May 18, 2010: Human Life is Worth More Than a Lump of Coal!


And Demand that Massey Put People Over Profit
Come Stand in Solidarity with the Mountains and Fallen Miners

Tuesday, May 18th, 8:30 a.m. – 12 or 1 p.m.
The Jefferson Hotel, 101 W Franklin St. Richmond, VA
[email protected]

On April 5th, 2010 a massive underground explosion occurred in the Upper Big Branch coal mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia. 29 miners were killed in the explosion, making this the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in 40 years. The UBB mine is operated by Performance Coal, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, the Richmond, Virginia based company whose CEO Don Blankenship is notorious for prioritizing coal production over the health and safety of miners and local communities.

Although the cause of the explosion has yet to be confirmed, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has contributed the disaster to preventable build-ups of methane gas and coal dust. Since the explosion, federal inspectors have found over 60 safety violations at 30 different underground coal mines owned by Massey Energy. The MSHA reported that the Upper Big Branch Mine had “repeated significant and substantial [safety] violations” and that “Massey failed to address these violations over and over again”

In addition to the company’s ample safety violations, Massey has also fallen under scrutiny for its practice of Mountaintop Removal coal mining, in which the tops of mountains are clear cut and then blasted with explosives, the coal is extracted and the remaining earth is pushed into the valleys below, burying the headwaters for major river systems.

Enough is enough. Join Mountain Justice and allies as we call for the resignation of Donald Blankenship and support stock holders efforts to have him resign!

March 12- 20, 2010: Mountain Justice Spring Break

Register at

Our struggle for environmental justice in Appalachia has never been as publicized, analyzed, or urgent as RIGHT NOW! Not a moment too soon, your chance to plug in and make things happen is here! This March 12 – 20, Mountain Justice Spring Break will bring hundreds of young people face to face with the impacts of mountaintop removal and coal industry abuse- and give you the skills and knowledge you need to fight back! Through education, community service, speakers, hiking, music, poetry, direct action and more, you will learn from and stand with Appalachian communities in the struggle to maintain our land and culture.

This spring break will be like no other! With skill building and analysis sessions ranging from critical organizing to non violent direct action, you will leave camp with the training you need to not only make things happen in your community, but train others to do it as well! And since it is a “break” we will find plenty of time between rabble rousing to relax, reflect, and have a great time with each other, whether hula hooping, playing music, or cuddling in a hammock!

Please share your spring break with us in the breathtaking southwest Virginia coalfields, March 14 – 20, cultivating the skills and visions needed to abolish mountaintop removal and replace it with vibrant, healthy, self-reliant communities. Come and bring your friends! We are committed to learning a lot, getting involved in ending mountaintop removal, and having tons of fun!

WHAT? Mountain Justice Spring Break

WHEN? March 12 – 20, 2010 (come whenever you can or all week!)

WHERE? Natural Tunnel State Park, Southwest Virginia

HOW? Register (and so much more!) at for a sliding scale donation of $50 – $500

WHO? Mountain Justice participants come from diverse backgrounds such as coal field residents, college students, environmentalists, Earth First!ers, and other concerned citizens that care about our mountains. Participants share a common goal to halt MTR and destructive coal mining. Learn all about MTR and Mountain Justice at, AND find out about Mountain Justice SUMMER Action Camp May 27th – June 6th on Pine Mountain in Kentucky!

CAN’T WAIT? The MJSB planning collective is looking for Campus Coordinators who can organize a crew of people from your school or community. You (yes, YOU) are strongly encouraged to let us hook you up with a coordinator resource packet to help you start fueling this movement TODAY!

Protestors occupy Marfork Mining Co. office in response to mounting violations

Contact: Mike Roselle (304 854 1852), Charles Suggs (304 854 7372), [email protected]

Pettus, W.Va.– Three occupied Massey Energy subsidiary Marfork Coal Company, Inc.’s main office this morning at eight.  The protestors plan to present a citizen’s arrest warrant and list of violations on the Marfork processing plant, Bee Tree Surface Mine and Brushy Fork sludge impoundment to company president Christopher Blanchard and Massey CEO Don Blankenship.

Brushy Fork Impoundment activity
 The above image shows two areas, in purple, where Massey Energy is blasting dangerously close to the Brushy Fork Impoundment and multiple gas wells.  The tree sit was right next to the #2 Haul Road.  Click the image for a larger version.

Marfork Coal Co. has started work on the Bee Tree Surface Mine, and is blasting within 1,000 feet of the impoundment. The blasting threatens to decrease the stability of the Brushy Fork dam, which sits above a honeycomb of abandoned underground mines.

Just last week, the W. Va. Department of Environmental Protection issued a violation on the impoundment for failing to meet an engineering safety factor. This measurement determines how much force a structure can withstand beyond the amount that is expected to be exerted upon it. At the time of the issuance, the dam could withstand thirty percent additional force, rather than the fifty percent mandated by law.

The WVDEP was acting under a ten-day notice issued to them by the federal Office of Surface Mining.

“What’s sad is that the federal government has to go in,” said Joseph Hamsher of Charleston, W.Va., one of the protestors occupying the office. “You just know that someone up the road is telling the West Virginia DEP not to give Massey any more violations.”

If the Brushy Fork impoundment breaks, a 38.49-foot wall of water will arrive in Sylvester, a town 4.8 miles downriver, within 36 minutes. By Massey Energy’s own estimates, the disaster would kill 998 people.

“I won’t stop breaking the law until they do,” said Mike Roselle, who along with Hamsher and Tom Smyth, intends to stay in the office until Marfork Coal Co. suspends blasting operations.


Marfork  Coal Company Violations on Coal River Mountain

Drainage  violations on Marfork Coal Co.’s Brushy Fork impoundment, processing  plant & refuse pile

Water  violations on the Brushy Fork sludge impoundment

March 1, 2009: Rally for the Mountains in Atlanta

End Mountain Top Removal!

1:00 pm Monday, March 1st
EPA Region 4 Headquarters
Meet outside the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, SW
Atlanta, GA 30303

To date, the practice of mountain top removal coal mining has leveled more than 800 square miles of mountains across Appalachia, destroyed over 2,000 miles of freshwater streams, and poisoned and displaced countless communities that call the mountains home. Each working day, 3,000,000 pounds of explosives are used against the mountains of West Virginia alone.

It is time to end this tragedy. On March 1st, join Mountain Justice and other allies as we demand that the EPA do their job to protect the land, water, and livelihoods of Appalachian coalfields residents. EPA’s Region 4 office in Atlanta has the power to stop granting new mountain top removal mining permits, and the EPA nationally has the power to ban this devastating practice forever. They need to hear from us!

Help shine a spotlight on the central role that our regional decision-makers play in perpetuating the practice of mountain top removal. Come out on March 1st and show your support for the mountains and communities of Appalachia!

For more information call 828-280-3462.

January 28, 2010: National Coal Ash Day of Action

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing a new rule to regulate the disposal of toxic coal ash – the byproduct of burning coal for power. As expected, the coal industry is fighting to maintain the status quo on coal ash, backing a proposal that limits opportunities for public input and ensures coal ash is treated less responsibly than household trash.

The nearly 130 million tons of coal ash generated each year is full of harmful toxins like arsenic, lead and mercury. People living near the coal ash sites have a staggering 1 in 50 risk of cancer. Both the EPA and the National Academy of Sciences have years of research making it clear that coal ash is becoming increasingly toxic and confirming time and again that coal ash poses a threat to human health.

EPA must treat coal waste as a hazardous substance and ensure that residents of communities impacted by coal ash disposal can provide input on how the coal ash should be handled.

We must generate thousands of emails and phone calls to the White House, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the US EPA and Congressional Offices telling them coal ash is hazardous and federal regulations are needed immediately. There is no more time for delay!

  • Coal-fired power producers, US Senators and Congressman, Governors, and federal and state agencies are pressuring the White House and OMB to derail the US EPA’s attempts to reportedly establish national disposal standards to protect water supplies and communities from toxic coal combustion wastes, or coal ash.
  • Polluters have already met with OMB and other White House officials at least 21 times in advance of the US EPA’s proposed coal ash rules! Polluters are trying to prevent the public from having a chance to see and comment on the proposed rules.
  • The time has come to tell the Obama administration the public should be allowed to see and comment on these rules! They need to know we want and support hazardous waste rules that protect our health and environment from coal ash.
  • We want President Obama to uphold his promise of allowing science to dictate policy: federal agencies must allow the US EPA to do its job to protect our water from the irresponsible dumping of coal ash – dumping that has been allowed by states for decades.
  • Whether it’s a public health threat, an environmental justice issue, a threat to species or public safety, coal ash is bad news for millions of Americans. Tell the White House and EPA how coal ash is a threat in your region and your neighborhood.

Take Action!

January 26, 2009: Student Activists Demand Alternative Energies on Campus

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Burning Coal on Campus is Hazardous to Student Health and the Commonwealth

LEXINGTON, Ky: Tuesday, an anonymous group of students from the University of Kentucky hung a banner from a parking structure near Rose Street to protest the university’s use of coal power on campus. The banner, reading “COAL: A Tradition of Oppression. STUDENTS: Let’s Change Our Legacy”, included a reproduction of the familiar UK symbol, with a burning smokestack between the letters instead of the usual Memorial Hall steeple.

Deemed the “midnight strike force” by local news sources, the students are fueling a campaign to move the university beyond the “outdated” technology of coal power and in the direction of cleaner energies. One of the students, an economics and environmental studies senior, said, “You can’t argue facts. Coal is a finite resource and the shift to alternative energies has to begin immediately. Kentucky must realize its potential to be progressive and enterprising in the country’s transition toward environmental awareness.”

The students’ use of the word “oppression” alludes to the detrimental effects of coal not only on the environment, but on the miners and communities in coal-mining regions of the state. An estimated 12,000 coal miners have died from black lung in the past decade, and their families are equally affected. The real tragedy, though, lies in mountain top removal (MTR) coal mining, a practice that more and more coal companies are using to extract coal at a lower cost. MTR employs explosives to decapitate mountains, and the leftover waste is deposited in surrounding valleys. The chemicals and residue bury and contaminate freshwater streams, thus poisoning the water supply for surrounding communities and devastating local ecosystems.

While the university, directly, does not deal in MTR coal, Kentucky Utilities provides a significant portion of the campus’s power, and is a known distributor of energy derived from the controversial method.

“The University of Kentucky is the flagship university of the state, and as such, sets the example for the rest of Kentucky. Any change we can make toward cleaner energy and the diversification of jobs and economies will affect the entire Appalachian region drastically, and for the better. This change is one that can’t wait,” said an Appalachian Studies junior.

It seems momentum has not died from the announcement last semester that the new Wildcat Coal Lodge would be endorsed by the coal industry. Tuesday’s banner was one of a series that has hung on campus since October, indicating that the students have not forgotten President Todd’s decision, and that they still worry for the future of their school’s energy and integrity.


Tree sit stops blasting on Coal River Mountain!


Contact: Kim Ellis – 304 854 7372

Email: [email protected]

Note: and

“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.

Journalists, United Mtn Defense volunteer arrested on unknown charges

On Wednesday, January 20th, TVA police pulled over United Mountain Defense (UMD) volunteer Matt Landon Jones and two journalists from the North Carolina based newspaper “The Appalachian Voice” for no apparent reason. They were on their way to a previously scheduled appointment to interview a local resident of Roane County who had been devastated by the TVA coal ash disaster. After detaining them and taking away their video cameras, the TVA police searched them and their vehicle and then arrested them on charges that have not been made clear. While on the phone with Jones, UMD volunteer Bonnie Swinford heard Jones asking the officer if he was being arrested, to which the officer answered “yes.” When Jones then asked the officer what he was being arrested for, the officer replied, “I’ll get back to you.” At that point the phone connection was broken. They are now being processed at the Roane County jail and no information about charges is being shared with us at this time. This arrest follows a pattern of TVA police harassing UMD volunteers and members of the press who are trying to help victims of the TVA disaster and get their stories out. See videos of Police harassment below.

We need help with bail money. Please send checks marked “For January 20 arrest.”

By mail:

United Mountain Defense

PO Box 20363

Knoxville, TN 37920

Or donate online at by using the yellow paypal button on the right side of the home page.

January 22, 2010: Benefit Concert for 2 TN Activists Arrested Protecting Appalachian Mountains


Join Mountain Justice and United Mountain Defense for a fun night of music, dancing, slam poetry, raffles and fiery speeches about the destruction of mountaintop removal coal mining. An eclectic collection of bands will entertain us with rap performances by Loose Leaf, old timey mountain music with Catfish Mercury Load and dancing into the night with DJ Lauren Elysse spinning soul records and much more.

This is an all ages show with a $5 cover charge.

List of performers: Loose Leaf, Lauuren Elysse, Catfish Mercury Load, Courageous, Bush, Joe T and possibly more TBA.


Friday, January 22, 2010

8:00p.m. – 2:00a.m.


The Birdhouse located in the historic 4th and Gill neighborhood

800 N. Fourth Ave

Knoxville, 37917


Mountain Justice demands an abolition of MTR.

United Mountain Defense is dedicated to protecting Tennessee’s environment and communities.

The Kayford 8

On January 22, 2010 UMD is hosting a benefit concert to help raise money on behalf two Tennessee activists, Ash-Lee Henderson and Jared story, who put their freedom on the line in an act of non-violent civil disobedience to defend the mountains of Appalachia. These brave individuals walked onto Kayford Mountain in West Virginia along with 6 other activists and stopped the mountain from being blasted. Six of the “Kayford 8” protestors locked themselves, in groups of three, to a piece of massive earth moving equipment–referred to as a Yuke–with tires 24′ tall and hung a banner reading “Never Again” on the machine. This action was part of a fierce campaign that is being waged in southern West Virginia against companies destroying the Appalachian Mountains with mountaintop removal. Their actions were not without consequences and they are now facing the maximum fines for trespassing of nearly $2000 each which is unprecedented in this type of protest. They took a risk for the greater good and we hope you will be willing to support them for doing so.

The eight activists arrested include Kim Kirkbride, Ash-Lee Henderson, Tanya Turner, Jared Story, Willie Dodson, Will Wickham, Mathew Louis-Rosenberg, and Glenn Collins.

A note from one of the Kayford 8

Hello one and all,

As some of you may know, in May of this year, eight Mountain Justice activists willfully trespassed on to the mountaintop removal site on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia with the intention of shutting down mine activity and directly preventing the destruction of one mountain, for one day. I was one of those protesters, and am proud to say that we did stop them from blasting Kayford that day. We went on to the mine site with the emotional support and prayers of many who have wished they could take this same action, including Larry Gibson who lives on Kayford Mountain and is the grandfather of our resistance to mountaintop removal.

It may have been only one day that we stopped the blasting, but when all the political routes to justice are bought and sold by the coal companies that exploit the land and people of Appalachia, sometimes the most effective action is to place yourself directly between the land and those that intend to destroy it. If these types of actions were happening weekly or daily all across our region, mountaintop removal would soon become economically impossible, and ultimately we would command the attention our legislators and politicians, so that they’d have no other choice but to notice our actions and listen to our voices.

Our action wasn’t without consequence, and now 5 (and likely all 8) of the protestors are facing nearly $2000 each in fines for their acts of conscience. We received the maximum fine allowable for this offense, which is unprecedented in this type of protest. We need your support now more than ever, as many of us are devoted to this all volunteer work on a full time basis and are not able to pay these fines alone. We took this risk for the greater good, and we hope you will be willing to support us for doing so.

Please consider donating to Mountain Justice. You can also contact me directly for more information.

For the mountains and the people and the birds and the bears,


For more information about this event, please contact Bonnie Swinford at 865 689-2778 or at umdvolunteerhouse [at]

December 18th, 2009: This weekend Solstice camp at Frog Level!

WHAT: Join Tennessee Mountain Justice, Appalachian Earth First!ers, and United Mountain Defense for a PRIMITIVE Winter Solstice Camp Out at Frog Level in Tennessee on December 18th, 2009. If you love mountains, camping, hiking, the forest and all that is completely effing awesome, come spend a rejuvenating, spa-like atmosphere among friends in the woods for the weekend. The camping is a breezy stroll from the parking area and is easily accessible*.


WHY: To reinvigorate, enthuse, and inspire the mountain activist and city-bound weekend warrior through exposure to the Appalachians; to bring passion, humor, joy, and fervency of purpose back into the cause; to forge friendships, cooperation, and alliances throughout Appalachia; gorge of the plentiful spiritual bounty, howl at the moon. Primitive style.

WHERE: Frog Level is in Cherokee National Forest located in Eastern Tennessee and is accessible by road and the Appalachian Trail . It is located in the Watauga River area right next to the Lacy Trap Trail (#36), a moderate 3 mile biking and hiking trail. The area also features other back country trails and abundant water.

WHAT TO BRING: Winter camping takes some preparation so please come prepared to be self sufficient (think: post-apocalyptic) and bring all the gear you will need to stay warm. The following are ideas for gear you will need to be happy while camping in the chilly season.

  • Warm clothes layers, layers, layers
  • Rain Gear
  • Boots and extra warm socks
  • Basic camping gear (tent, warm sleeping bag, tarps, etc)
  • Musical Instruments
  • Recreation Equipment and toys for entertainment
  • Toilet Paper & digging apparatus
  • Eating utensils (plate, bowl, fork, spoon, cup)
  • Water (You will need to bring your own water! At least 2 liters/day/person.) or a water filter.

Bring enough food for yourself (incl’d food for snacks and hiking), as well as a way to cook it.
Come prepared for rain and cold. BUTT COLD.


  • Stuff to go on oatmeal – fruit, raisins, nuts, honey,
    brown sugar, etc
  • Breads
  • Coffee
  • Lots of vegetables and fruits
  • Any other food you can bring
  • Water!!!! Please make sure you bring your own water!!!!

Get a map of TN and find Johnson City. The mountains east
of Johnson City is the camp location (south of Watauga
Resevoir). Folks coming from the North, West and
South(except the extreme southeast) will want to figure out
how to get on Interstate 81 and take that to upper east
Tennessee. When you see the signs for Johnson City, get on
I-181 and travel about 14 miles to Johnson City. Get off at
Exit 31 (Hwy 321, Elizabethton) and take Hwy 321 (also Hwy
67) east for approx 9 miles to Elizabethton. Go thru
Elizabethton and follow 321 as it joins 19E south
(you’ll be turning right onto 19E) towards Hampton
(approx 5 miles). Note; if you blunder into old downtown
Elizabethton, continue straight thru all the lights, over a
bridge and around a monument, and you’ll come to 19E and
turn right.

Look for signs to the USFS Dennis Cove campground and
follow them. They are brown signs on the right side of road.
At Hampton, 321 will split from 19E so turn left at the
Texaco and follow Hwy 321 (also Hwy 67) east a little over a
half mile. You’re in a residential area… Look for the
“Citizen’s Bank” at the fork and turn right
onto what is now Dennis Cove Rd. Travel up this steep and
VERY WINDING paved road, with several hairpin turns (careful
at night!) and enter the Cherokee Nat’l Forest in about
5 miles.

Follow Dennis Cove Rd. past the Laurel Creek Lodge, (A.T.
hostel and last chance for gas, firewood & ice), and
pass the Appalachian Trail crossing and Dennis Cove

In about another mile, the pavement ends at the top of
Dennis Cove. The gravel road can be very rough, though it
was well maintained as of early this year. Go slow &
follow this road, known as Forest Service Road #50 for
3/4ths of a mile to a 3-way split in the road. Take the
FAR-RIGHT split (onto FS#50F) and travel along this gravel
road for another 2+ miles and you will arrive at “Frog
Level”. There is a sort of cul-de-sac here and it can
be very muddy. Park so that you don’t block the road. If
you arrive at night, it would be wise to inspect your
parking spot wth a flashlight to avoid HUGE mud holes and
drop-offs along the perimeter.

Now you’ll enjoy 3 invigorating, SHALLOW rock-bottomed stream
crossings that (barring heavy rain) are less than knee-deep. Items left
at the first crossing are usually awaiting a helpful hand to
camp so if you’ve got empty hands, please grab what you
can handle for a ~1/4 mile hike to camp. After the 3rd
crossing bear left and follow the tree line trail around the
meadow and you’ll come to the camp.

Note: Shooting range is available and will be utilized. Come prepared to share and shoot!