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Daring Dragline Protest Launches 7 Days That Will Shake Mountaintop Removal Operations

by Jeff Biggers

Four daring protestors accomplished something today that no high ranking member in the Obama administration involved in the recent mountaintop removal mining policy decisions has ever bothered to do: These four American patriots made an actual visit to a mountaintop removal site.

(photo: mountainaction.org) They also went beyond the call of duty.

Scaling a towering 20-story dragline (those behemoth stripmining machines that could rip up a Manhattan block in a New York minute) and then unfolding a 15 x 150 foot banner at the Twilight mountaintop removal strip mine in Boone County, West Virginia, they also unveiled a simple message on how the EPA, the Department of Interior and the Council on Environmental Quality can best enforce the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws:

JUST STOP MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL.

The action launches a dramatic weeklong series of protests at mountaintop removal sites in the West Virginia coalfields that will culminate on June 23rd with a special action in the Coal River Valley area with local coalfield residents, NASA climate scientist James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, and 94-year-old former US Representative Ken Hechler, and Rainforest Action Action executive director Michael Brune, among many others.

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a century, Appalachian communities have been crushed, flooded, and poisoned as a result of the country's dangerous and outdated reliance on coal.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

Aerial photos of the Massey Energy-owned Twilight mountaintop removal mine can be seen here: http://www.ohvec.org/galleries/mountaintop_removal/018/

During the day, updates and photos on today's action will be posted at:
http://mountainaction.org/wordpress/

Equipped with satellite phones and web cameras, the protestors plan to stay on the enormous dragline until they are arrested. Another group of protestors on the ground have already been reached by the police.

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

Despite last week's best-laid-plans by the Obama administration to provide stronger reviews of mountaintop removal permits under current laws--notwithstanding the 42 out of the 48 mining permits cleared by the EPA last month--the protest today draws attention to the reality that over 3.5 million pounds of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil explosives are being detonated DAILY in mountaintop removal operations across the West Virginia mountains alone, while hundreds of mountaintop removal permits now stand ready to be reviewed and cleared.

In last week's announcement, CEQ chief Nancy Sutley declared that the Obama administration would do "all it can under existing laws and regulations to curb the most environmentally destructive impacts of mountaintop coal mining."

Read that line again: "Curb the most environmentally destructive impacts of mountaintop coal mining."

If Sutley joined the protestors at the Twilight site or any mountaintop removal operation, she would witness firsthand, as well, that even the LEAST "environmentally destructive impacts of mountaintop removal" REQUIRE massive clear cutting of our nation's most diverse and oldest deciduous forests on the continent, setting ANFO explosives and blasting the mountains to bits, showering the neighboring communities with silica dust and dangerous fly rock, and then dumping the mine waste and heavy metals into the valleys and streams and watersheds.

Video updates of today's action will also be posted here:
http://mountainaction.org/wordpress/

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