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.

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.