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.

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Dendron, Va chooses its own future.

Cross-posted from the CCAN Blog

Dendron, Virginia, has more than its share of challenges. The community of around 300, located in the southern corner of Surry County, struggles with an outdated municipal water system, crumbling sidewalks and no major businesses within the town.

Prior to the Great Depression, Dendron had been a company town of more than 3,000, fueled by the lumber industry’s presence there. Private business thrived in a town that revolved around the processing and export of timber across the country. Despite its character as an industrial one-trick-pony, the town of Dendron had something to stand for, and an industry to be proud of.

Today’s Dendron little resembles that historic vision of the 1900’s boomtown. Largely forgotten by the industry that once supported a thriving community, and facing serious municipal and community problems, such as an unexpected $10,000 water bill, you’d think the small town would take anything at this point to give it an economic boost.

The Old Dominion Electric Cooperative assumed this to be true when executives within the cooperative approached Dendronites with a plan for a new 1,500-megawatt coal-fired power plant, the second largest of its kind in Virginia. ODEC presented the Cypress Creek project with the promise of new jobs, tax revenue, and the idea that one major industry would bring others to the cash-strapped community. Despite local environmental effects and immediate hazards to human health, ODEC worked to assure Dendron residents that they stood to benefit from such a plant’s construction. ODEC also assumed that they’d buy into it without any major hiccups.

The cooperative, which has endlessly dispelled misinformation concerning the proposed plant (see Hope for Surry Shines through smog, 3 June), encountered a major hiccup Monday evening. As the Dendron Town Council met for its second meeting to deliberate the adoption of an ordinance that would allow the coal-friendly county board of supervisors to assume the community’s zoning rights, tensions – and temperatures – began to rise in the small side room of the Dendron Volunteer Fire Department, the only building large enough to host the crowd of more than 100. Fans reading, “NO COAL PLANT,” undulated throughout, filling the room as it quickly approached capacity, and Mayor Yvonne Pierce called the meeting to order.

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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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An analysis of the latest climate bill

Posted on the No New Coal Listserv. The Bill itself is here. This bill is lame, will not save the climate, and should be vetoed. It wont be, im afraid, because big coal and big oil is very happy with it. The movement for real, just and effective climate solutions will have to get bigger, braver, and more creative now that our long awaited “bold climate legislation” is here, was crafted by the coal barons in DC (Rick Boucher has got to go!), and generally sucks.

A Common Person’s Guide to the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009

By Ted Glick, Policy Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network

On May 21st, following months of work, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA), a 932-page piece of climate legislation. There have been mixed reactions from environmental and climate groups, but most groups are in agreement that it needs to be strengthened going forward. For some groups the problems they see with the bill have led to their public withdrawal of support. These groups include Greenpeace USA, Public Citizen and Friends of the Earth. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network also does not support the bill in current form.

Below is a summary analysis of the main features of the bill.

Cap and Trade System: The bill would establish a “cap-and-trade” system which sets mandatory and declining limits on greenhouse gas emissions over the next 40 years. By 2050 it projects reductions of 83% from 2005 levels for the United States. It does this primarily through the establishment of 1) a “cap” on emissions and the annual issuance by the government of permits to emit greenhouse gases, both of which—the cap and the emissions permits–come down steadily year after year, and 2) a tradable market to buy and sell those permits to emit global warming pollution. That’s why it’s called a “cap-and-trade” system.

Wide-Open Buying and Selling: Significantly, this market is open to anyone, not just those entities which emit greenhouse gases. For example, Wall Street firms whose primary purpose is to make money for their investors can buy and sell pollution permits. Anyone, whether Goldman Sachs or John Q. Public, can get into this newly-created market. >From page 430 of the bill: “The privilege of purchasing, holding, selling, exchanging, transferring, and requesting retirement of emission allowances, compensatory allowances, or offset credits shall not be restricted to the owners and operators of covered entities, except as otherwise provided in this title.” Especially following the sub-prime mortgage/credit/banking crisis, there is concern among many people, including some on Capitol Hill, about the potential for this system to be abused by those out to make quick and big profits.

Goals and Targets: The document states that one of its prime objectives is to help the world “avoid atmosphere greenhouse gas concentrations above 450 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalent; and global surface temperature 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above the pre-industrial average.” However, a growing number of scientists, journalists and climate activists believe that we need to reduce emissions more deeply if we are to have a good chance of avoiding climate catastrophe.

2020 Targets: It projects a 17% reduction in greenhouse gases (ghg) from 2005 levels by 2020. This is about 3% below U.S. ghg levels in 1990; 1990 is the baseline year used by the nations of the world. There is an additional 10% reduction of ghg’s projected via investments in the prevention of deforestation outside the United States, and there could be a few percent more reductions through other means. This could add up to about a 20% reduction by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. The world’s international climate negotiators have called for industrialized countries to reduce their emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Upstream, Downstream: It appears that the cap is a mix of “upstream” and “downstream.” “Upstream” means the earliest point at which carbon fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) or other global warming pollutants enter the economy; “downstream” means at a point further along. Continue reading

Raising the Dead: Memorial Day Activists Jailed in Protest to Stop 998 Coal Sludge Deaths

Reposted from the Huffington Post. Check out Mountain Justice. for the latest! Original post by Jeff Biggers

In three separate direct actions in the West Virginia coalfields yesterday, nonviolent protesters launched the new phase of Operation Appalachian Spring, a growing national campaign to stop mountaintop removal mining and raise awareness of the catastrophic potential of government regulated blasting near a precarious coal sludge impoundment.

“The toxic lake at Brushy Fork dam sits atop a honeycomb of abandoned underground mines,”said Chuck Nelson, from Raleigh County, W.Va. “Massey wants to blast within 100 feet of that dam. The company’s own filings with the state Department of Environmental Protection project a minimum death toll of 998 should the seven-billion-gallon dam break. EPA should override the DEP and revoke this blasting permit for the safety of the community.” Nelson did not participate in the civil disobedience actions.

The nearby Shumate Dam sits a few football fields atop the Marsh Fork elementary school.

In a telling if not bizarre twist of violations and governmental priorities, Mountain Justice activists who floated a “West Virginia Says No More Toxic Sludge” banner atop the toxic multi-billion gallon Brushy Fork slurry impoundment were arrested for “littering.”

Still unable to make bail, nine of the 17 arrested protesters are being held on trespassing charges at the Southern Regional Jail in Beckley, West Virginia. In an extraordinary move to crack down on the protesters, nine violators were given a cash bail of $2000 a piece, which, according to the organizers, prohibits a bail bondsman deposit and requires full payment.

Donations for the activists’ emergency bail fund can be made at a paypal link at: www.mountainjustice.org

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Rising Tide Disrupts Coal-to-Liquid Conference in DC

Rising Tide strikes again. Coal to liquids is a disgrace, and a last ditch effort by the coal industry to save its dying corpse. Let the fossil fools pass, their time is up.

Activists expose coal-to-liquids as a false solution
DC Rising Tide disrupt and denounce coal conference

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Washington, DC. – Local activists with DC Rising Tide and their allies interrupted a coal industry conference today to denounce coal-to-liquids as a corporate scam that would continue the destructive path of the fossil fuel industry.

“ We have had enough of corporations trying to keep us hooked on polluting fossil fuels. They seek to profit from climate change and the destruction of Appalachia.” said  Amanda Duzak of Rising Tide.

Activists stood in the audience and loudly presented speeches to refute the statements of coal and oil executives from Chevron, World Coal Institute, World Petroleum Council and Consol Energy.  The advocates of clean energy called for an end to the use of fossil fuels and for adoption of clean, renewable, community-based energy sources. Protesters deployed banners in the conference to highlight that “Coal kills” and “Coal takes lives” and we need “Renewable energy now.”

“Pound for pound coal produces more CO2 than almost any other form of energy production. If we’re serious about tackling climate change, we absolutely must stop mining and burning coal. Coal to liquids technology is a step in the wrong direction for our air, water and climate.” said Michael Weber of Rising Tide

The activists explained that even if the unproven, expensive, and dangerous carbon capture and storage techniques were in place, coal-to-liquids technology, which would convert coal to oil for transportation, would generate twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as oil.  It would also lead to an increase in coal mining that destroys rivers and mountains and threatens community health.

“Its time to stop investing in false solutions. We are facing a climate crisis. It is time to stand up and fight for a sustainable future.”  said Emma Cassidy of DC Rising Tide.

Rising Tide DC is a grassroots group of activists working towards climate justice by debunking false solutions and advocating a community-based, clean energy future.