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.

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

SE Convergence Rocks Climate Criminals

Reports from the field start coming. Last week over 150 earth warriors from across the South East and beyond came together to our humble bio-region and brought fire and knowledge to share. Below is a report from the Snaking Climate Criminal march yesterday in Richmond. Check out more about the convergence. Thanks to everyone who came down to say No More! to the sons of bitches eviscerating our future!

August 11 Richmond, VA Despite a massive police presence throughout the city and our major action plan derailed by law enforcement harassment, 50 activists snaked their way through Richmond today in an un-permitted march, paying visits to several climate criminals. Carrying banners reading, “No Nukes, No Coal, No Kidding” and “Social Change not Climate Change,” people marched to the headquarters of Massey Energy, Dominion, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and Bank of America.

At Massey Energy, a notorious coal company involved in mountaintop removal coal mining, activists surrounded the entrance and yelled, “Hands off our mountains!.” The group then moved on to the Department of Environmental Quality which recently rubber stamped Dominion’s dirty coal plant in Wise County, VA. Next the group brought the party to Dominion, who is building the aforementioned coal plant as well as proposing a new nuke plant in Louisa County, VA. Chanting “No coal, no nukes, we won’t stop until you do!” the activists attempted to take over Dominion’s plaza but were repelled by police on horses. In a show of interspecies solidarity one horse bucked a cop off its back.

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The Beginning (middle?) of the End for King Coal

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The article below rings true with our experience here in Virginia. Despite Dominion’s attempts to cake walk through the permitting process, they have already taken some blows on their Wise County power plant, and are sure to take more soon, and I can gurantee it, that plant will not be built.

But this is the case for coal all across the country. What does all this mean? for sure, there will be some energy scarcity, and some higher prices, but this is what innovation is made of, right? This will require new solutions, and hopefully we are seeing the birth of a new, clean energy future!

“Earth Policy Institute
News Release
April 2, 2008

THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR COAL
A Long Year in the Life of the U.S. Coal Industry

http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update70_timeline.htm

Lester R. Brown and Jonathan G. Dorn

With concerns about climate change mounting, the era of coal-fired
electricity generation in the United States may be coming to a close.
In early 2007, a U.S. Department of Energy report listed 151 coal-fired
power plants in the planning stages in the United States . But during
2007, 59 proposed plants were either refused licenses by state
governments or quietly abandoned. In addition, close to 50 coal plants
are being contested in the courts, and the remaining plants will likely
be challenged when they reach the permitting stage.

What began as a few local ripples of resistance to coal-fired power
plants is quickly evolving into a national tidal wave of opposition
from environmental, health, farm, and community organizations as well
as leading climate scientists and state governments. Growing concern
over pending legislation to regulate carbon emissions is creating
uncertainty in financial markets. Leading financial groups are now
downgrading coal stocks and requiring utilities seeking funding for
coal plants to include a cost for carbon emissions when proving
economic viability.

On March 11, 2008, Representative Henry Waxman of California introduced
a bill to ban new coal-fired power plants without carbon emissions
controls nationwide until federal regulations are put in place to
address greenhouse gas emissions. If Congress passes this bill, it will
deal a death blow to the future of U.S. coal-fired power generation.
Yet even without a legislative mandate for a moratorium, the
contraction in financial support for new coal-fired power plants is
escalating toward a de facto moratorium. The timeline that follows is
witness to what may well be the beginning of the end of coal-fired
power in the United States .

—————————————————————
A Long Year in the Life of the U.S. Coal Industry — Timeline
On-line at http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update70_timeline.htm.

26 February 2007 – James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute
for Space Studies and a leading climate scientist, calls for a
moratorium on the construction of coal-fired power plants that do not
sequester carbon, saying that it makes no sense to build these plants
when we will have to “bulldoze” them in a few years.

26 February 2007 – Under mounting pressure from environmental groups,
TXU Corporation, a Dallas-based energy company, abandons plans for 8 of
11 proposed coal-fired power plants, catalyzing the shift from
coal-based to renewable energy development in Texas .

2 April 2007 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide
and that EPA’s current rationale for not regulating this gas is
inadequate.

3 May 2007 – Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signs a bill that
prevents new power plants from exceeding 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide
emissions per megawatt hour of electricity generated, creating a de
facto moratorium on building new coal-fired power plants in the state.

30 May 2007 – Progress Energy, an energy company serving approximately
3.1 million customers in the Southeast, announces a two-year moratorium
on the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

2 July 2007 – The Florida Public Service Commission denies Florida
Power & Light the permits needed to move forward with the massive
1,960-megawatt coal-fired Glades Power Park, citing uncertainty
surrounding future carbon costs.

13 July 2007 – Florida Governor Charlie Crist signs an Executive Order
establishing “maximum allowable emission levels of greenhouse gases for
electric utilities.” Under the emissions cap, building new coal-fired
power plants in the state seems unlikely.

18 July 2007 – Citigroup downgrades the stocks of Peabody Energy Corp.,
Arch Coal Inc., and Foundation Coal Holdings Inc., prominent U.S. coal
companies. The decision reflects the growing uncertainty surrounding
coal’s future in the United States .

18 August 2007 – After opposing new coal-fired power in Nevada , U.S.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he is opposed to building
coal-fired power plants anywhere.

18 October 2007 – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment
denies Sunflower Electric Power Corporation air quality permits for two
proposed 700-megawatt coal-fired generators on the basis that carbon
dioxide is an air pollutant and should be regulated.

3 January 2008 – Merrill Lynch downgrades the investment ratings of
Consol Energy Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp., two leading U.S. coal
companies.

22 January 2008 – The Attorneys General of California, six eastern
states, and the District of Columbia submit a letter to the South
Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control opposing the
proposed 1,320-megawatt Pee Dee coal-fired power plant. They note that
emissions from this plant would “seriously undermin[e] the concerted
efforts being undertaken by multiple states to address global warming.”

30 January 2008 – Citing escalating costs, the Bush administration
pulls the plug on federal funding for FutureGen, a joint project with
13 utilities and coal companies to build a demonstration coal-fired
power plant that captures and sequesters carbon.

4 February 2008 – Investment banks Morgan Stanley, Citi, and J.P.
Morgan Chase announce that any future lending for coal-fired power
plants will be contingent on the utilities demonstrating economic
viability under future carbon costs. Demonstrating economic viability
would require speculation of future costs, imposing a risk on the
investment.

8 February 2008 – The U.S. Court of Appeals overturns two EPA mercury
rules covering coal-fired power plants, thus requiring new coal-fired
plants to implement the most stringent mercury controls available.
Compliance is expected to raise the considerable costs of 32 proposed
coal plants, some already under construction.

12 February 2008 – Bank of America announces that it will start
factoring in a cost of $20–40 per ton of carbon emissions in its risk
analysis when evaluating loan applications from utilities.

19 February 2008 – The federal government suspends a low-interest loan
program for rural utilities seeking assistance for new coal-fired power
plants.

11 March 2008 – Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey
(D-MA) introduce a bill that would block the EPA and states from
issuing permits to new coal-fired power plants that lack
state-of-the-art carbon capture and storage technology. Since this
technology is at least a decade away from commercial viability, if this
bill passes it would essentially place a near-term moratorium on new
coal-fired power plants.”

—————————————————————
Source: Earth Policy Institute, http://www.earthpolicy.org, April 2008.
Additional details and references at
http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update70_timeline2.htm.

# # #

For a strategy on how to phase out coal-fired power generation
worldwide by 2020, see Chapters 11 and 12 in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to
Save Civilization, available for free downloading at
http://www.earthpolicy.org.