BLASTING HALTED: Tree Sit on Coal River Mtn, West Virginia
Erin Green | 01.21.2010
Tree sitters halt blasting on Coal River Mountain as protest against the immensely destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining - and the extremely detrimental effects of the method on nearby environments and communities.
UPDATE: GROUND SUPPORT ARRESTED, POLICE HAS LEFT SCENE, MASSEY FELLING TREES NEAR SITTERS, CHERRY PICKER ON SITE
Tree Sit on Coal River Mountain Strip Mine
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kim Ellis – 304 854 7372
Note: For more info, see www.mountainjustice.org, www.climategroundzero.org, www.ilovemountains.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 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.