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

Contact: Kim Ellis – 304 854 7372
Note: and

“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.


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.

Judge shuts down Massey protesters’ arguments

This is cross posted from the Coal Tattoo blog by Ken Ward Jr., one I’ve really come to rely on for news from coal country recently. The end of the post is spot on though. They will not stop. Jail will not stop them, arrests will not stop them. Ending Mountaintop removal, will stop them.

Judge shuts down Massey protesters’ arguments
by Ken Ward Jr.


Photo by Antrim Caskey

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Anti-mountaintop removal protesters showed up to court ready to put on a show this morning. Many of the protesters and their supporters were sporting red bandanas as they prepared to argue against a long-term court order against their peaceful civil disobedience campaign.

But Raleigh Circuit Judge Robert Burnside shut down many of the legal arguments the protesters hoped to make, and made it clear he doesn’t want his courtroom to be used to debate the pros and cons of mountaintop removal coal mining.

“The question of whether mountaintop removal should continue is not for the judicial branch to decide and is not before this court,” Burnside said.

Protesters had hoped to talk about mountaintop removal and argue, among other things, that the damage being done to the environment was so great that it justified their trespassing on Massey property to call attention the the issue.

“You can’t just look on while some horrible crime occurs,” said Roger Forman, one of the protesters’ lawyers. “What they are intending to do here to the environment is a criminal act.”

But Burnside ruled that, as a matter of law, that defense isn’t allowed in West Virginia courts.

[Oddly, though, Burnside also expressed his views that “Mountaintop removal mining, as controversial as it is … is a legal activity”  and that regulations governing the coal industry “are most restrictive].

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Santa is mad at TVA

cross posted from

New from the North Pole!!

Santa has been released from the clutches of TVA in Chattanooga TN after being detained with out milk and cookies. Santa was issued a warning citation for delivering switches and coal to the board of TVA at their quarterly meeting. The bad children did not like their stocking and ordered a trespass notice against Santa stating that he will be arrested if he enters any TVA property again this Christmas.

Santa says “I am depending on all the little activist elves to deliver more coal to federal agencies in hopes to influence the first 100 days of president elect Obama administration through the newly appointed agency heads. This new administration must make stopping strip mining and addressing the destructive impact of coal on Santa’s children its first priority.”

“New people are preparing to take over these federal agencies and it is through actions like this we can create a wave that influences how they act in those first critical days of a new administration. Ho Ho Ho.”

Pictures at:




Resistance to Dirty Coal Goes Nat’l

This week Time published an article highlighting the national resistance to dirty coal plants, and the entire, deadly cradle to grave cycle of coal. They focused on the fight closest to home for us here in the Blue Ridge, and interviewed my good friend Lyric. Of course, greasy clean coal scumbags have been buying up adds in Time for a long time, along with all the other green washers. Oh well, any news is good news, er… something.

Best part? “Hard-core activists like Morgan”

Taking On King Coal

Activists don�t want more coal plants, like this one near a Pennsylvania playground.
Activists don’t want more coal plants, like this one near a Pennsylvania playground.
Robert Nickelsberg / Getty for TIME

Nothing could sway the Dominion 11 from their mission–not the cops and certainly not the prospect of free food. Early on the morning of Sept. 15, activists from a range of environmental groups formed a human barrier to block access to a coal plant being built by Dominion in rural Wise County, Virginia. As acts of civil disobedience go, this wasn’t exactly Bloody Sunday. The police took a hands-off approach and even offered to buy the protesters breakfast if they unchained themselves. (They declined.) But the consequences were far from trivial. The activists who had formed the barrier to the construction site were arrested and charged with trespassing, and they eventually paid $400 each in fines. That’s nothing, of course, compared with the punishment the Dominion plant will inflict on the environment. If completed, the plant will emit 5.3 million tons of CO2 a year into the atmosphere, roughly the equivalent of putting a million more cars on the road.

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James Hansen: Obstruction of Justice

Hello youth climate activists!

Earlier this week Dr. James Hansen, the well known, outspoken member of the not so youthful movement for climate action, coming off of an informative and inspiring, if less than exciting, appearance at Virginia PowerShift, wrote the following essay in defense of the brave Wise 11. These young folk stood with community activists from Southwest Virginia against the destruction of more mountains in Southern Appalachia, and against global climate chaos by locking themselves to the gates of Dominion Power’s planned power plant in St. Paul Va.

Like he did with the 6 Greenpeace activists in the UK recently, Dr. Hansen defended the actions of Rainforest Action Network, Blue Ridge Earth First!, Mountain Justice and sds as necessary steps to protect the global good, to halt climate and ecological degradation before it leaves an inhospitable planet. Maybe soon we will see Dr. Hansen out there with Al Gore?

Obstruction of Justice

“You’re Hannah, right?” Hannah Morgan, a 20-year old from Appalachia, Virginia, was one of 11 protesters in handcuffs early Monday morning September 15 at the construction site for a coal-fired power plant being built in Wise County Virginia by Dominion Power. The handcuffs were applied by the police, but the questioner, it turns out, was from Dominion Power.

“Mumble, mumble, mumble”, the discussion between police and the Dominion man were too far away to be heard by the young people. But it almost seemed that the police were working for Dominion. Maybe that’s the way it works in a company town. Or should we say company state? Virginia has got one of the most green-washed coal-blackened governors in the nation ( ).
It seems Hannah had been pegged by Dominion as a “ringleader”. She had participated for two years in public meetings and demonstrations against the plan for mountaintop removal, strip mining and coal burning, and she had rejected their attempts to either intimidate or bargain.
“Bargain?” What bargain is possible when Dominion is guaranteed 14% return on their costs, whether the coal plant’s power is needed or not. Utility customers have to cough this up, and they aren’t given any choice. The meetings and demonstrations were peaceful. Forty-five thousand signatures against the plant were collected. But money seems to talk louder.
Dominion’s “mumble, mumble” must have been convincing. Hannah and Kate Rooth were charged with 10 more crimes than the other 10 defendants. Their charges included “encouraging or soliciting” others to participate in the action and were topped by “obstruction of justice”. Penalty if convicted: up to 14 years in prison. [Why does this remind me of Jim Jobe in “Grapes of Wrath”?]
“Obstruction of justice??” My first thought was that this case might help draw attention to the inter-generational injustice and inequity of continued building of coal-fired power plants. Is the Orwellian double-speak in the charge of “obstruction of justice” not apparent?

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