United Mountain Defense: Response to EPA’s Involvement in the TVA Superfund Disaster

Knoxville, TN – May 12, 2009 – This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency entered into an agreement with TVA to oversee the cleanup efforts at the TVA disaster site where more than one billion gallons of coal ash devastated a community in December. This is an enforceable agreement under the Administrative Order, which was entered into under the superfund law, also know as CERCLA.

“Under this order TVA remains the lead federal agency which is completely inappropriate. It is like having the burglar come to the scene of the crime to dust for fingerprints and having the EPA oversee the superfund disaster after TVA’s failed efforts is like having the burglar’s brother watching him dust.” Said United Mountain Defense board member Scott Ellis.

The Administrative Order labels actions such as dredging the Emory River, evaluation of the existing dike, planning off site ash disposal as well as air monitoring and dust control as time critical and the EPA has stated that these types of time critical actions will take place before any public hearings or opportunities for public input occur.

“The EPA seems to share TVA’s distain for public participation. It is critical that the EPA honor the role of public involvement as a key component of Superfund law instead of acting like public participation is an inconvenience or obstacle to get around. Given that the dredging will take place over months and the cleanup years there is no excuse to not have public hearings and comments on all phases of the cleanup operation.” Said Bonnie Swinford a board member and volunteer coordinator for United Mountain Defense.

United Mountain Defense co-founder Paloma Galindo states “Public participate is neither token nor an afterthought. The government has no monopoly on good ideas. Because of the former Manhattan project and Oak Ridge National Laboratories next door to the Superfund site this east Tennessee community is rich with scientist and other community members that deserve to be involved in decisions that impact their health and environment. United Mountain Defense is requesting public hearings on the dredging and cleanup plan from the EPA immediately.”

Activists maintain pressure on Massey and EPA

17 April 2009
Contact: Glen Collins, 304-854-7372

SUNDIAL, W.Va. – Three activists, who are committed to nonviolently ending mountaintop removal, unveiled a banner that said “EPA stop MTR” at Massey Energy’s Edwight mountaintop removal mine.  Five people were arrested: the three activists Charles Suggs, Madeline Gardner, and William Wickham, and independent photographer Antrim Caskey and independent filmmaker Jordan Freeman.  The activists chose the Edwight mine because Massey has recently begun blasting directly above the town of Naoma, W.Va.,and the grave danger its slurry dam poses to Marsh Fork Elementary. This is the fifth in a series of such actions over the last 3 months that Climate Ground Zero has taken against Massey Energy and mountaintop removal coal mining.

“With the EPA seemingly considering actually doing its job, we believe they will realize that mountaintop removal is illegal and put a stop to it,” Mathew Louis-Rosenberg said, referencing the five mountaintop removal permits EPA has put on hold for review in recent weeks.

Police arrested the activists and charged them with trespassing.

“Mountaintop removal is killing people and the the blame lies with the people who let it happen, from the politicians,to the out-of-state mining and land companies, to the DEP and EPA who should have never even let this start,” activist Charles Suggs said.  “People’s water is getting poisoned by coal slurry, the blasting shakes dishes off the walls and cracks foundations and the rubble buries what makes West Virginia great.”

Marsh Fork Elementary is just two miles from the site of the arrests.  It sits less than three-hundred feet from a coal loading silo, where chemically treated coal is loaded onto idling diesel trains, exposing the children to fine,chemical-laden coal dust and diesel fumes.

Marsh Fork Elementary is also directly below a Massey Energy coal sludge impoundment, holding over two billion gallons of coal sludge. Sludge is liquid waste from the coal washing process that is pumped into a dam built into a small valley. Mine Safety & Health Administration inspector Jim Elkins cited Massey in 1999 for improper construction of the dam above Marsh Fork Elementary.

Massey was building the dam in layers up to 10 feet thick between compacting the refuse, which makes proper compaction impossible.   Without proper compaction the dam could fail, sending a tsunami of coal sludge through the school and communities downstream.  “If the dam failed, fatalities would be expected to occur,” Elkins wrote in his report.  “It’s reasonably likely an accident would occur if the condition continued to exist.”

There’s no record the faulty construction was ever fixed.

The Edwight Surface mine, above Naoma and Marsh Fork Elementary school, is a glaring example of everything that is wrong with mountaintop removal mining and coal processing,according to Climate Ground Zero. This banner was dropped to highlight for the EPA what could happen if mountaintop removal coal production is allowed to expand, threatening more schools and blasting above more homes, they said.  “This act is a message to the EPA to do the responsible thing, and use its power to stop mountaintop removal mining,” activist Will Wickham said.


March 14, 2009: Fourteen Arrested At TVA Headquarters During March in March

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Local residents joined dozens of activists from across the country today in a
demonstration at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s headquarters, which resulted in the arrest of 14
individuals, after participating in a “die in” in front of the building . This event was held to in
solidarity with communities affected by the destructive impacts of Mountaintop Removal coal mining and
the surivors of the recent coal ash disaster in Harriman.

“It is time for TVA to take full responsibility for its destructive behavior,” Eric Blevins said, an organizer with Mountain Justice. He continued, “They need to support the recovery of the community that is still being hurt by the ash disaster, and take an active role in the transition away from dirty and dangerous practices towards renewable energy and healthier jobs.”

Saturday’s demonstration began with a rally in Market Square, where organizers from United Mountain Defense, and Mountain Justice spoke about coal’s impact from cradle to grave on communities in Appalachia and the surrounding area. The crowd then marched through downtown Knoxville and ended at TVA’s headquarters. At the end of the march people interested in participating in Civil Disobedience gave a statement as to why they wanted to take this action. With the support of a singing crowd each participant fell to the ground representing the deaths caused by the coal industry. After a few minutes Knoxville law enforcement informed the participants that they were blocking the sidewalk, and that they needed to remove themselves from the area. All 14 people were arrested, and cited for loitering.

TVA owns and operates the Kingston coal plant, where last December an impoundment failed, spilling 1.6 billion gallons of heavy metal-laden coal ash waste over an area of 400 acres. The spill has been called the worst environmental disaster in US history, which disproves the energy industry’s recent “clean coal” smokescreen.

“The massive toxic fly ash disaster is just one more reason that coal is filthy. Coal fly ash, a byproduct of coal combustion, is an end result of the dirty life-cycle of coal,” explains Bonnie Swinford, full time volunteer for United Mountain Defense, “which often begins with surface mining and mountaintop removal, followed by a washing process that produces coal toxin concentrate known as slurry. Mountaintop removal coal extraction has destroyed almost 500 mountains, and, in addition to coal slurry, continues to destroy water sources across Appalachia.”

Mountaintop removal is the most destructive method of coal extraction, in which mountains are blown up to expose coal seams. This process destroys fragile mountain ecosystems, fills valleys and streams with waste, and leaves behind billions of gallons of toxic coal sludge that contaminates essential drinking water supplies for many cities surrounding Appalachia.

Today’s demonstration was part of an escalating series of protests across the country calling for immediate action on the coal industry’s destructive practices, including recent arrests in the Coal River Valley, WV on March 5th and the Capital Climate Action, where on March 2, nearly three thousand protesters closed all entrances to the Capitol Coal Plant in Washington, D.C. We need your help and support to continue this call out for immediate action to end the unjust practice of Mountaintop Removal, and push for a just transition to renewable energy.

Please support these individuals fighting for the mountains of Appalachia,
arrest donation can be sent by clicking the Donate Paypal button. Please mark donations for “for MJSB” or checks can be sent to:
P.O. Box 86
Naoma, WV 25140

Please mark checks “for MJSB”.

Sat, March 14, 2009 – 1 PM – 3 PM: TVA MARCH & RALLY




SATURDAY, MARCH 14 @ 1pm-3pm

Meet at 1pm in Knoxville’s Market Square
(outside TVA headquarters)

We will be speaking out against mountain top removal, dirty energy, and the recent TVA coal ash spill disaster. Participate in a symbolic march around downtown Knoxville, followed by a large rally in Market Square. We will hear from captivating speakers, determined activists, local heroes, and survivors of the recent coal ash spill, followed by a proposal for a Green New Deal, a prayer, and call for civil disobedience.


***please dress in your “sunday best”
***bring musical instruments, signs, banners, and friends!
***we encourage you to bring–and use–your cameras and camcorders!


We will gather once again outside TVA headquarters for a proper candlelight vigil to pay our respects to lives and land lost to coal mining and mountain top removal, in Tennessee, Appalachia, and the world. This is another opportunity for prayer, song, and speaking out to the country’s most prominent coal corporation.


March 5, 2009: United Mountain Defense Member Arrested at the TVA Disaster Site

Thursday, March 5 United Mountain Defense member Matt Landon was
arrested by TVA police while giving a ride home to an elderly disabled
Swan Pond resident, Eva Hewitt.

The two were
returning from the Tennessee Environmental and Conservation public
meeting held earlier that day where Eva was one of several community
members who spoke at a citizen’s press conference about health concerns relating to the TVA disaster.

is blind in one eye and does not drive so Matt was returning her to her
home on South Swan Pond Road. There continues to be a TVA check point
on this road even after the citizens of Roane County
were promised that the road blocks would be removed more than a month
prior to this event. As Matt and Eva slowed down at the TVA check point
Matt saw the TVA officer sitting in his patrol car “it looked like he
was waving us through just as they have done many times in the past”
said Matt Landon. Eva said “when we slowed down at the road block there was no officer at the guard booth, so Matt drove on to take me home”.

in Eva’s drive way, two TVA police pulled in and at that time searched
and arrested Matt. Video documentation shows the TVA cops telling Matt
he was being arrested for running the stop sign at the TVA check point.
Matt was taken to the Roane County jail and is being charged with trespass by motor vehicle, violation of restricted access, and obedience to traffic control advice.

Eva said “It’s a shame they arrested him when he was just trying to help me out and give me a ride home.”

“I feel that arresting me today is just a continuation of the ongoing harassment I have experienced from the TVA police. TVA has tried to prevent United Mountain Defense from conducting independent water testing,
deploying independent air monitoring, delivering bottled water to
locals and working with the community of Roane County and they have
consistently harassed me while doing this work. The citizens of Roane
County deserve more from TVA and I do not plan on abandoning them in
this time of need. ” said Landon.

Please support United Mountain Defense by sending jail
support donations to the pay pal account at


You can also send checks to:

P.O. Box 20363

Knoxville, TN 37920

Please Mark Check: “For Jail Support”

March 4, 2009: Banner and Blockade at Edwight surface mine, above Marsh Fork Elementary

Five more arrested protesting Massey Energy mountaintop removal, blasting near sludge dam above Marsh Fork Elementary

Around 1:30 today, just three days after the Power Shift Conference and Capitol Climate Action in Washington, DC, and less than a week after Raleigh County Circuit Judge John A. Hutchison granted Massey Energy’s Temporary Restraining Order against Mike Roselle and other members of Climate Ground Zero, a new group of protesters took action to bring a halt to mountaintop removal mining on Massey Energy’s Edwight mountaintop removal coal site above Marsh Fork Elementary in Sundial, WV.
Building upon the momentum of the conference, the growing movement against mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining and the urgency of protecting the children at Marsh Fork Elementary from the pending danger of a massive dam failure of the Shumate sludge impoundment above the school, activists were once again arrested during a protest on the Edwight MTR site. This time however, was different.
Displaying a banner stating “STOP BLASTING, SAVE THE KIDS” atop Massey Energy’s Edwight MTR site, all 5 were arrested and charged with trespassing. Among the group were Joe Gorman, a student from West Virginia University, Cassandra Rice a native of Fairmont, WV, Andrew Munn of University of Michigan and member of Student Environmental Action Coalition, Nicole Moston a freelance videographer and Mat Louis-Rosenberg of the group Mountain Justice.

Since 2005, local citizens have demanded that Marsh Fork Elementary School be moved to protect the children from a massive dam failure like the one that happened in Harriman, Tennessee on December 22 of last year. The Schumate Dam holds back 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal waste in a sludge pond above the Marsh Fork Elementary School and upriver from the towns of Whitesville and Sylvester in the Coal River Valley, about an hour from Beckley, WV. If the dam were to fail, students and teachers at Marsh Fork would have less than a minute to get upriver before being lost under the rushing toxic spill.

Thursday’s protest shows that the concern for the health and future of southern West Virginia’s mountains and residents spans across the state and even across the nation. It also shows that not only an isolated group of residents and activists that oppose MTR, but increasingly more people are moved to the point of personally standing up to the coal companies in order to bring more attention to the inherent dangers and destruction that come with mountaintop removal coal mining.

“Personally I see this as an act of violence. It’s violence against nature and an act of violence toward the people who live here. Ethically it’s wrong, and it’s not even economically viable anymore. It’s just wrong on all fronts.” says Cassandra Rice.

Joe Gorman, “I believe this is the most important battle facing West Virginia. MTR specifically is the most horrific means of destroying jobs, health, and communities. When the coal is gone, I want there to be jobs for my children and grandchildren.”

Andrew Munn stated “Just across that valley is Coal River Mountain. There’s a dream on that mountain – wind energy promises long term prosperity to the community here. That’s why I’m here. The kids at Marsh Fork – the communities all around Coal River Valley – they deserve better than another destroyed mountain and the dangers that come with it.”

To which Mat Lewis-Rosenberg added, “When you combine that with the danger of going to school below a massive sludge dam, it’s obvious that Massey Energy needs to stop blasting the mountains now, and enable the development of safer and more economically stable alternatives.”

Today’s protest stands as a symbol of the growing movement against MTR. Over 150 residents from West Virginia joined a hundred other Appalachian residents at last weekend’s Power Shift Conference, which was marked by a substantial focus on mountaintop removal coal mining. Thousands of protesters stood in solidarity at the conference with those being impacted by MTR and cheered Judy Bonds of Rock Creek, WV as she spoke of what was happening in southern West Virginia.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was also interviewed on the national Fox News network wearing a Coal River Mountain Wind button and spoke in great detail about the issues facing Appalachia. “”I flew over these mountains and I saw what [the coal companies] were doing and if the American people could see what I saw there would be a revolution in this country.

 We don’t have to go to Appalachia and cut down the mountains and poison our children and subvert our democracy. We can get cheap, abundant energy from the heaven and that’s the way America oughta be.”
full Powershift speech from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Area resident Bo Webb stated, “This assault by Massey Energy on our mountains and surrounding communities will no longer be tolerated. Our rights have been stripped aside as our mountains have been stripped away. Americans of good conscience everywhere have been taking notice and now they are taking action.”


March 7-15, 2009: Mountain Justice Spring Break 2009!

In less than four weeks, you’ll have a chance to get totally plugged into the growing movement to end mountaintop removal and bring justice to the coal fields. Come to Eastern Tennessee, March 7-15 for Mountain Justice Spring Break, where we will share the skills and knowledge needed to fight back against dirty coal. This will be an amazing opportunity to meet and join the good people who make up Mountain Justice, gain grassroots organizing skills, and learn the dirty truth about coal, with your own eyes. Stand up and take action at the site of the TVA coal ash disaster and stand in solidarity with the impacted communities.

You can visit mjsb.org right now and register for what is bound to be a life-changing experience.

Building upon the success of Mountain Justice Spring Break (MJSB) 2008, this year’s camp will be full of workshops, speakers, community service, direct action, hiking, music, great food, camp fires, fun times and more. Not only will you leave with a refined understanding of mountaintop removal and the dirty coal cycle, you will learn to organize in solidarity with coal-impacted communities to maintain their land and culture and end our dependence on dirty energy.

MJSB 2009 is will be held at a beautiful camp (with cabins) near the Cumberland Plateau, allowing us to explore and appreciate the land we are working to protect. The camp is only miles away from the recent TVA ash disaster, the single worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. History. We will have the unique opportunity to meet with and act in solidarity with the local people, who’s lives have been turned upside-down by the colossal one billion gallon spill of toxic coal ash. (And TVA Headquarters will only be a few miles away, in Knoxville… )
At spring break, Mountain Justice will also be recruiting volunteers to join the struggles in coal-impacted communities of Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. Internships for college credit can be set up for a wide range of areas of study. You can come work for Mountain Justice and get college credit for it!

This event is being planned largely by college students and full-time volunteers,
so if you’re interested in joining in on the final stages, please email Marty,
info [at] mjsb.org, to get involved! If you have break between March 7th and
(or even if you don’t…), please consider coming to Eastern Tennessee and
joining in on the fun and educational experience that will be Mountain Justice
We’re looking forward to making lots of new friends and pushing the movement
that much closer towards critical mass. The time for Mountain Justice is at
hand, and you can be part of it!

Please visit mjsb.org for more information, and register by February 18th!

February 17, 2009: Mountaintop Removal Brave Mountaineers

“Yesterday, we again confronted Massey. This time on Cherry Pond Mountain, Clay’s Branch, above my home. Look at what they are doing… and what we are doing. We really have no choice. They’re blasting the mountain down on top of us.”

-a brave mountaineer

February 16, 2009: Two stop blasting at Massey MTR site

February 16th, 2009

Blasting at Clays Branch, Cherry Pond Mountain, Raleigh County, West Virginia

On Monday, February 16 2009, at about 11am, two members of Climate Ground Zero were arrested for interfering with MTR blasting on the Massey Energy-owned Edwhite mountain top removal site near the Shumate Dam on Cherry Pond Mountain. The Shumate dam holds back 2.8 billion gallons of toxic sludge, the waste by-product of chemically cleaning coal, and sits above the Marsh Fork elementary school. Since 2005, local citizens have demanded that Marsh Fork Elementary School be moved to protect the children from a massive dam failure like the one that happened in Kingston, Tennessee on December 22 of last year.

“This is a crime against nature”, said James McGuinness, “It is not only illegal, it is immoral.” “They have no right to destroy this mountain.”

“Massey Energy’s plan to destroy this mountain for coal threatens the health and safety of the residents of Clays Branch and the Hunter Addition of Naoma. This is a serious threat to the ecology, the economy and the future of West Virginia.” Said Mike Roselle, of Rock Creek.

“If the blasting continues, and the Shumate Dam was to fail, the lives of thousands of West Virginians would be at risk.”

Clays Branch is part of Cherry Pond Mountain, which stretches east along Rt 3 to Bolt Mountain (Rt 99). Clays Branch is located above Marsh Fork Elementary School, above the 2.8 billion gallon sludge pond at Shumate and up the left hand fork of Shumate hollow. There is massive MTR blasting currently ongoing –next to an unstable sludge dam, above an elementary school and surrounded by mountain communities.

February 19, 2009: Sign on to the Green New Deal

Below you will find a letter to President Obama and the board
and president of TVA as well as the provisions of the Green New
Deal, a plan to restructure and evolve TVA.

This document will be sent to the TVA board today and possibly hand-delivered
to them at their board meeting in Knoxville tomorrow.

There will be a press conference outside TVA headquarters in Knoxville
on March 13th for the Green New Deal to be signed by TVA.

This will coincide with the Mountain Justice Spring Break march on TVA,
so hopefully lots of folks will be there.

Between now and the March march/press conference, we want as many groups
and organizations as possible to sign this letter voicing their support
for the signing of the Green New Deal.

If your group wants to sign on, please send an e-mail to [email protected]


To President Barack Obama, President/CEO of Tennessee Valley Authority, Board
of Directors of Tennessee Valley Authority:

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created as part of the New Deal
in the midst of a historic economic depression. Now is the time, in the midst
of our current economic challenge, to create a Green New Deal and beginning
with the restructuring and evolution of TVA. When TVA was created, it provided
critically needed employment for tens of thousands of Americans; this restructuring
will be no less important.

TVA currently plans to expand its generating capacity by building nuclear
reactors. Alternatively, efficiency projects and wind power are less expensive
and employ far more people; developing cost effective, efficient, and renewable
energy must be an element of the Green New Deal. Coal consumption is dirty,
pollutes the water with ash and slurry spills and mercury, destroys our mountains
and watersheds with strip mining, puts citizens out of work with mechanization,
and drastically changes the climate with carbon dioxide, and we must move away
from it. Currently, less than 1% of TVA electricity derives from green sources.
The Green New Deal elevates this to 100% as quickly as possible. We can achieve
this by working together.

Although officials may be concerned that implementing this plan will require
rate increases, we believe that people will prefer higher electricity bills
over the financial expenses and medical issues resulting from dirty power sources.
Once renewable energy systems are in place, prices should drop drastically
since the fuel is free and produces absolute minimal waste. We will be able
to say goodbye to the many costs of extraction and transportation of fuel and
waste inherent with coal and nuclear.

A critical aspect of the Green New Deal is reducing demand for electricity
by motivating customers to consume less. Now more than ever, in this time of
economic hardship, we need those in power to encourage people to conserve electricity
by offering incentives and suggestions on how to do so. Energy efficiency is
vital for us to stop turning our planet and communities into a wasteland.

And finally, embedded in the Green New Deal is a plan for TVA to provide enhanced
relief to the survivors of the Kingston coal ash disaster. TVA is not living
up to its responsibility to assist those individuals and communities impacted.

We invite TVA’s Board and CEO, as well as President Obama, to sign the Green
New Deal at a public press conference on Friday, March 13 at eleven o’clock
a.m. on Market Square, in front of TVA’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee.
We are more than open to discussing the elements of the Green New Deal. Please
e-mail us at [email protected] or engage in a conversation with us
at the March press conference.

President Obama, now is the perfect time to restructure TVA. With four board
positions opening to new appointments this year, you can set the standard for
how this administration responds to financial, community, and human needs in
the time of a quickly changing environment.

We look forward to your reply. Please confirm your attendance to this event.

Respectfully submitted,
Mountain Justice



The Tennessee Valley Authority hereby agrees to:

1) Immediately stop purchasing coal extracted by mountaintop removal or any
other destructive form of surface mining

2) Generate 50% of all electricity with green, renewable sources by 2012,
and 100% by 2015 with, but not limited to:

  • Efficiency projects
  • Wind power
  • Solar power
  • Tips and incentives for consumers to use less electricity

3) Ensure that all green jobs created to implement this plan go to the areas
with the most poverty, including, but not limited to, the coal mining areas
of Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia

4) Immediately cease plans to strip mine the Royal Blue Wildlife Management
Area for coal

5) Immediately cease plans to complete five nuclear reactors at Bellefonte
in Alabama and Watts Bar in Tennessee

6) Decentralize the power grid 100% by 2050 by using incentives to encourage
on-site generation of power for homes, businesses, churches and government

7) Reduce demand for electricity by offering incentives and tips for consuming
less to all TVA customers

8) Ban new coal ash ponds and create, and publicly present, a plan to make
existing ponds safer, including warning systems for all residents likely to
be affected by additional impoundment failures

9) Establish a citizen advisory board with voting power for all TVA operations



I, _________________on behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority, agree on
_____/_____/_____ to commit fully and faithfully to each of the above listed
demands and policies of the Green New Deal.




___________________ _____/____/____

___________________ _____/____/____


The Tennessee Valley Authority hereby agrees to:

1) Evacuate all impacted residents justified with medical notices to housing
of equal or superior to that of which they had before the coal ash disaster

2) Arrange for long-term water, air, and health monitoring of people and wildlife,
both downstream and upstream, of the coal ash spill site

3) Provide safe drinking water to those whose water has been negatively impacted
by the spill

4) Request that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classify coal ash
as a hazardous material

5) Purchase the property of impacted residents of the coal ash spill, who
wish to be financially reimbursed, at a fair price

6) Pay restitution for human suffering resulting from the ash pond failure


I, ____________________ on behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority, agree
on ____/____/_____ to commit fully and faithfully to each of the above listed
demands and policies of the Disaster Relief for Kingston Ash Disaster Survivors.


___________________ ____/____/____

___________________ ____/____/____