Activists Drape 25-Foot Banner On EPA Building, Call on EPA to Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining

Original Post and more pictures

BOSTON, MA – Activists with Rising Tide draped a 25-foot banner reading, “Mountain Top Removal Kills Communities: EPA No New Permits. MountainJustice.org” on 1 North Congress St., at the intersection of2a

New Chardon Street and Congress Street, at the downtown offices of the Environmental Protection Agency this morning. The group is urging the agency to block over 150 pending permits for mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia.

“Mountaintop removal is destroying our nation’s most diverse forests and historic communities,” said Alex Johnston, a Rising Tide activist. “President Obama and the EPA need to take immediate action to stop the bulldozers from destroying America’s oldest mountains and Appalachians homes.”

This act of peaceful protest comes just days after top NASA climate scientist, James Hansen, actress Darryl Hannah, and 29 others were arrested as they protested mountaintop removal mining in southern West Virginia.2 On June 18, 14 concerned citizens entered onto Massey Energy’s mountaintop removal mine site near Twilight, WV. Four of them scaled a 150-foot dragline and unfurled a 15×150 foot banner that said, “Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining”, while nine others deployed a 20×40 foot banner on the ground at the site which read,”Stop Mountaintop Removal: Clean Energy Now.”

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EPA Releases Locations of 44 “High Risk” Coal Ash Sites

Written by Peebles Squire, cross-posted from the CCAN blog.
EPA LogoYesterday, the EPA performed a turn-around on its protection of the locations of 44 “high risk” coal ash impoundment sites, signaling a desire to make the regulatory body more transparent. Formerly protected under the auspices of national security, the ash impoundments, located in Ohio, Arizona, and throughout the southeast, have been determined to be particularly vulnerable to failure. In a time where the future of American energy remains stuck between antiquated fossil fuels and cleaner, renewable technology, concerns over proper disposal of coal ash has risen to the top of the debate, particularly after last December’s TVA sludge disaster in Roane County, Tennessee.

The reason behind this concern is, of course, fairly easy to identify. Coal slurry ponds, which may hold several billion gallons of the toxic sludge, are typically held in place by earthen dams made of rock and other fill material. While typically sturdy, history has shown us that these dams are definitely prone to failure, especially when not regulated properly. In fact, the dangers surrounding slurry dams have been well known and well documented for decades. West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek Flood of 1972 destroyed over 500 homes with a 30-foot high, 132 million gallon wave of the toxic stuff. When blasting occurs near these ponds (as it does near Marsh Fork Elmentary in Sunrise, WV), the risk becomes intensified as nearby shockwaves may threaten the structural integrity of the dam.

Marsh Fork Elementary School and a neighboring sludge pond.

Fly ash, though dry and therefore less at risk to flooding, presents just as serious a hazard to the local ecosystem, including surrounding communities, wildlife, and groundwater reserves. Fly ash is stored in landfills, most of which are lined, but all of which are failure-prone. Particles in the air, blown from these ash impoundments, can cause serious health problems such as asthma and other respiratory diseases. Like wet slurry, fly ash contains a cocktail of harmful heavy metals and other contaminants that present a serious threat to the local and regional ecosystem… and to human health.

“CCRs [coal combustion residues] contain a broad range of metals, for example, arsenic, selenium, cadmium, lead, and mercury, but the concentrations of these are generally low. However, if not properly managed, (for example, in lined units), CCRs may cause a risk to human health and the environment and, in fact, EPA has documented cases of environmental damage“ (courtesy EPA.gov).

The collection and storage of coal ash is but one piece in a larger fossil fuel regime that thrives on the continued exploitation of the United States’ natural, non-renewable resources, known to cause significant air pollution and contribute to global climate change. The coal extraction, combustion, and disposal process is among the most destructive practices in human history, and with the continued popularity of mountaintop removal mining, the coal industry goes so far as to threaten the geography of Appalachia itself.

The EPA has made positive steps in naming these so-called high-risk sites, but seems to be avoiding tackling the bigger picture; coal is an unsustainable resource that is dirty, harmful, and dangerous. While 44 of these impoundment sites may be deemed more at-risk than others, the fact remains that anywhere coal is extracted, burned, or stored, safety is a non-issue, because coal is not, and never will be, “safe.”

President Obama, who has so far struggled with fulfilling his promise of increased transparency and accountability within government, has made significant forward progress by allowing the release of these 44 sites. However, the larger issue of formulating an American energy future – one without coal – rests untackled. As long as coal is allowed to thrive in Appalachia, the Midwest, and elsewhere, American citizens will remain at risk. The fossil fuel industry represents an old and outdated way of thinking: the idea that our actions now will bear no consequence on the future. We have now stepped healthily into the 21st century, largely thankful to the energy that fossil fuels of yore have given us, and as we continue to evolve as a species and a society, we are charged with abandoning a tradition that will serve no other end but to continue to harm Americans.

President Obama, Congress, and the EPA, if we are to bring the United States into a clean energy future, one that emphasizes the importance of renewable technologies, green jobs, and energy that is free of filthy, harmful substances, then we must see a real effort to focus on goals that do not give coal a future in the grid. The EPA seems to think that the term, “high risk,” should be reserved for a mere 44 out of the hundreds of slurry ponds and fly ash fills that sprinkle the American landscape. A more appropriate move would be to extend the “high risk” moniker to its proper breadth, across the entire industry.

No Coal Plant!

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Three weeks ago I was down in Dendron, Va for the town council hearing about rezoning the land this plant would be built on. Tensions are high there, and the town is really split, in an almost ugly way, over the prospect of a new behemoth neighbor at the edge of town. Stay tuned to this as it develops, it could be big.


Posted On: 6/23/2009

Surry’s Regeneration


How the tiny town of Dendron has become ground zero in the nation’s energy crisis.
by Peter Galuszka

Bess Richardson worries a proposed coal-fired electrical plant will belch filth onto her neighborhood, including the 250-year-old oak that shades her yard. Photo by Scott Elmquist

A gigantic 250-year-old oak dominates Bess Richardson’s white frame house in the tiny town of Dendron, population 300, in Surry County. Richardson, who’s lived in Dendron for 29 years, says she loves the town’s quaintness and neighborly appeal. But like a number of houses here, hers has a black sign reading “No Coal Plant” next to her driveway. “I hope it doesn’t come here,” she says. “The technology doesn’t exist yet to make it clean.”

She’s referring to the $6 billion proposal by Henrico County-based Old Dominion Electric Cooperative to build a pair of 750-megawatt coal-fired generating stations that could forever change Dendron, about 45 miles southeast of Richmond. Tall towers hundreds of feet high will belch pollution including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and mercury.

If built, Cypress Creek Power Station would be the second largest of its kind in the state. It would instantly become the state’s sixth-biggest air polluter, according to an official with the state Department of Environmental Quality. Coal trains would clatter past along a new rail spur from Norfolk Southern’s coal mainline to Norfolk. Water for steam would be pumped 15 miles from the James River and heated water would be pumped back into the river. Fly ash from the coal will be buried on the project’s 1,600-acre site, not far from the town’s well water supply, says Helen Eggleston, a Dendron resident who is a member of the grass-roots group Coalition for a Cleaner Surry.

The bucolic setting has become the latest battleground in a national struggle between electric utilities attempting to build new coal-fired plants to boost generating capacity and increasingly well-organized environmental groups that oppose them.

The plants are dirty, contribute to global warming and promote the destruction of Central Appalachia through mountaintop-removal coal mining methods, says Glenn Besa of the Richmond chapter of the Sierra Club.

Utilities say coal already provides more than half of the country’s generating capacity, and that giant coal-fired plants can generate great amounts of electricity more reliably than greener alternatives such as wind turbines.

Few people question the local economic benefits the plant would provide. If the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative gets the 50 permits it needs and construction begins in 2012, thousands of construction workers would swarm to Dendron. The plant would have a permanent work force of 200. Surry has a per capita income of about $16,000 — about $10,000 less than suburban Henrico — so the “tens of millions of dollars” the plant would provide would be welcome, says Tyrone W. Franklin, Surry County’s administrator. Nor is Surry a stranger to huge power stations. Since the early 1970s, Dominion Resources has operated a twin-unit nuclear power plant in Surry, just a few miles away on the James River, not far from Jamestown and Williamsburg.

Officials with Old Dominion Electric Cooperative declined to be interviewed and did not respond to a detailed list of questions. Its literature says the plant is needed to help Virginia’s projected gap of 4,000 megawatts of needed electrical generating power by 2016. The cooperative serves 11 nonprofit electrical cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, located primarily in rural areas. It would be the cooperative’s first solo foray into coal-fired generation. It’s also part-owner of a coal-fired plant in Halifax County that Dominion Resources operates.

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James Hansen, Darryl Hannah, Former Congressman Arrested Protesting Mountaintop Removal


Hundreds of anti-mountaintop removal activists gathered today at the Marsh Fork Elementary in Sundial, WV, deep in the Appalachian mountains. Hundreds of pro-coal counter protesters also turned out, resulting in constant interruption of speakers and musical performers and culminating in charges of battery against a local woman who struck Goldman Environmental Prize winner Judy Bonds in the face.

Check out Climate Ground Zero for pictures and updates, Jeff Biggers always excellent article for more info.

You can check the Charleston Gazette for more info — including a brief video.

Footage and Comments from Folks On Massey Dragline Protest in Boone Co. Wv yesterday

Also check out mountain action for more updates and information and photographs from the action yesterday. Stay tuned for next weeks action at Marsh Fork with James Hansen and Mountain Justice


I especially want to send this to people who don’t know us personally and so may not be completely sure of our peaceful intentions and excellent preparations, so pls pass on.

First of all, I was there in the protest the whole time acting as “medic” and talked with several workers and police about the man who was ill. (I’m a qualified EMT by the way)

When we first noticed someone was sitting on the ground and being attended to, we had already been detained and were sitting in a group behind the drag line main body where the police cars were. Including the time before the police came and eventually put us into custody, this was already at least two hours from the start of the thing when we approached the machine and it’s workers.

I did my best to observe the man tho he was on the front side in front of the right foot which was up off the ground giving 3-4 feet of view under it. I saw a worker by him apparently checking the man’s vitals. That was the most of the care they gave him over at least an hour’s time, as far as I could tell.

I asked several workers over that time what happened to him and was told at least twice by different workers that he had had a stroke in February and wasn’t feeling good. I asked one of the sheriff’s about him and offered my help as an EMT if there was any need. They said they thought he’d be fine and refused my offer. Worker’s I asked how the man was doing also said he’d be fine.

After over an hour, as much as 1 1/2 hours I’d say, they put a blanket around him, brought an oxygen bottle to him and got him on a small stretcher and carried him into a van to drive off. I never got to see his face and did not see any oxygen being delivered. They said they were waiting on an ambulance but apparently decided to move him themselves since it was taking so long.

Sooooo, the very first time anybody said anything about him being assaulted and this leading to a hospital visit was from Massey’s PR people thru the media with support of a mine inspector who claims they saw it all but whose story has changed and won’t give their name and be interviewed by the press. We were not even handcuffed until the state trooper got there much later than the sheriffs.

I’ll leave y’all to your own conclusions but just say from my perspective that it’s pretty damned low to be using a person with a serious health condition as a propaganda tool. But then Massey is in the business of death. We just have to be prepared to deal w/ such scummy tactics forthrightly and w/ trust in our people.

14 arrested for shutting down massive dragline on MTR site in West Virginia

14 people were arrested today at the Twilight coal mine run by Massey Energy for shutting down the massive dragline on site. As dawn broke a group of 14 people approached the dragline. As part of the group gained the attention of the operator to get him to shut down the machine, a 4 person climb team ascended the 200 foot boom.

Suspended hundreds of feet in the air the climbers began to unfurl an enourmous banner reading, “Stop Mountaintop Removal”. On the ground the rest of the team was ensuring the safety of the climbers and everyone on site as well as unfurling other banners. After about an hour police came in and arrested those on the ground.

The climbers managed to hang on for another couple hours until workers climbed the draglines boom and began to threaten the safety of the climbers by approaching their climb gear. At this point the climbers decided to come down rather than risk their lives at the hands of aggressive workers. Continue reading

Alabama coal mining company sued over slain Colombian unionists

Original article:
http://www.southernstudies.org/2009/06/alabama-coal-mining-company-sued-over-slain-colombian-unionists.html

Alabama coal mining company sued over slain Colombian unionists

drummond_protest.jpgIn a case that gives a whole new meaning to the term “dirty coal,” a federal lawsuit filed last week against the Drummond Co. of Birmingham, Ala. alleges that the coal company paid millions of dollars to a Colombian paramilitary terrorist group responsible for the deaths of 67 people in an effort to disrupt union activities at its South American mine and railway operations.

This is the third lawsuit the privately held company has faced over charges of being involved in human rights abuses in civil war-torn Colombia. A similar suit filed in 2007 by a Colombian labor union and families of murdered miners ended with a verdict for Drummond. Earlier this year, the company was also sued by children of three slain Colombian miners.

Brought by the Conrad & Scherer firm of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the latest lawsuit accuses Drummond of paying the right-wing United Self Defense Forces of Colombia — known by its Spanish acronym AUC — to protect its business interests by terrorizing and killing union supporters. The suit offers details on a meeting between Drummond and AUC representatives during which the company allegedly ordered the execution of two union leaders.

“The 60-page complaint outlines allegation after allegation of brutality, describing how hundreds of men, women and children were terrorized in their homes, on their way to and from work, and often murdered by AUC paramilitaries acting on behalf of Drummond,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Terry Collingsworth. “These are innocent people being killed in or near their homes or kidnapped to never to return home, their spouses and children being beaten and tied up, and people being pulled off buses and summarily executed on the spot.”

The civil action was filed on behalf of 252 plaintiffs who are relatives of the 67 victims; the plaintiffs’ names are being withheld to prevent reprisals against them. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama’s Western Division.

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