVDEP is a failed agency that fails to control illegal coal company activity.

c.  Nothing adversely impacts the aquatic environment more than burying it.

8. The impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining are significant and permanent, the ArmyCorps should not issue any additional authorizations under NWP 21 while the agency finalizes the process of modifying the permit to prohibit its use in Appalachia.

9. The way the ACOE conducted these hearings was illegal and some of the public hearings amounted to sanctioned riots which coal supporters attended solely to disrupt. By failing to control the meeting process so that all in attendance had equal opportunity to testify, the Corpsbecame a party to the denial of these first amendment rights. The Corps should reschedule these meetings and conduct them in an orderly fashion that protects the first amendment rights of all citizens.

Update from Coal River Mountain Action

Coal River Valley Residents Declare State of Emergency, Meet with Governor Joe Manchin; Seven Sit-In at Governor’s Office

IMG_5632Coal River Valley residents and supporters associated with Mountain Justice and Climate Ground Zero delivered a letter to Governor’s Manchin’s office in the State Capitol building at 12:15 p.m. today. The statement from Coal River Valley residents calls on Manchin to use his executive powers to halt mountaintop removal mining operations on Coal River Mountain, one of the last intact mountains remaining in the Coal River Valley area.


Governor Manchin met the letter deliverers in the antechamber of his office and spoke with Lorelei Scarbro of Rock Creek and Chuck Nelson of Glen Daniel. As of 2:30 p.m. seven young people are sitting in the antechamber, refusing to leave until Manchin moves to halt MTR on Coal River Mountain or they are forcibly removed. Security guards conveyed to them that they have permission to remain until the close of normal business hours at 5 p.m..

“We are delivering this letter to our governor with residents of the Coal River Valley,” said Miranda Miller and Angela Wiley of Morgantown, W.Va., two of the seven sitters, “We are West Virginia citizens standing in solidarity with the people who submitted comments for this letter, voicing their concerns on the dangers of blasting on Coal River Mountain.
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For years, local residents have expressed their concerns over the long-term health effects of their proximity to coal mining and processing operations, while scientists have stated that it devastates local ecosystems and contaminates groundwater with carcinogens and heavy metals. One of the most imminent dangers associated with the proposed Coal River Mountain operation Continue reading