COAL RIVER VALLEY, W. VA – At 5:00AM this morning 14 concerned citizens entered onto Massey Energy’s mountaintop removal mine site near Twilight WV. Four of them scaled a 150-foot dragline and unfurled a 15×150 foot banner that said, “Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining."
Police arrested David Hollister, Melissa O’Neil, Chelsea Ritter Soronen, Lynn Stone, Charles Suggs, Rodney Webb, Jeanne Kirshon, John Johnson Greg Yost, Jessica Sue Eley, Lisa Ramsden, David Pike, Paul Brown, and Kurt Delano Mann. The group is expected to be arraigned early this afternoon at Boone County Jail in Madison, West VA.
This act of peaceful protest comes just days after the Obama Administration announced a plan to reform, but not abolish, the aggressive strip mining practice.
“I’ve written letters, attended hearings and called my congressman, so far they have done nothing to stop the disastrous and unnecessary practice of mountaintop removal,” said Charles Suggs, a 25-year old of Rock Creek, WV who was one of those climbing today. “It has come to the point when we must take direct action to abolish this practice that is immorally robbing Appalachian communities of their culture, their health and their future.”
This is the first time a dragline has been scaled on a mountaintop removal site, and marks the latest in a string of protests in West Virginia by residents and allies from across the country. Another protest is set for June 23rd in the Coal River Valley area with local coalfield residents, NASA climate scientist James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, and 94-year-old former US Representative Ken Hechler, and Rainforest Action Network Executive Director Michael Brune, among many others.
“It’s way past time for civil disobedience to stop mountaintop removal and move quickly toward clean, renewable energy sources,” said Judy Bonds, Goldman Environmental Prize winner and co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch of West Virginia. “For over a century, Appalachian communities have been crushed, flooded, and poisoned as a result of the country’s dangerous and outdated reliance on coal. How could the country care so little about our American mountains, our culture and our lives?”
An increasing number of concerned Appalachians and environmentalists are calling for the end to mountaintop removal, a practice that harms the people and places of Appalachia, destroys the economic potential of the Appalachian Mountains for long term clean energy opportunities and jobs, and furthers the burning of climate-killing coal.
Every day, mountaintop removal mines use more explosive power than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Mining companies are clear-cutting thousands of acres of some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests. They’re burying biologically crucial headwaters streams with blasting debris, releasing toxic levels of heavy metals into the remaining streams and groundwater and poisoning essential drinking water. According to the EPA, this destructive practice has damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 miles of streams and threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of forest by 2020.
Just days before this action, the Obama Administration announced steps to end the fast-tracking of certain mountaintop removal coal mine permits and to add tougher enforcement in Appalachia. However, it remains unclear what, if any, improvements this will have on-the-ground in Appalachia or elsewhere. Without a significant change in policy, mining companies will continue to destroy historic mountain ranges and bury community’s drinking water in toxic waste.
For more information, please visit http://www.mountainaction.org/