BREAKING: June 18, 2009, Activists Risk Arrest to Stop Mountaintop Removal 


Update: 14 activists are now in custody, will be arraigned as early as 1 pm. All are safe and in good spirits.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday June 18th, 2009

CONTACTS:

Nell Greenberg, 510-847-9777
Celia Alario, 310-721-6517
Vivian Stockman, 304-927-3265

Hi-Res Photos, B-roll and Video will be available, www.mountainaction.org.

Scale 20-story tall machinery to call attention to nation’s
worst form of coal mining; This is the first time a dragline
has been scaled on a mountaintop removal site

COAL RIVER VALLEY, W. VA.—Moments ago, four concerned citizens
entered onto Massey Energy’s mountaintop removal mine site near
Twilight WV and have begun to scale a150-foot dragline machine to drop
a banner that says, ‘stop mountaintop removal mining.’ The
climbers plan to stay on the enormous dragline, a massive piece of
equipment that removes house-sized chunks of blasted rock and earth
to expose coal, until police arrest them. Equipped with satellites
phones and a web camera, the climbers will be available for interviews.

This is the first time a dragline has been scaled on a mountaintop
removal site, and marks the latest in a string of increasingly dramatic
protests in West Virginia by residents and allies from across the country.
This act of protest against mountaintop removal comes just days after
the Obama Administration announced a plan to reform, but not abolish,
the aggressive strip mining practice.

“It’s way past time for civil disobedience to stop mountaintop
removal and move quickly toward clean, renewable energy sources,” said
Judy Bonds, Goldman Environmental Prize winner and co-director of Coal
River Mountain Watch of West Virginia. “For over a century, Appalachian
communities have been crushed, flooded, and poisoned as a result of
the country’s dangerous and outdated reliance on coal. How could
the country care so little about our American mountains, our culture
and our lives?”

An increasing number of concerned Appalachians and environmentalists
are calling for the end to mountaintop removal, a practice that harms
the people and places of Appalachia, destroys the economic potential
of the Appalachian Mountains for long term clean energy opportunities
and jobs, and furthers the burning of climate-killing coal.

“I’ve written letters, attended hearings and called my congressman,
so far they have done nothing to stop the disastrous and unnecessary
practice of mountaintop removal,” said Charles Suggs, a 25-year
old of Rock Creek, WV who is one of those climbing today. “It
has come to the point when we must take direct action to abolish this
practice that is immorally robbing Appalachian communities of their
culture, their health and their future.”

Every day, mountaintop removal mines use more explosive power than
the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Mining companies are clear-cutting
thousands of acres of some of the world’s most biologically diverse
forests. They’re burying biologically crucial headwaters streams with
blasting debris, releasing toxic levels of heavy metals into the remaining
streams and groundwater and poisoning essential drinking water. According
to the EPA, this destructive practice has damaged or destroyed nearly
2,000 miles of streams and threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of
forest by 2020.

“We are all complicit in mountaintop removal whenever we turn
on our lights, and we are all responsible to stop it. Mountaintop removal,
the world’s worst strip-mining, is unacceptable. Period.” said
Rebecca Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network, a lead supporter of
the action today. “This is not a practice that needs to be reformed.
It is a practice that needs to be abolished. By sacrificing the Appalachian
Mountains for the country’s coal addiction, we undermine future investments
in 21st century clean energy solutions that will protect our planet,
produce more jobs and preserve our natural resources.”

Mountaintop removal coal provides less than seven percent of all coal
produced in the United States, and could be replaced with energy efficiency
initiatives or renewable energy sources, instead of permitting massive
environmental destruction of historic mountain ranges and essential
drinking water for a relatively tiny amount of coal.

Recent studies have shown that the Appalachia Mountains could support
commercial scale wind energy facilities, which would bring long-term,
sustainable jobs to the region – but only if the mountains are
left standing. In West Virginia, jobs from mining account for just
3.3% employment in the Mountain State – that is less than 20,000
jobs total. A recent University of Massachusetts study found investing
in clean energy projects like wind power and mass transit creates three
to four times more jobs than the same expenditure on the coal industry.
The wind power sector has grown to employ more Americans than coal
mining as demand for clean energy has jumped over the past decade.

Just days before this action, the Obama Administration announced steps
to end the fast-tracking of certain mountaintop removal coal mine permits
and to add tougher enforcement in Appalachia. However, it remains unclear
what, if any, improvements this will have on-the-ground in Appalachia
or elsewhere. Without a significant change in policy, mining companies
will continue to destroy historic mountain ranges and bury community’s
drinking water in toxic waste.

Following this protest, on June 23rd leading climate scientist, Dr.
James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, Michael Brune, the Executive Director
of Rainforest Action Network, and former Representative Hechler will
join Coal River Valley residents in a second round of protests in West
Virginia.

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For more information, video and photos, please visit www.mountainaction.org

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