Friends of the Appalachian Mountains,
On Friday my friend (and fellow Mountaintop Removal Road Show speaker) Eric Blevins from Tennessee ended a 9-day tree sit in West Virginia. Eric, along with two other young activists, Amber Nitchman and David Aaron Smith climbed three tall trees next to Massey Energy’s Bee Tree mountaintop removal coal mine operation, and set up small wooden platforms where they have sat peacefully beneath tarps and endured many days of freezing weather, cold rain, and constant coal company harassment.
By law, the coal company was prevented from blasting the mountain for coal while the three protestors were in the trees. The Bee Tree mine site is on Coal River Mountain, the last major mountain in this area of West Virginia that has not been blasted apart for coal. There is a huge coal slurry impoundment lake nearby that is held back by an earthen (not concrete) dam, and the mountain is riddled with old underground mines. We feel that the blasting is very unsafe and could possibly weaken the dam holding back billions of gallons of coal sludge.
Massey Energy has had failures of their coal slurry impoundments in the past, most notably in Martin County Kentucky, in October 2000, when 300 millions gallons of coal slurry poured into two mountain streams. The disaster was caused by old underground mines beneath the coal slurry lake. See pictures of the disaster here
In order to try and force the protestors out of the trees, Massey employees pointed multiple sirens at the trees. These sirens or air horns are normally used to warn miners before a blast is set off, and they are extremely loud. You can watch a video of the sirens blasting the protestors here and there are some interesting photos from the tree sit taken by Amber and Eric here
Massey’s siren tactic is truly shameful. I try and think the best of people, but purposely trying to damage someone’s hearing is a very disgusting and low thing to do.
When I first heard of this situation, I thought about those famous photos from Birmingham of civil rights protestors being blasted with fire hoses in the 1960s.
According to some history books, this attack on peaceful protestors caused a wave of public revulsion at the tactics of Sheriff Bull Connor, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was soon passed. I hope that there is a similar wave of disgust at this coal company blasting peaceful protestors.
Eric, Amber and David have now been jailed for trespassing, and we need to raise $9,625 to bail them out. You can donate and read more updates by going to the Climate Ground Zero website here. Thanks to everyone who has already made donations – the need to raise money is very real and very great.
There are many things happening in the campaign to end mountaintop removal mining, and here are just a few:
Thursday, Feb 11 I Love Mountains Day, Frankfort KY.
In the days prior to the Frankfort rally, you can walk from Lexington KY to Frankfort Feb 8-11, for info contact Todd Kelly 859 333 3794 – lodging is furnished. You will walk about 10 to 13 miles per day.
There will also be a rally in Richmond Virginia on that day, Feb 11 – link
Saturday March 6 – help plant thousands of tree seedlings on an old abandoned mine site in eastern Kentucky (Letcher County) – many volunteers are needed! Contact Patrick Angel email firstname.lastname@example.org
March 6-10, Washington DC – The Alliance for Appalachia is hosting the 5th Annual End Mountaintop Removal Week. Click here for more information and to sign up.
In 2010, we have a real opportunity to pass the Clean Water Protection Act (H.R. 1310) and the Appalachia Restoration Act (S. 696) — bills that would significantly advance our goal of ending mountaintop removal coal mining. But for these bills to pass, Congress needs to hear from ordinary citizens like you — and that’s what the Week in Washington is all about. Last year’s Week in Washington was a tremendous success. More than 150 people from over 20 states came to Washington, holding more than 150 meetings with Congressional offices. The result? We now have a record 161 co-sponsors in the House and 10 co-sponsors in the Senate.
Full and partial scholarships are available on a needs-basis. To learn more and register for the Week in Washington, click here:
March 12-20 Mountain Justice Spring Break in southwest Virginia (Wise County). Join us for a week of fun and Appalachian culture, while learning about mountaintop removal and coal fired power plants. Mountain music, dancing, bonfires, service trips, workshops, great speakers, good fun and very low cost (less than $100 for all food and lodging). Great time – check it out at http://www.mjsb.org – you can register on this site.