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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Tree Sitters Occupying Coal River Mountain

Tree Sitters Occupying Coal River Mountain

It’s ON! This is how 2010 begins in the Coal River Valley, with a non-violent bang not a whimper.

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After almost a year of sustained direct actions in southern West Virginia, three Climate Ground Zero activists scaled trees to stop blasting on Coal River Mountain. David Aaron Smith, 23, Amber Nitchman, 19 and Eric Blevins, 28 are on platforms approximately 60 feet up three tulip poplar trees. 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 read: “EPA Stop the Blasting,” and “Windmills Not Toxic Spills.” 

In the past two weeks, mountaintop removal coal mining has thrust itself into the national consciousness with an article in the prestigious science journal Science calling for a ban on mountaintop removal, a feature on the popular comedy show The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert and tonight’s debate between Massey CEO Don Blankenship and environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the University of Charleston. Never before has MTR received such scrutiny. 

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a MTR permit in West Virginia signaling the weakening of their position on the issue. EPA inaction for decades has left over 500 mountains in Appalachia barren moonscape, poisoned numerous communities and profiting mining execs throughout the region. Obama’s EPA had promised to act on MTR, but has yet to take any significant steps to outlaw the practice. Likewise, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had failed to even visit the region or do a flyover of affected areas.

The tree sitters are committed to staying until the blasting ends on Coal River Mountain. 

Currently, a winter action camp is underway at Climate Ground Zero in Rock Creek, WV and more actions are expected throughout 2010. It’s going to be a kick ass year.


Tree Sit on Coal River Mountain Strip Mine

“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 poplars and an oak tree. The mountain has become a rallying point for local activists, representing for many the cleaner, more sustainable possibilities of wind energy. Their banners state: “EPA Stop the Blasting”, “Windmills Not Toxic Spills”, and “Save Coal River Mtn.” 

The sitters are calling for the EPA to protect American air and water by putting an end to mountaintop removal and encouraging the development of clean energy production in central Appalachia. The lack of EPA enforcement combined with Dr. Margaret Palmer’s findings, published in Science Magazine’s January issue, that “Considering environmental impacts of MTM/VF[mountaintop mining/valley fill], in combination with evidence that the health of people living in surface-mining regions of the central Appalachians is compromised by mining activities, we conclude that MTM/VF permits should not be granted,” 

encouraged Joshua Graupera, a member of the support team, to take part in this action. He said, “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.”

Massey Energy’s blasting on the Bee Tree Strip Mine threatens both the possibility of wind power on Coal River Mountain and the foundations of the nearby Brushy Fork impoundment. “The government has given them [Massey Energy] permission to blast next to a dam full of toxic coal waste that will kill 998 people if it fails,” said Blevins, who works with Mountain Justice. The Brushy Fork Impoundment, permitted to contain over nine billion gallons of toxic coal waste, lies on a honeycomb of abandoned deep mines. If the foundation collapses the coal slurry will blow out from all sides of Coal River Mountain, harming communities in the mountain’s periphery, as occurred at Massey’s Big Branch slurry impoundment in Kentucky. 

“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 permanent jobs for local residents and annually bring over a million more dollars in tax 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 the decades-long resistance of dedicated individuals and groups like Mountain Justice to strip mining in Appalachia.
UPDATE:Ground support held on $1500 bail. They are charged w/ conspiracy & trespass Donate to legal @ http://bit.ly/6tjVsS 

Contact: Kim Ellis – 304 854 7372
Email: news@climategroundzero.org
Note: For more info, see www.mountainjustice.org, www.climategroundzero.org, www.ilovemountains.org

Coal baron debates Kennedy over mountaintop mining

Xtra Images - http://www.wesjones.com/images/reece8s.jpg

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