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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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

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.

neveragain.JPG

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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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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