Oct 13th and 15th, 2009: Mark your calendars for very important MTR hearings

It’s important that we get a good crowd out to show support for the Army Corps’ decision to stop issuing rubber stamp permits called “Nationwide Permits” — and to let them know that a lot more is needed to protect our communities from the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal.

Before a company can start a removing a mountain and dumping it into nearby valleys, there is supposed to be a rigorous permitting process to ensure that they will use good science, operate within the law and not harm nearby communities. Unfortunately, about one-third of mountaintop removal coal mining projects are approved under “nationwide permits.” These permits are designed for projects with “minimal impact” –but burying miles of streams under millions of tons of rubble is hardly “minimal impact.” During the Bush Administration, the Army Corps regularly granted nationwide permits for valley fills, even after federal judges found that the practice was illegal.

Ending Nationwide Permits will allow citizens to have more voice on mountaintop removal permits in their community–and it will require more scrutiny from government agencies to make sure permits are following the law and using good science. It will slow down mountaintop removal — but it won’t stop it.

The Army Corps has made a great step towards protecting Appalachian communities with better permitting and oversight of mountaintop removal — but it’s only the first step — we need to end mountaintop removal and valley fills all together.

The coal industry will try to cry out that they are being regulated to death — but that’s just not true. This change would protect our communities from outlaw mining practices and give us a better chance for future economic prosperity.

How can I help? Please join us at one of these hearings; there will be carpools planned if you need help getting there.:

All hearings will start at 7:00 P.M, with registration starting at 6:00 P.M.


October 13, 2009, in Charleston, West Virginia


Charleston Civic Center, Little Theatre

200 Civic Center Drive

Charleston, WV 25301


October 13, 2009, in Pikeville, Kentucky


East Kentucky Expo Center

126 Main St

Pikeville, KY 41501-1144

Carpool info: kevin [at] kftc.org

October 13, 2009, in Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville Convention Center

701 Henley St.

Knoxville, TN 37902-2914

Carpool info: unitedmountaindefense [at] yahoo.com

(Facebook Event)

October 15, 2009, in Cambridge, Ohio

Pritchard Laughlin Civic Center

7033 Glenn Hwy.

Cambridge, OH 43725

October 15, 2009, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

David L. Lawrence Convention Center

1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd

Pittsburgh, PA 15222

October 15, 2009, in Big Stone Gap, Virginia

Big Stone Gap Mountain Empire Community College

3441 Mountain Empire Road

Big Stone Gap, VA 24219

Can’t travel?

Written comments will be accepted through Oct. 26, 2009 to supplement the hearing records. Written comments may be submitted at the public hearings or at the federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov under docket number COE-2009-0032; or mailed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attn: CECW-CO (Attn: Ms. Desiree Hann), 441 G. Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20314. Email or faxed comments will not be accepted.


October 8-12, 2009: Senior Citizens Walk to End MTR

Where: State Capitol Building in Charleston, WV to Massey Energy’s Mammoth Coal mountain top removal site in Kanawha County, WV.

When: Thursday October 8 to Monday October 12.

Why: To end mountaintop removal.

ABOUT

The Senior Citizen’s Walk to End Mountaintop Removal will traverse 25 miles from Charleston to the Mammoth Coal mountain top removal site, which is owned by Massey Energy.

The march will begin on the morning of October 8 on the steps of the state capitol building in Charleston, WV. Each day, the marchers will walk between 4 and 6 miles. The march will culminate at the entrance to the Mammoth Coal mine site, where all those who choose to will engage in an act of peaceful civil disobedience

Food will be provided en route.

To learn more or register visit www.climategroundzero.org


September 22, 2009: Urgent Action: Tell the EPA to stop valley fill permits permanently!

You have pushed the EPA to take real steps against mountaintop removal. Friday, September 11, the EPA decided that of all 79 mountaintop removal permits they were reviewing, none of them should be approved in their current form!

This temporary stay of execution is a historic step: the biggest any agency has ever taken to end the devastating practice of mountaintop removal. We have achieved it thanks to the years of organizing and outcry from you and tens of thousands of allies across the country.

But now is a crucial time to make sure that this temporary reprieve becomes a permanent change. While the EPA regional offices review the permits in their area, the EPA has opened a 14-day comment period.

Please take a moment to thank the EPA for this important step and ask them to stop all permitting of valley fills?
You can submit official comments at ilovemountains.org.

Comments are needed by the end of this week!

You can find a sample letter below — feel free to borrow talking points, and to add your own personal comments for a greater impact.

(sample letter provided by Coal River Mountain Watch)

SAMPLE LETTER:

Thank you for doing the right thing so far by holding all 79 mountaintop removal valley fill permit applications for further review with the Army Corps and providing science-based oversight which will limit the devastating environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining. I encourage the EPA to use its veto authority to stop all permitting of valley fills associated with strip mining in Appalachia.

According to the EPA’s own scientific studies, there are many problems associated with valley fills, which have already buried and polluted nearly 2,000 miles of streams across Appalachia. Randy Pomponio, Director of the EPA’s Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division in the Mid-Atlantic Region 3, recently testified to the United States Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife about the negative impacts that mountaintop removal and valley fills have on water quality. He described high selenium levels and deformities in fish downstream from mountaintop removal sites. Margaret Palmer, an environmental scientist for over 25 years, also testified that stream “restoration” efforts by mine sites completely fail to even approximate the qualities and function of the original streams.

Given the significant impact of federal actions on mountaintop removal mining, I urge you to closely evaluate the NEPA process to ensure that all major federal actions undergo an EIS with significant citizen input. Already countless coalfield residents have documented the devastating social, health, environmental, and economic effects of mountaintop removal. Until these concerns are thoroughly studied, and cumulative impacts are taken into consideration, no mountaintop removal permit applications should go forward. I urge you, if need be, to you to use your veto power to stop future permits from destroying any more mountains, waterways, and communities.


3 Rivers Climate Convergence, Sep. 20 – 25, Pittsburgh

This September the fossil fuel industry and their political supporters are descending on Pittsburgh to put a green face on global capitalism.  These meetings amongst the world superpowers whose failed policies are responsible for the global economic, environmental and human rights crises, will be met by global citizens who know we need to do things differently.  We’ll stick our necks out to demand real, localized and community-based solutions that come from the 6 billion people of the earth, not 20 heads of state.

The Three Rivers Climate Convergence will be held September 20-25th in Schenley Park, located in the heart of Oakland, Pittsburgh’s student neighborhood. The convergence will gather together people united for environmental justice to share knowledge, attend workshops, plan actions and demonstrations in response to the International Coal Conference and G20 Summit and live sustainably in the shadows of a 21st century city. At this time, the encampment is not permitted by the city.

During the week of the International Coal Conference and G20 Summit, groups representing countless issues will arrive in Pittsburgh with their own definitions of resistance.The Pittsburgh Principles urge every movement present at this mobilization to respect the space and tactics of other groups. www.resistg20.org/principles.

Check out our website @ www.3riversconvergence.org.

To sign up, please fill out this form .
To facilitate a workshop or activity, please fill out this form .


September 9, 2009: Four Protesters, ages 22 to 81, and Journalist Arrested at Blockade of Massey Energy Regional Headquarters

Four protesters blocking the road to Massey Energy’s Regional Headquarters in Boone County and a journalist covering the event were
arrested this morning. The protesters are charged with trespass, conspiracy, destruction of property, disobeying a lawful order and resisting arrest. Roland Micklem, 81, James McGuinness, 53, Joseph Hamsher, 22, and Fred Williamson, 75, comprised the human roadblock. The journalist, Gianni Lapis, is charged with trespass, failure to obey a lawful command, and conspiracy.

“All four have pledged to not participate in property destruction—these are likely just trumped up charges,” Charles Suggs of Climate Ground Zero said.

The four men used plastic pipes and chain to lock themselves together and to a guardrail and light post, shutting down the road to the headquarters for early morning traffic. State troopers and Boone County Sheriffs were on the scene soon after the lockdown and bolt cutters arrived shortly thereafter. Police cut the chains binding the men to the guardrail and light post and dragged them to the side of the road by the pipes that still locked their arms together.

Eyewitness Ivan Stiefel also reported that two of the three drivers-by who stopped to ask questions were supportive of the protesters. “One fellow was a deep miner passing through on his way to Charleston and broke down on the road,” Stiefel said. “He went to the cops to ask to use their phone to call a cab and was told to leave or he’d be arrested for trespassing. So he walked over to us and asked if it was a strike.

“I said it was a protest against Massey and mountaintop removal. He said he was a deep miner and hoped we didn’t hold that against him, but he didn’t like mountaintop removal. We said it was mountaintop removal and Massey’s horrible business practices we were protesting. Then we talked a while and called him a cab.”

Stiefel and other bystanders were asked to leave before the team was taken from the scene.

“I am exercising a spiritual obligation as a steward of Creation. It was not God’s intent that these mountains be destroyed to enhance the wealth of a few individuals,” said Micklem. “This should not be solely a young person’s campaign. Now that they have provided the example and inspiration, we seniors need to make a statement with our own actions and share the risks that are part of this ongoing effort to stop the obliteration of West Virginia’s mountains.”

Micklem is organizing a 25-mile senior citizen’s march set to begin in Charleston on Oct. 5. All four protesters are being held on $5,000 bail each, while the journalist is held on $3,000.


Original press release from the morning of 9/9

JULIAN, W.Va. Four concerned citizens are locked arm-to-arm across the road to Massey Energy’s regional headquarters off of Corridor-G in Boone County, W.Va. The four men, ranging in age from 22 to 81 years, are halting all traffic coming into the corporate office in an act of protest against Massey Energy and their use of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining.

The signs read “Stop MTR,” “Stop Blowing up America,” “Protect God’s Creation,” and “People Over Profit.” The protesters insist that Massey pay damages and health care costs to people who live within a one-mile radius of Massey MTR sites, that the federal government ban MTR immediately, and that a full investigation is conducted into Massey’s business, labor, and environmental practices.

“I am exercising a spiritual obligation as a steward of Creation. It was not God’s intent that these mountains be destroyed to enhance the wealth of a few individuals,” said Roland Micklem, 81. “This should not be solely a young person’s campaign. Now that they have provided the example and inspiration, we seniors need to make a statement with our own actions and share the risks that are part of this ongoing effort to stop the obliteration of West Virginia’s mountains.”

Alongside Micklem are James McGuinness, 53, Joseph Hamsher, 22, and Fred Williamson, 75.

This protest follows on the heels of the week-long tree occupation that stopped blasting above Pettry Bottom for a week and the Massey-sponsored Friends of America event, at which Massey Energy Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship, conservative celebrities Ted Nugent, Sean Hannity and others, painted climate change as conspiracy, pointed the finger at “environmental extremists,” and called for a new conservative extremist movement.

“There were many true ‘friends of America’ at their Labor Day rally, but not a single one could be found on stage,” said Andrew Munn of Climate Ground Zero. “‘Friends of America’ are people who strive to make our land and lives better through their work, including those who commit acts of non-violent civil disobedience for the common good. Don Blankenship and men of his ilk are the fiends of America who profit from the violation of our rights of organized labor, clean air, clean water, health and the pursuit of happiness. Mountaintop removal and Massey Energy violate all of those rights, and we intend to take them back,” Munn said.

Massey Energy has paid the largest fines for environmental and worker safety violations of any coal company in the United States. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency fined Massey $20 million for 4,500 violations of the Clean Water Act. In the same year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration fined Massey $2.5 million for the death of two workers and 1,300 safety violations in two of their underground mines. In the first quarter of 2009, Massey revenue increased 25 percent. Yet, Blankenship announced an average six percent cut in worker’s wages and benefits to investors in the same quarter.

Micklem, a military veteran, is organizing a 25-mile senior citizen’s march against mountaintop removal for early October.

For more information on the march call Climate Ground Zero at 304-854-7372.

Pictures and updates available at www.climategroundzero.org


Elderly couple’s home destroyed by MTR boulder – Your help needed to pressure company for fair settlement!

About a year ago an elderly Floyd County couple, both deaf and living on a fixed income, were approached by a coal company offering money to strip
mine their mountainside.

They refused, but on Friday, Aug 28th a massive boulder crashed from the Frasure Creek Mining strip job on Caney Fork and into the bedroom of Billy
and Eileen Tussy. Thankfully, they weren’t home at the time.

The federal Office of Surface Mining responded and determined the boulder was caused by blasting at the Frasure Creek job. The operation was stopped
pending an investigation and “mediation”. The Tussys and three other families were evacuated to motels.

On Friday, the family met with Floyd County Kentuckians for the Commonwealth members, Appalachian Citizens Law Center attorney Mary Cromer and
representatives of Austin Powder Company, the subcontractor for Frasure Creek Mining, who set the blast.

The Tussys do not want to return to their property for fear of more boulders. They hope to put a new mobile home near relatives elsewhere.
The company representatives made no offer but will meet with the family again Wednesday. When asked if the company plans to apologize to the
family, Austin Powder Company Corporate Risk Manager, Constantine Toscidis responded “we don’t really go there”.

All the Tussys want is a safe and modest home near family and friends, which is exactly what they had before Frasure Creek Mining became their
neighbor. KFTC is starting a campaign to pressure Austin Powder to deal fairly with the Tussy family (check the KFTC.org blog for updates and photos).

Here’s how you can help, but remember we only have Tuesday to pressure the company for a fair settlement:

  • Call Austin Powder Company’s Chairman of the Board, William Davis (216) 464-2400 and urge that he replaces the Tussy family’s home and offers an apology.
  • Or send a quick note via fax to William Davis at (216) 464-4418
  • Or go to http://www.austinpowder.com/contact/index.html and email Mr Davis

September 10, 2009: Kayford 8 Benefit – Lexington Kentucky

Reel World String BandThe Reel World String Band has agreed to play at the Mountain Justice spaghetti dinner benefit for Tanya Turner and the Kayford 8!

The five awesome women in this folk-American roots band have been great supporters of the mountains for over 30 years. They have performed many coal and activist songs such as “Draglines,” “Cranks Creek,” and “Come On All You Coal Miners.”

Here are the details:

Thursday Sept 10 @ 7:00 PM
Mind Body Studio, 517 Southland Drive, Lexington KY
Spaghetti dinner and live music
$10-$20 donation

This is a benefit for Tanya Turner, an EKU grad from Pineville, KY, who U-locked herself to a coal mining truck on Kayford Mountain, West Virginia in a non-violent protest of mountaintop removal, following the Mountain Justice Summer camp in May. Tanya faces fines and court costs of $1900.
All proceeds go to help pay Tanya’s fines and court costs.

info: davecooper928[at]yahoo.com or call 859 299-5669


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Treesitters descend, threatened with chainsaw, $50,000 bail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
31 August 2009

Contact: Charles Suggs, [email protected] 304-854-7372

PETTRY BOTTOM, W.Va.—The two Edwight tree sitters, Nick Stocks and
Laura Steepleton, came down from their 80-foot tulip poplar perches
this afternoon and were taken into State Police custody. They have been
preventing more blasting from rocking the homes of Pettry Bottom
because harmful government inaction has failed to do so. They have both
been charged with trespass, obstruction and littering, and their bail
has been set at $25,000 each. For the past five days, they endured
psychological torture, verbal assault and threats.

Anonymous eyewitnesses said the Massey-hired security guards were
telling the treesitters they were going to rape and kill the
treesitters. On Sunday night, the guards put a running chainsaw to both
trees, cutting them a little bit. The guards told Steepleton today that
they were going to get them out of the tree no matter what because
Massey ordered them to.

The State Police were absent from the scene from the time the two
ground support were first arrested last Tuesday until Stocks came down
today, except for their second arrest on Wednesday. They were also gone
while arborists were cutting the trees around Steepleton and as she
descended.

Soon after his conversation with Webb, Sgt. Smith had to return to
the tree sit due to reports of someone felling the trees with a
chainsaw while Steepleton’s whereabouts were unknown. What happened
after this is unclear except that both Stocks and Steepleton were
arrested.

The guards felled trees around Laura and were going to make Stocks’
tree fall into hers. At this point, Laura decided to come down because,
as she said, “These people are nuts.”

Bo Webb of Naoma spoke with Sgt. Smith of the State Police and
offered to stand at the base of Steepleton’s tree tonight to protect
her from the guards, but Smith said he’d have to arrest Webb if Webb
went up to the sit. “I told him he’s arresting the wrong people. I
think Manchin is behind this, he’s the Commander in Chief of the West
Virginia State Police,” Webb said.

“It’s like nobody wants to listen to the people from the community,”
Carol Beckner of Pettry Bottom told Jessica Lilly of West Virginia
Public Radio. “If maybe people from the outside comes in and does
something maybe they’ll start listening to somebody.

“They have to start listening to somebody.”

“The people of Pettry Bottom and Clays Branch are living below a
land slide waiting to happen and the only barrier between fallen trees,
mud, boulders and water and the Pettry Bottom community is a wooden
stake and tarp fence. The DEP needs to step in and protect its citizens
– not Massey Energy,” Steepleton said. “Stop the blasting above Petty
Bottom, and end mountaintop removal.”

“They are blasting on the ridge that connects to the structure of
the dam [above Marsh Fork Elementary],” Ed Wiley of Rock Creek said.
“Massey is recklessly endangering those kids, and the folks at Pettry
Bottom. I’m glad those tree sitters are getting in their way.”

Steepleton and Stocks climbed 80 feet up a pair of tulip poplars,
within 300 feet of blasting and 30 feet of the Massey Energy Edwight
Surface Mine. They unfurled two banners from their treetop platforms:
“Stop Mountain Top Removal” and “DEP – Don’t Expect Protection”.
Blasting is prohibited when people are within such proximity, as Mining
Safety and Health Administration regulations require that people not be
hurt in the course of blasting and that non-blasting employees all be
cleared from the area.

This was the third protest in two weeks to focus attention on the WV
Department of Environmental Protection and their embattled secretary,
Randy Huffman. It also follows days after the leak of DEP biologist
Doug Wood’s memo on the scale of environmental degradation caused by
mountaintop removal, directly contradicting Huffman’s statements at a
senate hearing last June.


2nd tree-sitter leaves post, ending W.Va. protest

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A tree-sitting protest designed to halt blasting at a Massey Energy mountaintop removal mine in southern West Virginia ended Monday when the activists descended from an 80-foot high platform and were arrested.

State Police confirmed that Laura Steepleton and Nick Stocks were taken into custody after spending six days in a poplar at the Edwight mine in Raleigh County.

Stocks, 25, was charged with trespassing, obstructing and littering, and State Police Sgt. M.A. Smith warned of other possible charges. Steepleton, 24, was expected to face the same charges. Both were to be arraigned later Monday.

The protesters are affiliated with Climate Ground Zero, an environmental group based in Rock Creek. Stocks recently moved to the coalfields from Idaho, while Steepleton moved several months ago from central Florida.

Climate Ground Zero spokesman Charles Suggs had said sleep deprivation was endangering the pair, who endured harassment by flashing lights, air horns, loud bangs and, over the weekend, the brandishing of a chain saw.

Steepleton had been communicating with her organization and others via text message, but her cell phone batteries were dead by Monday morning.

The protesters wanted to stop blasting by Virginia-based Massey and draw attention to its mountaintop removal mining practices. Blasting to expose coal under the mountain ridges throws rock and dust, and vibrations from the explosions can damage homes by shifting foundations and cracking walls.

The protesters demanded that Massey stop blasting and pay for health care and home repairs for people who live near the mine.

Those demands were not met, but Suggs said the protest — the 13th in the Coal River Valley this year — succeeded in drawing a “positive, wide-ranging response” from the public, including local residents.

“It was more symbolic than a lot of the other ones because they were physically acting as a barrier between the blasting and mudslides in a community that was already enduring this,” Suggs said.

In a statement by the group, Stocks faulted the state Department of Environmental Protection for failing to adequately protect citizens who live near mines and said concerned people must act when “communities are made unsafe and unlivable.”

“If the DEP doesn’t do it, we must do it ourselves, and we will go beyond,” he said. “We will stop the devastation of this mountain and protect the communities below. We will end mountaintop removal.”

Massey did not immediately comment.

On the Net:
Climate Ground Zero: www.climategroundzero.org
Massey Energy: www.masseyenergyco.com


One tree-sitter to descend after week defending people from blasting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA ADVISORY
August 31st, 2009

Contact: Charles Suggs
304-854-7372

One tree-sitter to descend after week defending people from blasting

PETTRY BOTTOM, W.Va. – After six full days in an 80-foot-tall poplar tree, Nick Stocks will voluntarily come down at 10:00 a.m. today.  Since Tuesday morning, Stocks has been living on a platform 30 feet from Massey Energy’s Edwight Surface Mine, preventing further blasting over the community of Pettry Bottom.  Stocks will turn himself immediately over to the State Police.  Fellow tree sitter Laura Steepleton remains in a neighboring tree with no immediate plans to come down.

Stocks stated “To this day the DEP has acted as a thin, weak delegate for big coal in West Virginia. They have circumvented, sidestepped, dismissed and lied to communities and individuals who look to them for protections that ought to assure healthy children, safe drinking water and a continued existence in the valley. To this day they have not done their job to even the slightest degree. When the government fails in its obligation to protect its people and communities are made unsafe and unlivable, it is the responsibility of all concerned people to turn attention to that failure and do all in their capacity to ensure the safety of the community. If the DEP doesn’t do it, we must do it ourselves, and we will go beyond. We will stop the devastation of this mountain and protect the communities below. We will end mountaintop removal.”

Stocks and Steepleton have endured 24-hour sleep deprivation tactics and the brandishing of a chainsaw.  All day and all night Massey security personnel have flashed bright lights, sounded air horns, and banged loudly on metal buckets in an effort to prevent the tree sitters from getting any sleep.  “The security guards’ actions with the lights and air horns are making the situation less safe,” Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice volunteer Charles Suggs said.  “Depriving sleep from people who have to maintain safety systems to prevent a fatal fall endangers their lives.” 

More details at: www.climategroundzero.org