Mountain Mobilization Shuts Down Lincoln County Strip Mine

 

More than 50 protesters affiliated with the R.A.M.P.S. Campaign have walked onto Patriot Coal’s Hobet mine and shut it down.  Ten people locked to a rock truck, boarded it and dropped banners: ”Coal Leaves, Cancer Stays.”  At least three have been arrested, with another in a tree being threatened by miners with a chain saw.  Earlier in the day, two people were arrested at Kanawha State Forest before a group of protesters headed to the state capitol.

“The government has aided and abetted the coal industry in evading environmental and mine safety regulations. We are here today to demand that the government and coal industry end strip mining, repay their debt to Appalachia, and secure a just transition for this region,” Dustin Steele of Matewan, W.Va. said.  Steele was one of the people locked to the rock truck.

Mounting scientific evidence shows that strip mining negatively impacts community health and miner health.   Recent studies have found a 42 percent increase in risk of birth defects around strip mines, and miners who spend at least 20 years as strip-mine drillers have a 61 percent chance of contracting silicosis, a virulent form of black lung.  “The coal companies are poisoning our water and air, and they’re treating the workers no better than the land – fighting workplace health and safety protections to get the most out of labor as they can,” said Junior Walk of Whitesville, W.Va.

As coal production declines, protesters are concerned that the region will be left with only illness and environmental devastation as the industry pulls out of the region and companies file for bankruptcy to shed legacy costs.

Patriot Coal is currently going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in which union contracts and pensions could be on the chopping block.  Both UMWA pensions and the state’s Special Reclamation Fund are funded through a per-ton tax on coal.  With Central Appalachian coal production in the middle of a projected six-year, 50 percent decline, this funding stream is increasingly unsustainable.  Protesters are calling on the coal industry and government to ensure that funding is available both to honor commitments to retired workers and to restore the land.

“Coal companies must employ their surface mine workers in reclaiming all disturbed land to the highest standards.  Instead of arguing about the ‘war on coal,’ political leaders should immediately allocate funds to retrain and re-employ laid off miners to secure a healthy future for the families of this region,” said R.A.M.P.S. spokesperson Mathew Louis-Rosenberg.

Appalachian communities, from union miners to the anti-strip mining activists of the 1960s, have a proud history of confronting the coal industry and demanding an end to its exploitive practices with direct civil disobedience. R.A.M.P.S. and other campaigns have returned to this tradition to eliminate strip mining once and for all. Since its founding in 2011, R.A.M.P.S. has organized a range of actions, from tree-sits to blockades of coal trucks.

Today’s protesters are among the hundreds of people across the country who are joining this summer’s National Uprising Against Extraction, using radical tactics to fight oppressive extractive industries and demand a transition to a sustainable economy.

Taking a Stand: Personal Statements from Barge Activists Ricki Draper, Nathan Joseph, and Jacob Mack-Boll

RICKI DRAPER
I am incredibly proud to stand today with the century-long Appalachian resistance against the devastating effects of the coal industry.

One of my favorite teachers once said, “If hard work would fix Appalachia, it would already be fixed”. I have come to realize that if compelling research on health effects of mining would stop mountaintop removal mining, it would already be illegal. I’ve discovered that if intentional participation in public hearings for mining permits would change the process of issuing permits, it would already be changed. If engaging with local and national government representatives and demonstrating widespread concern for mountaintop removal would change legislation, mountaintop removal would be illegal. If the degradation of watersheds and communities of place in Appalachia would change the hearts of coal barons and judges influenced by the industry, the fight against mountaintop removal would be over and won.

The people who live in and love Appalachia have done all of these things and continue to do so, and I stand with them today.  But mountaintop removal is still destroying Appalachian mountains; and together, we must do everything we can to stop the destruction.

I have broken the law because the legal system is broken. I have broken the law because mountaintop removal is destroying our health, our mountains, and our futures. I have broken the law because the destruction of our landbase, which is our endowment, is legal.

NATHAN JOSEPH
My name is Nathan Joseph ad I am from New Orleans, Louisiana. Louisiana is one of many states and countries outside of the coalfields of Appalachia that uses mountaintop removal coal as a part of its state energy portfolio. The export of mountaintop removal coal to other regions of the world takes away the livelihoods of those who toil to support their families or suffer adverse health effects. Like Louisiana’s chemical alley, the exploitative energy extraction industry present in Appalachia has led to extremely high cancer rates in the region. Coal companies here have a long history of exploitation and abuse of their employees and the land in search of larger profit margins. In addition, the destruction of one of the most biodiverse regions of North America is leaving a giant scar upon the land and pushing a number of species, like the Eastern Hemlock, Red Wolf, and Virginia Big Eared Bat, to the level of critical endangerment. If “business as usual” does not stop SOON, there will not be an Appalachia left for our children or our children’s children.

JACOB MACK-BOLL
My name is Jacob Mack-Boll and I want, with my whole core, for an end to be put to mountaintop removal. This is what brought me here today – seeing the total destruction of the mountains and culture, devastation of community and health, and crisis of watersheds and ecosystems. Being from Pennsylvania I don’t want to claim that I have been directly affected by mountaintop removal. What I recognize is the connection that I have as a consumer, tied so directly to this drain of Appalachia’s resources, and the power that I have to help stop the exploitation and destruction of people and places that I care about. The line of “this far and no farther” has been crossed already, and I have to demand, in every way that I can, that mountaintop removal be abolished.

Two Activists Still Detained!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLEASE SPREAD FAR AND WIDE!

At around 3am we got a call from Rebecca Loeb, in jail with Catherine Ann MacDougal for locking down to a coal barge yesterday. They are both doing well. They said the jail is overcrowded and they’re being kept in a holding cell and not released into the jail’s general population. They want us to try to get them out soon if the situation doesn’t change.

For more info. about the action: http://action.mountainjustice.org/

PLEASE DONATE TO THE CAMPAIGN!

Donate to RAMPS: https://www.wepay.com/donate/57022?ref=widget&utm_medium=widget&utm_campaign=donation

Donate to Mountain Justice: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=GDZ26BUFUNXRC

Additional information:

Follow them on Twitter @CoalIsFilthy

Photos on Flickr

Pro-Mountain Activists Block MTR Haul Road; Board Coal Barge; Arrests Made

Five arrested blocking coal barge shipment with $10k bail, none arrested blocking haul road
EPA, DEP, USGS make surprise visit to Kayford Mountain and haul road blockade

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
24 May 2012
Contact: Robert Livingston, 304.731.1740

http://action.mountainjustice.org

Twitter: @CoalIsFilthy

UPDATE: Joseph, Loeb and MacDougal were charged with trespass asked to leave and obstruction, both misdemeanors, while Draper and Mack-Boll were charged with trespass asked to leave. All five were held on $10,000 bail with an option of $1,000 surety bond. Loeb and MacDougal intend to continue their protest and not cooperate with the criminal justice system by staying in jail until their court dates and the other three have been released. RAMPS and Mountain Justice request donations to continue the campaign.

KAYFORD, W.Va. – Mountain Justice and RAMPS disrupted coal transport at two locations in the upper Kanawha Valley on Thursday May 24.

Five people boarded an empty coal barge at the Quincy Docks operated by Kanawha River Terminals in Chelyan, W.Va. and locked themselves to the boat with a banner stating “Coal Leaves Cancer Stays”. The barge was immobilized for three hours, until police removed them by 1:00 pm.

The group on the barge included Ricki Draper, 21, of Greensboro, NC; Nathan Joseph, 23, New Orleans, LA; Rebecca Loeb, 24, Maynard, MA; Catherine-Ann MacDougal, 23, Rock Creek, WV; Jacob Mack-Boll, 20, Lancaster, PA.

Draper stated, “I am incredibly proud to stand today with the century-long Appalachian resistance against the devastating effects of the coal industry. I have broken the law because the legal system is broken. I have broken the law because mountaintop removal is destroying our health, our mountains, and our futures. I have broken the law because the destruction of our landbase, which is our endowment, is legal.” Personal statements from other action participants will be released online at action.mountainjustice.org.

3 barge pirates released from jail

Draper, Mack-Boll and Joseph released from jail.

Meanwhile, on Kayford Mountain, dozens of concerned citizens blocked access to and from the Republic Energy Surface Mine until they were dispersed by police. The blockade halted nine coal trucks and no arrests were made.

“Some of the truck drivers gave friendly honks of their horns. We’re going to spend the afternoon helping out at Stanley Heirs Park, trying to make life a little easier for Larry [Gibson] and other folks who live near mountaintop removal and face intimidation,” Kirby Spangler.

According to Spangler and Larry Gibson, the action coincided with an unannounced site visit by officials with the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection, federal Environmental Protection Agency, and United States Geological Survey. The officials drove past the blocked haul road to the top of the mountain to survey the mountaintop removal operation. Following the action’s conclusion, Gibson met the officials in an impromptu meeting, telling the EPA officials “If the DEP did its job, you wouldn’t need to be here,” and describing his experience of living next to mountaintop removal, including the acts of violence and vandalism targeting him and his property.

This action is a continuation of non-violent resistance to mountaintop removal in West Virginia and central Appalachia and builds on recent actions taken to disrupt the transports and export of coal.  Stay tuned for an announcement about a late-summer mountain takeover, and in the meantime there’s Women United Against Mountaintop Removal, May 28 at the West Virginia Capitol.

Pro-mountain activists board coal barge and blockade Kayford strip mine haul road

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Contact: Robert Livingston 304.731.1740
http://action.mountainjustice.org

Note: Photos available within 1 – 2 hours.

KAYFORD, W.Va. –Mountain Justice and RAMPS activists blocked coal transport in two locations Thursday morning protesting mountaintop removal. Five boarded a barge on the Kanawha River near Chelyan, with a large banner that read “Coal leaves, cancer stays,” and locked their bodies to the barge. At the same time, dozens of concerned citizens obstructed access to the haul road on Kayford Mountain, stopping coal trucks from entering or leaving the Republic Energy mine.

“These actions against coal transport were taken because the viability and health of mountain communities are being destroyed by mountaintop removal—the coal and the profits are shipped away, leaving disease and destruction in their wake,” Rebecca Loeb, one of the people on the barge said.

According to Nathan Joseph, another activist on the barge, the struggle against mountaintop removal in Appalachia is linked to the struggles of other fossil fuel extraction communities across North America and the world.

“The coal industry’s continued disregard for the well-being of Appalachian communities is connected to the struggles of other North American extraction communities. Strip mining tar sands for low-quality oil, fracking for dirty gas and deep sea oil drilling are signs we are scraping the bottom of the barrel. The extraction, transport, processing and combustion of these fuels all disproportionately impact low-income communities, indigenous communities (such as the Dine on Big Mountain in Arizona), and communities of color,” Joseph said.

According to a study co-authored by Dr. Michael Hendryx in 2011, a researcher at West Virginia University, “Self-reported cancer rates were significantly higher in the mining versus the non-mining area after control for respondent age, sex, smoking, occupational history, and family cancer history (odds ratio = 2.03, 95% confidence interval = 1.32–3.13). Mountaintop mining is linked to increased community cancer risk.”1 The study’s researchers collected data from 773 adults in door-to-door interviews.

As people in West Virginia see the lack of opportunities, they often leave the area to pursue a future elsewhere. Larry Gibson of Kayford said, “Our biggest export in this state besides coal is our young people.” Gibson is a founding member of Keepers of the Mountains, and organization of West Virginians seeking to end mountaintop removal and build sustainable livelihoods through land preservation and national outreach. Only 50 acres of his family’s ancestral land remain untouched by the massive surface mining operations on Kayford Mountain.

Marilyn Mullens of Coolridge, W.Va., said “Clean water and air is a human right. My electricity is not worth my human rights being violated–I’ll live with the lights off. I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the beauty of West Virginia. We’re tired of the corporations lording over us, and no one is hearing our voices, so it’s time to take it further than talking.” Mullens is an organizer of Women United to End Mountaintop Removal, a May 28 event, in which women will shave their heads in front of the W.Va. Capitol in protest of mountaintop removal.

“For the past 150 years the coal industry has been pillaging this place and taking everything, leaving nothing but death and destruction in their wake. I am personally very thankful to these young folks who ain’t from around here necessarily who decided to put their freedom and bodies on the line to stop this vicious cycle, even if it is just for one day,” Junior Walk of Whitesville, W.Va., said, “I would love to see some of my native West Virginia brothers and sisters stand up and tell this industry they can’t do this anymore.”

Upcoming events to keep up the pressure:

Additional information:

1From the Abstract of Hendryx M, Wolfe L, Luo J, Webb, B. Self-reported cancer rates in two rural areas of West Virginia with and without mountaintop coal mining. Journal of Community Health, in press.

 

 

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A look at Saturday’s Action at Bank of America

Mountain Justice activists made their presence known to Bank of America and it’s members at the branch office in Abingdon.

The MJ activists were promptly locked out of the office but remained outside encouraging Bank of America account holders to close their accounts and doing street education about mountain top removal and Bank of America’s connection to it.

Move Your Money, Not Our Mountains. DAY 2

Today, Saturday, March 10, Mountain Justice activists and students from Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, and Vermont demonstrated at the Bank of America in Abingdon, Virginia. The students and volunteers gathered to protest the bank’s investment in the coal industry, particularly mountaintop removal strip mining. The educational and theatrical demonstration was coordinated with others in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, in a national effort to protest mountaintop removal coal mining.

Bank of America is one of the leading financiers of mountaintop removal coal mining. The controversial mining practice pollutes air and watersheds, blasts away biodiversity and habitat, and is connected to the acceleration of global climate change.

This protest is the latest action from a growing resistance movement that aims to achieve a sustainable economy and green energy future for Appalachian communities, and ending the current reliance on the coal industry.

Participants in the demonstration highlighted the connections between Wall St. banks and Appalachian strip mining. Actions included a teach-in to raise public awareness about the ties between big banks and big coal. Demonstrators took a direct stance against Bank of America by closing their accounts, and encouraging others to do the same. John Buscarino of North Carolina said, “I closed my account because Bank of America has been using my money to fund the destruction of communities in Appalachia…. I don’t want to be part of supporting mountaintop removal coal mining.”

Mountain Justice also encouraged solidarity actions around Central and Southern Appalachia. In Harrisonburg, VA, Occupy protestors supported the action by also demonstrating in front of their local Bank of America branch downtown.

In Abingdon, the dirty history of Bank of America has been highlighted in the past by local Occupy protestors.

With actions like these, Bank of America is being frequently reminded and strongly encouraged to stop funding mountain top removal and stop supporting the wealthy 1% at the expense of the environment, health, and communities in Appalachia and across the country.

Move your Money, Not Our Mountains!

Move Your Money, Not Our Mountains!

March 9, 2012 – Today, more than 50 Mountain Justice volunteers descended upon Johnson City, TN to bring the fight against Mountain Top Removal to a regional branch of the global financial institution, UBS, for their funding of the community poisoning coal mining technique. Many were students from all over America, from

Minnesota to Florida, in the area for Mountain Justice Spring Break, a week long service and learning event focused on building leadership within the youth movement for a clean and just energy future. Carrying signs and singing songs, the demonstrators brought a lively street theater to the sleepy strip mall housing the local presence of the world’s largest funder of mountaintop removal.

 

The group, joined by members of Occupy Johnson City, sought to bring attention to the cozy relationship between Big Wall St. Banks and Big Coal’s insatiable hunger for profit over the health and safety of the 99%. Enraged by the crushing realities faced by folks living in the shadow of active strip mines in Wise County, the marchers read their Declaration of Grievances, demanding that UBS immediately end financing coal corporations engaged in the destruction of Appalachian Mountains. They sang the classic song of union and solidarity, “Which Side Are You On”, demanding that UBS get on the right side of history and the right side of Justice.

Before participants could even enter the UBS branch, the nervous executives and wealth managers inside locked the doors, refusing to engage in a dialogue about the need for investments in a clean, just and sustainable energy future. After police arrived to protect the interests and security of the 1%, marchers took their action to the sidewalk. Some engaged with passerby’s, finding support from many who share grievances with the Banksters. Whether it’s bailouts, bonuses, tax breaks or forclosures, many in the 99% have right to shout down the big banks who prey off the labor of the rest of us.

 

With honks of support from passing cars, marchers were approached by employees of Bank of America who expressed their support for the action. Bank of America, with branches on nearly every Main St., is just behind UBS in its financial support for Mountain Top Removal.  Mountain Justice supports all those who take a stand and demand an end to any big bank raking in profits on the backs of poisoned communities.

 

After dropping a banner advertising UBS’s immoral investments from a highway overpass, the marchers doubled back to bring the demonstration to UBS for one more round. This time, the police returned in force, refusing to allow dissent any where near the bastion of 1% profit. With shouts of “Bank of America, You Are Next!”, Mountain Justice exited the scene after disrupting the normal operations of Wall St.’s dirty profit flow.