Tree sit stops blasting on Coal River Mountain!


Contact: Kim Ellis – 304 854 7372

Email: [email protected]

Note: and

“Coal River Mountain was the last mountain around here that hasn’t been touched and they could’ve been using it for windmills… But Massey wants to get that coal. It seems like they just don’t care about the populace. Just the land and their checkbook.”

– Richard Bradford

MARFORK, W.Va. – Protestors associated with Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice halted blasting on Coal River Mountain today with a three-person tree-sit. David Aaron Smith, 23, Amber Nitchman, 19 and Eric Blevins, 28 are on platforms approximately 60 feet up two tulip poplar trees and one oak tree. They are located next to where Massey Energy is blasting to build an access road to the Brushy Fork Impoundment on its Bee Tree Strip Mine. Their banners state: “Save Coal River Mtn.,” “EPA Stop the Blasting” and “Windmills Not Toxic Spills.”

“Massey Energy is a criminal corporation with over 4,500 documented violations of the Clean Water Act, yet the government has given them permission to blast next to a dam full of toxic coal waste that will kill 998 people if it fails.” said Blevins. This action comes at the heels of a rigorously peer-reviewed study published in Science Magazine which states “Mining permits are being issued despite the preponderance of scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and that mitigation cannot compensate for the losses.”

The sitters are calling for the EPA to put an end to mountaintop removal and encourage the land-holding companies to develop clean energy production. The lack of EPA enforcement in mountaintop removal encouraged Josh Graupera, 19, member of the support team, to take part in this action “I knew that until I took an active role in the struggle to end MTR, I was passively condoning the poisoning and displacement of countless communities and in the obliteration of one of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on this continent.” Graupera said. Nitchman added, “I act out of personal concern for the safety of water from toxic sludge, air from smog, and mountains from annihilation.”

The Brushy Fork Impoundment is permitted to contain over nine billion gallons of the toxic coal waste, and currently contains 8.2 billion gallons. Brushy Fork’s foundation is built on a honeycomb of abandoned underground mines. If the foundation were to collapse the slurry would blow out from all sides of the mountain. According to Marfork Coal Co.’s emergency warning plan regarding the impoundment, in case of a frontal dam breach, a 40 ft wall of sludge, 72 ft at its peak height, would engulf communities as far as 14 miles away.

“Brushy Fork sludge dam places the downstream communities in imminent danger. The threat of being inundated by a wall of toxic sludge is always present. Blasting next to this dam increases the risk as well as destroying the opportunity for renewable wind energy,” said Coal River Mountain Watch’s Vernon Haltom. According to the Coal River Wind Project, the wind energy produced by a turbine farm on Coal River Mountain could power 70,000 homes, provide more permanent jobs for local residents and annually bring over a million more dollars in tax breaks revenue to Raleigh County than coal currently does.

The sitters plan to remain in the trees as long as it takes to stop blasting on Coal River Mountain. Climate Ground Zero’s action campaign, begun in February of last year, has kept up a sustained series of direct actions since that time continuing decades-long resistance to strip mining in Appalachia.

Journalists, United Mtn Defense volunteer arrested on unknown charges

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

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

By mail:

United Mountain Defense

PO Box 20363

Knoxville, TN 37920

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

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


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

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

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


Friday, January 22, 2010

8:00p.m. – 2:00a.m.


The Birdhouse located in the historic 4th and Gill neighborhood

800 N. Fourth Ave

Knoxville, 37917


Mountain Justice demands an abolition of MTR.

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

The Kayford 8

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

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

A note from one of the Kayford 8

Hello one and all,

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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.

From I-77 North or South / I-64 East or West: Exit Maccorkle Ave. West, (Exit
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]

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


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


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

Register at

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.


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.


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…


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…


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.

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,
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

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
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

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

— 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

— 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,

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,