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

Published on
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CommonDreams.org

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

by
Jeff Biggers

(photo: mountainaction.org)

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.

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country's dangerous and outdated reliance on coal.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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