December 7, 2009: Important Rally to Save Coal River Mountain

Call to Action

In their insatiable quest to maximize profits Massey Energy has initiated
mountaintop removal coal extraction operations on Coal River Mountain.
The blasting has begun
as the rumble of explosives and plumes of smoke coming from the mountain
are being seen and heard.

The blasting of Coal River Mountain sets up a catastrophic scenario: Explosives
are being detonated near the Brushy Fork coal sludge dam, a weakened class “C” dam
that hovers above valley communities like a dark cloud. The Class “C” label
is given to dams that in the event of failure, lives will be lost. At least
900 lives are expected to be buried in coal sludge if Brushy Fork should fail.

Many small communities lie in the very narrow Coal River Valley, tucked in
between Cherry Pond Mountain and Coal River Mountain. Cherry Pond Mountain
is already being bombed and blasted by Massey until it now looks more like
an Afghanistan war zone than the once beautiful and plentiful Appalachian mountain
that it was. Massey’s blasting and bombing of Coal River Mountain will
trap these communities in the middle, leaving them helpless to deal with silica
dust, fly-rock, poisoned water, floods and mudslides. This is wrong!

Coal River Mountain is the last great mountain in the Coal River Valley. Destroying
it not only places lives in danger, but it will also devastate a great opportunity
for real jobs from wind energy and underground mining, long-term tax revenues,
and clean energy.

There is no excuse for mountaintop removal. It is the perfect example of corporate
greed placing profit before humanity.

We have lobbied. We have written letters to Congress, the Federal EPA, The
Federal Office of Surface Mining, The Department of Interior, our state representatives
and state agencies, all to no avail. Abandoned by our government we are left
for sacrifice, trapped in this very narrow valley between two life-threatening
mountaintop removal operations. We have now reached a true state of emergency
in the Coal River Valley.

Government agencies are created with the purpose of protecting the people’s
interest. When a government agency becomes one that facilitates corporate interest,
the people are not well served. Such has happened with the West Virginia Department
of Environmental Protection. This agency’s inaction has made it very
clear that it has no intention of performing its mandated duties, operating
instead as a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate coal.

It is now time for citizens to intervene. On December 7, 2009 Coal River Valley
residents and friends from across America will converge on the WV Department
of Environmental Protection to demand that they suspend and revoke Massey’s
permits to blast and destroy Coal River Mountain.

This is the line in the sand. This is a call to action. We call upon all good
people to come join us on Dec. 7th. We call upon all who stand for human rights
and people’s rights over that of corporate greed to come join us on Dec.
7th. We call upon those that are tired and fed up with government agencies
that place corporate interest above that of The People, come join us on December
the 7th.

IT’S TIME TO STOP THE INSANITY

WHERE: West Virginian Department of Environmental Protection,
601 57th Street SE, Charleston, WV
WHEN: December 7th. 2:00PM

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to
perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really
cooperating with it.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

DIRECTIONS:
From I-77 North or South / I-64 East or West: Exit Maccorkle Ave. West, (Exit
95)
Left on 57th. St ( Appx. 1/3rd mile from exit) Building is on right as soon
as you turn onto 57th st.

CONTACT: savecoalriver [at] gmail.com


November 21, 2009: Responding to Harmful Government Inaction, Protestors Stop Blasting on Coal River Mountain

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11/21/09

Contact: Zoe Beavers 304-854-7372

Email: [email protected]

PETTUS, W. Va. – Early this morning two concerned citizens, Dea Goblirsch and Nick Martin, locked down to a drill rig on Coal River Mountain’s Bee Tree mountaintop removal site, effectively stopping blasting. Two others, Grace Williams and Laura Von Dolen, joined them in direct support, holding a banner with the message “Save Coal River Mountain”.

These nonviolent protesters have taken this action to bring attention to the extreme danger facing residents of the Coal River Valley from blasting near the Brushy Fork Impoundment. They plan to stay locked down until law enforcement removes them.

Resident of Rock Creek, W Va., Delbert Gunnoe, stated his concerns with the blasting, “You know when they put a blast over there, and it shakes the windows over here, at what, 3/4-mile distance, imagine what it does over there.” Gunnoe continued, “if [the impoundment] did bust…what would be the destruction? The town of Whitesville would no longer exist.”

The four are fearful of the blasting that Massey Energy began in late October. These blasts are 200 feet from the Brushy Fork Impoundment, permitted to hold nine billion gallons of toxic coal slurry. The impoundment sits atop miles of hollow, abounded underground mines, further endangering its integrity. By Massey’s own estimates, roughly 998 people will die should the dam break. The emergency evacuation plan states that a 40-foot wall of sludge, cresting at 72 feet, will flow through the valley, reaching 20-feet-high about 15 miles down the road. Apart from the initial flood, the impact of this potential spill would be felt along the Coal River’s 88 miles.

“The Brushy Fork Sludge Impoundment keeps residents of the Coal River Valley up at night, waiting for eight billion gallons of toxic coal slurry to come rushing towards them,” said Dea Goblirsch, one of the two locked down. “I don’t know how Massey executives sleep soundly at night.”

Hydrologist, Dr. Rick Eades spoke of concerns about the stability of the dam as blasting occurs. He questioned “blasting where underground mines existed in the Eagle coal seam, the possibilities for adversely affecting near-surface bedrock in a way that could possibly enhance pathways for slurry to be released via the subsurface and bypass the dam.” The concern is that slurry will break into underground mine shafts and blow out through old mine openings on the side of the mountain. This potentiality for Coal River Mountain mirrors the cause of the world’s largest slurry spill which occurred in Martin County, Ky. In 2000, 250 million gallons of slurry broke forth from a 2.2-billion-gallon impoundment, killing nearly all life in the Big Sandy River. Its impact reached all the way to the Ohio River, about 100 miles away.

Earlier this week, EPA sent out a letter to Marfork Coal Co., a subsidiary of Massey Energy Co., airing concerns about the absence of a valley fill permit, and requesting an extensive amount of information concerning the mountaintop removal operation on the Bee Tree site.

In note of the this, Nick Martin, currently locked down, said, “The EPA’s recent action proves that the communities’ concerns about this site are shared at the highest levels of government.”

Matt Louis-Rosenberg, a Climate Ground Zero activist, adds, “Coal River Wind attempted to get a meeting with the governor for a year and it took people sitting in his office to get him to sit down and meet with concerned community members, just like it takes our actions up on Coal River Mountain to get the federal government to step in.”

The concern showed by the EPA reflects what the residents of the Coal River Valley have known for a long time; the Brushy Fork Impoundment is putting lives in danger, and the blasting on Coal River Mountain only increases that danger. The protesters on the Bee Tree site are putting out a call to action to save Coal River Mountain and protect all those who would be impacted by a catastrophe there. This action fits into a larger fight against mountaintop removal in Appalachia.

On the whole, Gunnoe’s sentiment was, “Don’t like much about Obama, but he’ll have one heck of a supporter if he stops mountaintop mining.”

Note: More information available at http://climategroundzero.org.


ALERT: BLASTING HAS STARTED ON COAL RIVER MOUNTAIN

October 24, 2009: Just last night, there were confirmed reports that Massey Energy has begun blasting on Coal River Mountain in southern West Virginia. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has stated that the mining operation on the mountain is “actively moving coal.” Workers were seen throughout this past week moving heavy equipment up to the mining zones, and blasting and plumes of smoke were seen and heard near the Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment on Friday.

The Brushy Fork impoundment is an enormous retention pond holding 8.2 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry waste. If the impoundment were to fail due to the blasting, hundreds of lives will be lost and thousands more will be in jeopardy from an enormous slurry flood.

A 2006 study confirmed that Coal River Mountain — which has the highest peaks ever slated for mining in the state — is an ideal location for developing utility-scale wind power. Local residents have rallied around this proposal as a symbol of hope, a promise of a new and cleaner energy future, but that hope may be destroyed unless quick and decisive action is taken right now.

Please call or fax a letter to President Obama today at 202-456-1414/fax number: 202-456-2461 and implore him to use his agencies and influence with West Virginia politicians to stop the destruction of Coal River Mountain immediately!

Visit Appalachian Voices’ Coal River Mountain action page for more details and talking points.

Also visit Save Coal River Mountain action page to send an email.


November 6-8, 2009: Weekend in Wise

Come to beautiful Wise County, Southwest Virginia November 6-8 for a weekend summit focusing on a sustainable future for Appalachia!

Together we will appreciate the rich culture and ecology of this area, learn about the resistance to mountaintop removal coal mining and how we can participate, and explore a sustainable future for the region. This event will provide informational workshops, including watershed health, stream monitoring, the permitting process of mountaintop removal, and sustainable economic development. It will also provide trainings including student organizing basics, campaign planning, facilitating a good meeting, starting an organization and retaining members, and working with the media. Weekend in Wise will be a chance for regional groups and organizers to meet, network, and learn from each other.

A preliminary schedule of events can be found at weekendinwise.mjsb.org/schedule.html

Register at weekendinwise.mjsb.org/register.html


October 30, 2009: [VIDEO] Anti-MTR protests erupt nationwide

On Oct 30th 2009 protest where held across America at EPA regional headquarters and other locations to protest Mountain Top Removal strip mining.

ATLANTA

The security hassled us from the very start. They told us we could not walk on federal property. They told us we could not let our signs even touch any federal building. They ordered us not to film the federal building. We thought when we broke out the megaphone they would order us to stop immediately. They did not. You can not see it–but for over 1 hour every employee that walked out of that skyscraper heard our words echoing off their building. Hundreds of EPA employees saw our signs and heard our words as they ate lunch. Here are a few of those words.

WASHINGTON D.C.

On October 30th, actions were held across the US to protest the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. In Washington, DC 13 people occupied the EPA headquarters building asking the agency to take action against the ongoing destruction.

View photos from the D.C. action on flickr.com…

LEXINGTON, KY

JP Morgan Chase Bank is one of the last remaining, and largest, financiers of coal fired power plants and Mountain Top Removal mining. The continued support for coal companies motivated students and youth from all over Kentucky to rally in front of downtown Lexington’s Chase bank today at 1pm. The action aims to send a strong message to Chase bank to halt their support of Mountain Top Removal and raise awareness for the devastation in Appalachia caused by the Chase’s support of companies engaged in mountain top removal. JP Morgan Chase Bank’s current endorsement of coal companies stands in stark contrast with CEO Jamie Dimons promise to “walk the talk” on energy issues.

“We can’t stand by as mountain top removal is being made possible by Chase bank. Raising awareness for the issue is the first step in banning it”, said TERRA member Casey Price. Participants insist that Mountain Top Removal mining is at the helm of the environmental and human rights issues facing Appalachia.

View photos from the Lexington action on flickr.com…

NEW YORK, NY

Scott Edwards, Senior Staff Attorney for WATERKEEPER Alliance and Hurricane Creekkeeper, John L. Wathen speak to reporters after Chase, J. P. Morgan protest demonstration.


Oct. 19, 2009: Coal River Valley Residents Declare State of Emergency, Meet with Governor Joe Manchin; Seven Arrested in Sit-In at Governor’s Office

For Immediate Release
Contact: Dea Goblirsch or Garrett Robinson (304-513-4710)
Email: [email protected]

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Coal River Valley residents
and supporters associated with Mountain Justice and Climate Ground Zero
delivered a letter to Governor’s Manchin’s office in the State Capitol
building at 12:15 p.m. today. The statement from Coal River Valley
residents calls on Manchin to use his executive powers to halt
mountaintop removal mining operations on Coal River Mountain, one of
the last intact mountains remaining in the Coal River Valley area.

Governor Manchin met the letter
deliverers in the antechamber of his office and spoke with Lorelei
Scarbro of Rock Creek and Chuck Nelson of Glen Daniel.

“We are delivering this letter to our governor with residents of the
Coal River Valley,” said Miranda Miller and Angela Wiley of Morgantown,
W.Va., two of the seven sitters, “We are West Virginia citizens
standing in solidarity with the people who submitted comments for this
letter, voicing their concerns on the dangers of blasting
on Coal River Mountain.”

For years, local residents have expressed their concerns over
the long-term health effects of their proximity to coal mining and
processing operations, while scientists have stated that it devastates
local ecosystems and contaminates groundwater with carcinogens and
heavy metals. One of the most imminent dangers associated with the
proposed Coal River Mountain operation is its proximity to the Brushy
Fork sludge impoundment dam, which holds seven to nine billion gallons
of toxic coal slurry.

Many Coal River Valley residents have put forth the idea of
constructing of an industrial-scale wind farm on the mountain instead
of MTR. The ridges on Coal River Mountain are rated as Class 7 wind
sources, the highest and most productive rating. Research by the Coal
River Community Wind Project has shown that a wind farm on top of the
mountain could generate approximately 1.2% of West Virginia’s total
energy needs and would create at least 300 jobs in the area. A wind
farm will produce energy for as long as the wind blows, unlike coal –
reserves of which, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey, will last
only another 14 years.


By
blasting away our wind potential, we risk losing the opportunity to
have jobs that would last forever,” Chuck Nelson, a retired coal miner,
said, “As we face the climate crisis, we need to set an example in
creating renewable energy.”

Seven young people sat in the antechamber, refusing to leave until Manchin moves to halt MTR on Coal River Mountain. All seven were cited with misdemeanor trespassing and obstruction for refusing to leave the office at closing time.

###


Community letter to W.Va. Gov. Joe Manchin

Rescind mining permits on Coal
River Mountain

October 19, 2009

Dear Governor Manchin,

As residents of West Virginia’s Coal River Valley we write you to declare
a state of emergency. Coal River Mountain is our last mountain untouched by
mountaintop removal and it is in imminent danger of blasting. This would not
only threaten
our communities, it would also destroy our chance to have permanent jobs and
renewable energy through ridge-top wind power. You have the power to rescind
these permits.

At any moment, Massey Energy could blast part of the Bee Tree site, on the
containing ridge of the Brushy Fork sludge impoundment. Brushy Fork impoundment,
permitted
to hold 9.8 billion gallons of toxic sludge, is the tallest dam in the hemisphere,
and it sits on top of a network of abandoned underground mines.

We live in fear that the blasting could cause the dam to fail and create one
of the greatest industrial disasters in our nation’s history. The emergency
evacuation plan for the Brushy Fork sludge dam states that should it fail, a
wall of water 50 feet high would hit Whitesville and result in the deaths of
at least 998 people. Given this risk, blasting should not be allowed until your
Department of Environmental Protection has conducted a thorough geo-technical
examination of the impoundment’s stability in regards to the underground
mines.


Yes, I’m not certain how close the — I haven’t actually been there to determine
the how close the blasting is but blasting in the vicinity of a coal waste impoundment
can cause problems, can cause fracturing of rock and create situations where
there might be stability problems with the impoundment,” former MSHA engineer
Jack Spadaro said.

At the same time, we also stand to lose our most valuable natural resources.
Massey Energy not only plans to blast the Bee Tree area, but has also applied
for a new surface mine permit, in addition to permits for over 6,000 acres
of mountaintop removal mining on the mountain. If Bee Tree is blasted we lose
16
megawatts of wind potential, and the new permit is approved, we lose 30-40
megawatts of wind power. Between the two permits, we lose wind potential that
could power
over 10,000 homes.

Governor Manchin, you have the power to rescind these permits and urge your
regulatory agencies to protect the people and land of West Virginia. If you
do not prevent
mountaintop removal mining on Coal River Mountain, we will lose nearly $2 million
annually in county severance taxes, enough renewable wind energy to provide
West Virginia with 1.2% of its energy, and jobs that will last forever and
do not
depend on the boom-bust cycles of coal.

The whole world is watching. Allies, nationally and internationally, are holding
up Coal River Mountain as the symbol of a government’s choice to remain
stuck in its old ways or build a healthy, prosperous future. Even at the United
Nations meeting in Copenhagen in December, the most powerful leaders in the world
will watch Google Earth’s flyover tour of Coal River Mountain, as one of
approximately 15 tours of global crisis hotspots. You have the power to show
the whole world that West Virginia can blaze the way forward – choosing
permanent jobs and clean energy over threatening the lives of its own residents.

We are including three documents in this letter: 1) the heart of the letter – a
selection of our personal statements, collected during an emergency community
meeting, 2) a cross-section of the Brushy Fork sludge impoundment and the old
mine workings underneath, and 3) an aerial view of the sludge impoundment with
the old mine workings highlighted. We ask you to review these documents and
that you choose not to risk our lives, but to work with us to create a better
future.

Sincerely,
Chuck Nelson, Glen Daniel, WV
Lorelei Scarbro, Rock Creek, WV
Diane Hodge, Ameagle, WV
Delbert Gunnoe, Rock Creek, WV
Judy Gunnoe, Rock Creek, WV
BJ Lesher, Naoma, WV
Jim Lesher, Naoma, WV
Gary Anderson, Colcord, WV
Barb Anderson, Colcord, WV
Mike Maynor, Dorothy, WV
Lessie Maynor, Dorothy, WV
Emmett Withrow, Colcord, WV
Roger Fraley, Dorothy, WV


Statements from Coal River Valley Residents

My first and main concern is for the safety of the communities that live downstream
of the Brushy Fork sludge impoundment, including many of my friends and family
and my birthplace and hometown, Sylvester. Again, we have an opportunity to
continue to be an energy leader and keep Coal River intact, with a wind farm
which has proven to be more economically viable than blowing the mountain up
for coal. If we proceed with the plan for mountaintop removal mining, we destroy
the wind potential. This ridge is the backbone of our community and the only
mountain left intact in our area. We can have both energy resources: underground
coal and the wind, which can produce power for many, many homes. The jobs produced
by mountaintop removal are temporary and provide only temporary energy. By
blasting away our wind potential, we risk losing the opportunity to have jobs
that would last forever. As we face the climate crisis, we need to set an example
in creating renewable energy. Therefore, the most logical option is deep mining,
but leave the mountain intact for the future of Coal River and the future of
our state.

Blasting within 200 feet of the sludge impoundment is dangerous for everyone
20-30 miles downstream. If the dam failed, it would be the biggest environmental
disaster in the history of the United States. The DEP’s job is to protect
the environment and community, and allowing Massey to blast this close jeopardizes
everyone who lives downstream. It’s a no-brainer not to let this permit
go forward. Stop blasting!

Chuck Nelson, Glen Daniel, WV

As a native West Virginian and a long-term resident of the Coal River Valley,
I am very concerned about the current activity by the coal company on Coal
River Mountain. My property borders Coal River Mountain, and so does many of
my family, friends and neighbors. For the past 19 months we have worked very
hard to save this mountain from destruction. We are supported by over 13,000
people from across this nation including many residents of this state.

Governor Joe Manchin has refused to meet with the residents whose very existence
is at stake if this destruction is allowed to go forward. Today we are asking
that this governor have the foresight to see past his allegiance to coal and
advocate in every way possible for job diversity in the coalfields. We can
mine coal responsibly underground and create jobs and renewable energy at the
same time. It is not “either-or.” We can have both if the governor
is a good steward of the power he has been given.

— Lorelei Scarbro, Rock
Creek, WV

To me, it’s not just the impact that the mountaintop removal would have
on the water and the plant life, but that this will impact us. The authorities
need to know that there are people living here in this area. They need to know
that the impact is not just on Ameagle, it’s not just on Sycamore, it’s
on the whole state of West Virginia. How many mountains are they going to have
to take down and how many lives are going to be disrupted before they move
on?

— Diane Hodge, Ameagle, WV

Massey needs to think about the people that are below when they
are thinking about mining. These are the homes where we raised our family.
Stay out of Sycamore
Hollow – we have already had one flood in 2001 and lost about all we
had.

— Anonymous, Raleigh County, WV

Speaking economically, I want a rough estimate of the acreage that has been
mountaintop removal-mined on Coal River Mountain – what would be the
loss of the timber that could have been harvested every 40-50 years? Also I
want to know the impact of destroying the oldest mountains in America.

— Delbert
Gunnoe, Rock Creek, WV

I care about West Virginia for the long term, not just for a quick buck. I
am very upset about the mountaintop removal that is going on all around me.
Not only is the image of a war zone, it has a very negative effect on not only
animals but human beings. Our mountains and creeks are very important to me
and many others. I supposed it would take someone who had the money to bring
a wind turbine company to West Virginia for clean energy that will keep us
safe from the negative effects of strip mining and create jobs long after the
coal is gone.

— BJ Lesher, Naoma, WV

Why should we sacrifice Coal River Mountain for the sake of
a few years of coal, if we could have wind farms forever? The destruction of
our mountaintops
is really an act of terrorism because the people that live in the valleys below
are living in terror of the blasting, the pollution of our waters; they poison
our air; they destroy the beauty of our mountains, which is what drove people
to our state.
We must stop mountaintop removal, which only produces 5% of America’s
electricity. Mountaintop removal not only destroys our mountains, it destroys
our way of life and in the end it creates poverty.

— Gary Anderson, Colcord,
WV

We want the coal companies to know we are real people with lives, dreams, and
hopes not only for ourselves, but for our children, grandchildren, and other
people’s children. We lost our home and all our personal belongings we
had worked for and saved for 37 years in July 2001, and our concern with more
and bigger sludge ponds being made now puts us at much more risk than ever
before, even after we have built a new home and raised it more than 7 feet
higher than our old home was, that we will be washed away. It seems the only
thing the coal company wants is to be rid of us all and turn all our homes
and land into one big landfill.

— Mike and Lessie Maynor, Dorothy, WV

I oppose mountaintop removal in all forms. Our mountains are being removed
and our valleys are being filled in by debris. The blasting of our mountains
is putting off rock dust along with the blasting agents, and is poisoning our
water and our air. The dust is so bad that if you wash your car, it’s
dirty before you get done with the job. Our community is being destroyed by
Massey Coal Company in the name of energy. That is being run by greed from
the coal company. Coal in this valley will only last about 15 more years. Then
what will be left? Nothing. If the legislators want people to have jobs, then
make the coal companies employ deep mining. It takes more people to deep mine
than to destroy our mountains by blasting them away.

— Emmett Withrow, Colcord,
WV


October 30, 2009: National Day of Action to tell the EPA: Stop Mountaintop Removal

Mountain Justice, Rainforest Action Network and Energy Justice Network are again calling for rallies in every city where the EPA has an office. This is our third national action, following up on ones in June and August.

At that time the agency, in response to an letter from WV Congressman Nick Rahall had rubber stamped 42 out of 48 of the permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers to blow up mountains in Appalachia for thin seams of coal. Since then, the EPA has put a hold on 79 nine more, 23 in WV and others in KY, TN and OH.

We’re glad the EPA has taken this action and we need for the agency to do more: right now, it is only reviewing those permits, not overruling the Corps. And Lisa Jackson, the agency’s chief has yet to accept our office to come to the region and see exactly what is being destroyed.

The objectives of protest at the EPA office are:

1. To communicate to the staff and new officials at the EPA that they have a problem. That there will be no end of protest, calls and political pressure until they take real action.

2. To introduce the new staff to the issue of strip mining practices like Mountain Top Removal.

3. To communicate to the Obama administration through the EPA officials that coal is more than just destructive to the air we breath and the climate, but it has a real cost in the coal fields of Appalachia–and that we are not going to be ignored.

We need bottom liners and other who will attend a rally in each of the 11 cities.

  • Atlanta [email protected] or call 865 689-2778 for info or to arrange carpools*
  • Boston
  • New York – Annie Sartor annie [at] ran.org
  • Philadelphia – Robin Markle robinmarkle [at] gmail.com
  • Chicago – Jeff Lucas – jeffro217 [at] gmail.com
  • Dallas
  • Kansas City – Kellis Bayless kellis.bayless [at] gmail.com

  • Denver – Kristen – kowen3 [at] uwyo.edu
  • San Francisco – RAN sparkin [at] ran.org
  • Seattle
  • Washington D.C. – Kate – Rooth krooth [at] ran.org
*There is a carpool leaving from Laurel High School, 1539 Laurel Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37919 at 7:45 a.m.

Here’s how you can join:

Organized by Mountain Justice, Energy Justice Network and Rainforest Action Network

Endorsed by Climate Ground Zero, Coal River Mountain Watch, Greenpeace and Rising Tide North America

To Donate:
Energy Justice Network:
Use this link or send a check to our 501-3c umbrella
http://tr.im/give_Energy_Justice
Action Center Inc.
1434 Elbridge St
Philadelphia PA 19149

Mountain Justice:
Use the Donate (paypal) button on this site or send a check to:
Mountain Justice
PO Box 86
Naoma, WV 25140

To find your epa regional office:
http://www.epa.gov/epahome/whereyoulive.htm


October 27, 2009: Action Speaks Out Against UK Alliance with Coal

Press Release from Kentucky Mountain Justice:

Lexington, KY– Early this morning, Kentucky Mountain Justice organizers made a bold statement about the proposed “Wildcat Coal Lodge” by hanging a banner from Memorial Coliseum. The banner, reading ‘University of Coal? Or University of Kentucky?’, along with the Mountain Justice website, criticized a recent decision by UK’s housing board to accept “Coal” in the name of a new athletics facility.

This decision came after the university received a $7 million donation from Joe Craft and friends, of Alliance Coal, to rebuild the Wildcat Lodge. The controversial name is due to a stipulation in the donation, requiring the word “coal” in the name of the new building. Considering the recent trends to move to more sustainable energies in our country and abroad, as well as the continued controversy over mountaintop removal and similar mining practices, this public relations effort of the Coal Industry comes as little surprise. Gaining a lasting “brand” on an institution as influential as the University of Kentucky is certain to prove profitable for the industry. Unfortunately, the alliance further regresses the University’s standing as a progressive and “green” campus, despite their touted aspirations.

The measures taken this morning were clearly directed to the University Board of Trustees, who will decide today at 1:00pm whether or not to accept the building’s proposed name. Students and community members alike are expected to rally at the meeting, in hopes of discouraging this name change, and hold the Board accountable for their representation of the campus community.

According to the website displayed on the banner, www.mountainjusticesummer.org, Mountain Justice is a pan-Appalachian movement and call to action for people to stand up against the final destruction of our life supporting ecosystems – mountain range removal.


Please send your comments to the Army Corps of Engineers on NWP 21 – Deadline Oct 26!

(Thank you to United Mountain Defense for the video from the Knoxville ACoE Public Hearing)

Please take a few minutes out of your day to contact the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) and let them know you support their proposed elimination of the streamlined permitting process — known as Nationwide Permit 21, or NWP 21– which allows coal companies to seek quick approval for their mountaintop removal coal mining projects. The deadline for comments is October 26, 2009.

We are making undreamed of gains in the fight against strip mining and Mountaintop Removal for coal and as a result the coal industry is responding with intimidation and thug behaviour. At the ACoE hearing on October 13, the mining industries public relations firms orchestrated shipping bus-loads of people to the hearings to intimidate and harass anti strip mine activist. In WV, Friends of Coal supporters were shouting environmentalist down as they tried to testify, literally crowding some activist up against a wall while chanting and threatening their safety requiring a police escort through their masses. There was no removal of those people who were disrupting the event and the Army Corps and the cops complied with the threats from the coal thugs by requiring many environmentalists to leave the hearing for their own safety.

These corporate financed efforts are reminiscent of the same tactics that were used in the health care shout downs, tea baggers and overt right wing fox sponsored activities. Many of the pro-coal people who testified escalated the anti-Obama anti-Democrat tactics to an entire new level at these hearings. And they completely missed the point.

Shouting, threatening and bullying do not get in the administrative record–comments do. We can overwhelm the Army Corps of Engineers with comments and neutralize any advantage the tactics of the pro mountaintop removal crowd. The ACoE is accepting written comments until October 26th. Please help flood the ACoE with comments stating your support for the Army Corps’ decision to stop issuing rubber stamp permits.

We need you to take a minute to comment, email, write the Army Corp of Engineers to tell them you support the revocation of NWP 21 in favor of a permit by permit process. No two mountains are the same, no two streams are the same, no two strip mines are the same–the one size fits all practice that is NWP 21 has failed miserably and need to be revoked.

Some points you can make are:

  1. I applaud the Army Corps of Engineers for its proposal to end the use of the one-size-fits-all NWP 21 permit which allows for a streamlined approval of mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia. For decades, mountaintop removal and valleyfills have had a devastating impact on local communities, the economy, and our environment.
  2. NWP 21 for permitting mountaintop removal mining should apply to the entire Appalachian region, including northern Alabama. Failure to do so might lead the coal industry to simply relocate operations to those areas with the most lenient permitting process.
  3. No grandfathering of permits should be allowed. Past permits should be reviewed to make sure they meet the spirit and intent of the Clean Water Act.
  4. NWP 21 should never have been issued, because filling these streams has more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.
  5. The use of NWP 21 is a violation of the Clean Water Act because it is suppose to be used for activities that produce “no significant environmental impact” and the destruction of entire mountains and mountain ranges cannot be considered an insignificant environmental impact.
  6. EPA’s own scientists have determined that mountaintop removal and other surface coal mining activities authorized by NWP 21 are causing cumulatively significant degradation of streams and forests in Appalachia – including the destruction of ecologically valuable headwater streams and the pollution of downstream waters.
  7. The Corps has long recognized that “the purpose of the NWP program is to reduce regulatory delays and burdens on the public, to place greater reliance on state and local controls, and to free our limited
    resources for more effective regulation of other activities with greater potential to adversely impact the aquatic environment.” 56 Fed. Reg. 14, 598—14, 605 (Apr. 10, 1991).
  8. Possible points to make about this:

    • Constantly fighting coal companies and failed agencies to protect our homes, lives, water, and communities is a much greater burden on
      the public.
    • We have no state or local controls. WVDEP is a failed agency that fails to control illegal coal company activity.
    • Nothing adversely impacts the aquatic environment more than burying it.
  9. The impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining are significant and permanent, the Army Corps should not issue any additional authorizations under NWP 21 while the agency finalizes the process of modifying the permit to prohibit its use in Appalachia.
  10. The way the ACOE conducted these hearings was illegal and some of the public hearings amounted to sanctioned riots which coal supporters attended solely to disrupt. By failing to control the meeting process so that all in attendance had equal opportunity to testify, the Corps became a party to the denial of these first amendment rights. The Corps should reschedule these meetings and conduct them in an orderly fashion that protects the first amendment rights of all citizens.

Submit your Comments Today!

Online:

http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#submitComment?R=0900006480a2019e

Email comments will not be accepted. Send written comments to:

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
Attn: CECW-CO, Ms. Desiree Hann
441 G Street, NW., Washington DC 20314-1000

Call:

Pittsburgh Regulatory Branch: (412) 395-7155 or
Ms. Hann at (202) 761-4560

Public Notice:

http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/or/or-f/09-46.pdf

FAX: (412) 644-2811


SAMPLE COMMENT 1:

I am submitting these comments regarding the review of the use of NWP 21 for permitting mountaintop removal mines. Where shall I begin? I believe the NWP 21 permit process for mountaintop removal mining should be revoked for the following three reasons:

First, I have always viewed the use of NWP 21 to permit mountaintop removal mines as an obvious and egregious violation of the Clean Water Act. NWP 21 is only supposed to be used for activities that produce “no significant environmental impact” and to apply that term to mountaintop removal mining defies rational thinking. The destruction of entire mountains and the filling of miles of streams cannot by any stretch of logic be considered an insignificant environmental impact. The impacts extend many miles downstream from the buried streams. I am not expressing a mere opinion here. I have worked as a professional stream ecologist for the past 30 years and the biological science clearly demonstrates that the effects on streams are significant and most likely permanent. For this reason I do not believe any existing permits should be grandfathered if NWP 21 is revoked.

Second, using NWP 21 to permit mountaintop removal mines streamlines (i.e., rubberstamps) the approval process for mine companies, but deprives coal field residents of their rights to influence the mine permit process in ways that would reduce the impacts on their health, their environment, and the economic viability of their communities. The convenience afforded to the multi-billion dollar international mining corporations through NWP 21q is achieved at the expense of the residents of Appalachia who often suffer economic ruin as a result of the mining activities with no practical avenue of recompense.

Third, delegating the regulation of mine permits to states such as West Virginia is the same thing as forfeiting any regulation of the industry given that virtually all branches of the that state’s government are practically run by the coal industry.

Another point I would like to make is that revocation of NWP 21 for permitting mountaintop removal mining should apply to the entire Appalachian region, including northern Alabama. Failure to do so might lead the coal industry to simply relocate operations to those areas with the most lenient permitting process.

Lastly, I want to comment on the shameful and illegal manner in which public hearings on this issue were conducted. I have seen videos of these events and communicated directly with people who attended them and the Corps failed to protect the first amendment rights of citizens who attended these meetings to comment on this issue. Some of the public hearings amounted to sanctioned riots which coal supporters attended, not to testify, but to disrupt, and to prevent any other concerned citizens from testifying who may have opposed the use of NWP 21 to permit mountaintop removal mining. By failing to control the meeting process so that all in attendance had equal opportunity to testify, the Corps became a party to the denial of these first amendment rights. I believe the Corps at the very least should reschedule these meetings and conduct them in an orderly fashion that protects the first amendment rights of all citizens. Failure to do so would represent clear bias on the part of the Corps for one position over all others.


Safety of Dozens of Citizens Threatened at ‘Public Hearing’

On October 13, 2009, The Army Corps of Engineering hosted one of six hearing
on the proposed suspension of Nationwide Permits 21 permits on mountaintop
removal in Charleston, WV. Tonight, hearings are also occurring in Pittsburgh,
PA, Big Stone Gap, VA and Cambridge, OH, and citizens are concerned for their
safety at these hearings as well.

At the Charleston, WV hearing, lack of respect for public safety as well as
lack of proper planning created an extremely dangerous situation and prohibited
many people from attending or speaking at the hearing. There was no removal
of those people who were disrupting the event and there was no serious reprimand
of those who were disrupting the event. The Army Corps did not act to prevent
this disruption of free speech.

Before the hearings, the Army Corps and local police were contacted by residents
concerned for their safety. Clearly these concerns were not taken seriously.

Citizens who were endangered are calling again upon Governor Joe Manchin and
other prominent state officials to publicly reprimand those responsible for
creating this dangerous environment and perform a full inquiry into propaganda
from the coal industry of other entities that may have contributed to this
violent situation. Previous pleas to the governor and industry and political
leaders have gone ignored. Instead, inflammatory rhetoric has increased.

Those attending noted that many claims of the coal industry and supporters
were extremely exaggerated or simply untrue. This appears to be the result
of a national fear campaign which is impeding progress in the state of West
Virginia and endangering the lives of citizens. The issues which impact those
who live near mountaintop removal are serious and devastating, and those facing
these issues should receive a safe atmosphere to address them.

It was noted that in West Virginia, the Federal Court decision under Judge
Goodwin all but ended the use of NWP 21 for valley in southern WV where the
Huntington Corps regulates such activities. Therefore, it is likely that none
of those threatening on behalf of the coal industry had jobs that were in any
way impacted by the outcome of the hearing.

Following are a few representative statements from citizens who attended the
hearing, each are available for comment or follow up interviews.

From Maria Gunnoe, Community Organizer, The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition:

After I attempted to scream my comments over the mike, and had put up with
the harassment of the so called “coal miners” surrounding me in
my seat and shouting everything that anyone could lay their tongue to behind
me,
kicking my seat and propping up their feet on my arm rest (mud and all),
I then attempted to peacefully leave.

On the outside the same mob attacked me. One did put his hands on me in their
march following me out of the building and into the parking area. I continued
walking and others were behind me, and they had called police officers to my
rescue. The guy harassing me did say that he knows where I live. I am not real
sure what that is supposed to mean. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

The guys that were behind me were VERY loud in everything they done. One made
a call and he told who ever he was talking to that they were at a rally in
Charleston, and then in the next breath he said it was a protest. I really
don’t think they even know why they were there. All they knew was it had something
to do with their jobs. All they knew is where to show up, and they understood
this to be a protest not a hearing.

Every time anyone started to speak they mob overwhelmed them. I don’t think
anything from out side was actually heard.

Where were the state police?

The ACOE should have another hearing for us! When is our opportunity to
say we’ve got problems with this? I think we should ask for a closed
meeting with the ACOE since the Coal industry had theirs. As usual the industry
tried
to drown us out and make us not matter. It was almost like they were afraid
that we were going to tell their secrets to the world or something.

From Danny Chiotos, Organizer, The Student Environmental Action Coalition:

I was inside the Army Corps of Engineers Public Hearing on the repeal of Nationwide
Permit 21 from 5:30 to 9:30. I am somewhat hesitant to call it a Public hearing
because Mountaintop Removal supporters actively prevented us from giving comments
and actively prevented people who came at 6:30 or after from waiting in line
to enter the building. From what I experienced inside the building and saw
outside the building, the Mountaintop Removal industry’s actions were a direct
and successful attack on our ability to participate in this Hearing.

I saw Mountaintop Removal supporters shout as loud as they could through
every single anti-mountaintop removal speaker. For example, they shouted
through
Vivian Stockman’s comments and then when the Army Corps gave her 15 extra
seconds to speak, the MTR Supporters shouted a countdown of “15-14-13…3-2-1”.
They awarded her an additional 30 seconds after that where she tried to put
together a statement, but there continued to be intentional disruption of
her comments. When I got up to speak, I spoke of my love of my country and
my love
of our values of democracy. I had to shout this and the rest of my comments
into the microphone so that I could hear myself speak over the crowd.

The Army Corps of Engineers does hard and good work, but the way this Hearing
was handled allowed the Mountaintop Removal Supporters to prevent both sides
from being heard. There were many many many many times during the event that
the MTR supporters were asked to be quiet – but none of those requests were
honored. There was no removal of those people who were disrupting the event
and there was no serious reprimand of those who were disrupting the event.
The Army Corps should have had a swifter and more serious response at the beginning
of the event to prevent this kind of disruption of all of our free speech from
happening.

While I was in a conversation, the MTR supporters repeatedly shoulder shoved
me to get me to move.

Outside of the building, the situation was even more serious. There was
a crowd of 500 or so Mountaintop Removal supporters who physically and verbally
threatened those on our side who were trying to patiently wait in line. Many
people who would have waited in line to enter and give their comments (as
people
left from inside) were forced to leave, infringing on their freedom to participate
in this event. My girlfriend and her step-father were outside, about to enter
the building when their lives and safety was threatened. At 7:49 PM I received
a text message from her that said, “They [MTR Supporters] are screaming
at us Said theyd string us from trees One had to be restrained for attacking
us We werent responding They [the police] said it was easier to make us leave
than to make them [MTR Supporters] stop We were next in line to get in.” The
person who had to be restrained from attacking her took three police officers
to hold him back. When I went to the police to alert them to the situation,
they threatened to kick me out. I got a similar call from friends who were
trying to wait to get in but were unsafe from the attitude of the mob-like
crowd. This happened time and time again that evening.

When I left the building with a small crowd of friends under police escort,
which was necessary because we were getting reports of threats and violence
from the MTR supporters outside, there were repeated threats and obscenities
hurled at me.

The response of the police was to punish our attempts to voice our opinions.
The City of Charleston’s police did all they could to respond to the situation
and I know that they were trying to maintain safety as much as possible and
I respect them. The police also did a great job of escorting me and other anti-mountaintop
removal speakers through the crowd outside to the safety of our cars, which
was necessary. The decision on the number of officers present and the decision
to allow the MTR supporters to assemble directly in front of the entrance to
the Civic Center were poor ones, though. There needed to be more police on
hand to keep order. The impression, which I’m not sure is true, of the police’s
goal was to maintain safety by doing everything that they could to ensure that
the MTR supporters’ crowd kept from rioting (from where I stood it seemed like
they were really close to significant violence).

The placement of the crowd of MTR supporters was a serious mistake as well.
This crowd should have been kept away from the main entrance to the Civic
Center or there should have been another entrance opened up. The MTR supporters
definitely
have the right to protest, but their rally should have been kept at a respectful
distance from the entrance to the building. The reality that the response
to the threats of the MTR supporters’ crowd was to remove anti-MTR citizens
and
prevent them from participating in this event speaks to the fact that this
was not a “public” or “safe” event.

This is a serious issue on the protections of our right to free speech and
our right to safety. With the increasingly threatening and mob-like atmosphere
that surrounds the MTR Supporters’ crowd, the Police who we rely on to maintain
safety have to be ready in force to maintain safety.

From Chuck Nelson, Glen Daniel, West Virginia:

There were about ten of us, we were the last group leaving from inside. We
were waiting to give our comments when word was brought back in about what
was happening outside. As we talked with each of our group inside, things just
kept getting more crazy. We decided to leave then as a group, and proceeded
to make our departure.

Insults were hurled at us as we were leaving, with a bunch of thugs following.
Once in the lobby, I went directly to a Charleston city officer, and requested
an escort to our vehicles, with an angry group outside the doors. The officer
told me, that we should have known what was going to happen when we came
there. He did escort us to the front doors, and told Ben, as we were leaving, “You
are on your own.”

We made our way outside, only to be met with more insults — that followed
us practically all the way to our vehicles. We made calls on our phones, and
tried to make sure that everyone was all right.

I wondered where the state troopers were, not one was ever visible. I wonder,
how in the world can the Army Corps make a decision on an important permit,
when they can’t even conduct a proper, and peaceful hearing?

From Dana Kuhnline, Charleston, WV

I had to leave early and didn’t see any point in speaking anyway. I had
left my bag in my friend’s car, so he waited in the lobby while I dashed out
to the car, got my bag, and went to return the keys. He wasn’t at the door
when I got back and so I texted him; the police wouldn’t let me in to return
them. While I stood there waiting for him to return, the mob folk thought I
was trying to get into the hearing and were screaming and pulling at my bag.
They got a rousing chant of “Go Home!” started which was ironic,
because of course their antics were preventing me from doing so. The Police
officer wouldn’t let me inside to wait for my friend even though I was being
threatened, pushed and stepped on. When my friend came back and grabbed the
keys, the police officer said, “Do me a favor, for your own personal
safety, leave as soon as you can, don’t try to engage these people in conversation”

I was a little dumbfounded, but didn’t have the presence of mind to ask
for a police escort. So I turned to leave, and someone was stomping my feet
and
pushing me really hard so that I flew forward into a few miners. I turned
to see who it was and it was a lady holding a little baby! She had another
woman
as her back up and they were both screaming in my face, and trying to pick
a fight about why I would attack a little baby. I looked at her and said, “You
pushed me with your baby?” and walked away.

As I moved through the crowd, people deliberately blocked my path pushed me
and pulled on my bag. I made it through the main crowd and maybe 3-4 people
tried to get in a screaming match with me, but I did my best to ignore them.

From Charles Suggs, Rock Creek, WV

I knew that they weren’t letting anyone else into the hearing, so I stayed
on the edge of the crowd, keeping distance between myself and most people.

Three people, who have been calling for the abolition of mountaintop removal,
were backed up against the entrance doors by the mob crowd who was shouting
many things at them, including death threats. The three started to make their
way along the wall, moving left with the doors at their backs. Zoe Beavers
and a few others joined them.

I was still around the edge of the crowd, but noticed that things were heating
up by the wall to the side of the doors and started that way to see what exactly
was happening. A well dressed, plain-clothes officer then came up and told
me I had to leave for my safety and the safety of his officers.

Beavers was talking with a school teacher whose husband is a miner. The teacher
was yelling and getting the mob more riled up. An officer came over and ordered
Beavers to follow him well out of the crowd. He forbade her from re-entering
the crowd and said that she’d be arrested and booked for disturbing the peace
if she did. The most peaceful people in the crowd were threatened with arrest
for disturbing the peace.

Four more people opposed to mountaintop removal arrived after we were escorted
out by the police and were also subjected to insults and spitting. One person,
who was attempting to leave, was surrounded by shoulder-to-shoulder mountaintop
removal supporters who were shouting “You’re not getting out of here.” She
couldn’t get out until she yelled for a cop to get her out of there.

Only opponents of mountaintop removal were asked to leave who, despite the
shouting and aggression from the mob, remained quite peaceful. And they were
asked to leave for disturbing the peace. Some democratic, public hearing that
was.

From Vernon Haltom, Co-Director, Coal River Mountain Watch:

I went to the Charleston, WV, hearing hosted by the US Army Corps of Engineers,
but was unable to get in and give comments because the place was full. This
was after enduring a gauntlet of coal cult thugs hurling every insult imaginable
at me and the people who came with me to see and listen. Although a few other
people and I were in line and had filled out the registration forms to give
comments, the Charleston police made us go out of the building where we were
surrounded by more thugs pushing against us, threatening our lives, and again
hurling insults. Our group included an eighty-year-old woman enduring 300-pound
thugs screaming obscenities within three feet of her ears.

After 15 minutes or so of this shameful display, the Charleston police required
us to leave. Because it was easier to control a group of 6 or 7 peaceful people
than a mob of hundreds of violence prone thugs, and because the police did
not want any of us or the police to get hurt, they escorted us off the premises.

Essentially, police inability to control the mob resulted in our inability
to give verbal comments. While the building was full, we were prepared to enter
once a few people left, but the police removed us from our place in line and
removed us from the premises while the insult-hurlers were allowed to stay.

Our friends inside the hearing were able to give comments, but were drowned
out by the mob. When they complained to the hearing moderators, they were
told the clock was ticking. When they left, the police refused to escort
the last
small group to their vehicles, forcing them to run the gauntlet without protection.
The police said, “You all knew what you were getting into; you’re
on your own,” or a similar reply when asked for escort to cars.

The TV news channels didn’t show this side of the night, and no one
from the pro-mountain side appeared on TV. Instead, the TV news interviewed
coal supporters and implied there was no one from our side giving testimony.

From one of the hearings, news coverage showed one of the Corps of Engineers
people saying, essentially, “This is democracy working.” This
was not democracy working. It was a mob intimidating both the Charleston
police
and the US Army, as well as the peaceful citizens who came to give comments
to protect their homes, live, and communities.

These are scary times in Appalachia.

Mary Wildfire

The group of 750 angry miners and associated people roared with cheers and
applause after each of their speakers, often with standing ovations. If the
Army Corps wanted to allow that, I suppose it’s okay—but it certainly
contributed to the misapprehension on the part of many in the crowd that they
were at a rally. And in fact it was a rally, as the Corps people leading the “hearing” allowed
the crowd to scream abuse at each of the speakers on the other side, drowning
them out so that the recorder often threw up his hands, unable to hear.

The man in camo leading the “hearing” periodically said mildly, “Please
allow the gentleman/lady to speak,” but did not ask that the ones doing
the heckling be ejected, though Bill Price asked him to do so. Perhaps given
the size and temper of the crowd, it would have been a ticklish thing to attempt.
But the Corps people certainly could have said “if there are any more
interruptions, I’m going to shut down this hearing and reschedule it,” or “each
person gets three minutes. If there are interruptions, the clock stops. Now
if you want this hearing to end tonight, you will allow each speaker the courtesy
of their three minutes,” or something like that.

By the time I was called to speak I simply said that I had signed up to
speak under the illusion that it was to be a public hearing, but it was in
fact a
coal rally, and that I knew I would not be permitted to speak and obviously
the people in charge were fine with one side being silenced, so I wasn’t
going to try to speak.

This drew enthusiastic applause from the mob, happy to see the first person
on the other side stopped from even trying to speak.

When we got outside we caught up at that point with Maria Gunnoe who was
just ahead of us. At this point we asked the police there to please escort
us to
our cars, as a large group of men in Massey miners’ stripes began following
us. I was watching this behind me and did not see a man attack Maria, but turned
as I heard another policeman saying, “Touch her again and I’ll
take you right to jail.” The man was saying, “I never touched her!” as
we asked Maria if he had in fact touched her—she said yes, he had pushed
her. We continued walking rapidly toward our cars, talking about whose car
was where and how Maria would get safely home. She confirmed that she was
driving alone which worried me, given the intense animosity toward her of
many in the
crowd…

I commented on what it must be like for those who live in the coalfields,
not only to be surrounded by these people all the time, but to go “home” to
a place with the sound of blasting and the lights of the dragline as a constant
reminder that it isn’t really home in any meaningful sense. Maria’s
family has been there many generations, I guess that’s why she stays—I
could not endure all she has. I was very stressed last night and still felt
extremely tense this morning.

Bottom line: the Army Corps of Engineers did not hold a public hearing in
Charleston