Judge Blocks Further Protests Against Massey Energy Mountaintop Mining

Published on
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The Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)

Judge Blocks Further Protests Against Massey Energy Mountaintop Mining

by
Ken Ward Jr.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal judge has temporarily ordered a halt
to mountaintop-removal protests that involve trespassing on Massey
Energy property or interfering with any of Massey's operations.

U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger granted Massey subsidiary Marfork
Coal Co.'s request for a temporary restraining order against
non-violent civil disobedience actions aimed at stopping its
mountaintop-removal mining operations.

The order prohibits "trespassing or otherwise congregating" on mining
property as well as "interfering, obstructing, blocking, impeding or
tampering with" any mining properties in Southern West Virginia.

It applies specifically to five protesters who took part in a
more-than-eight-day tree-sitting action and also to "their officers,
agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those other persons who
are in active concert or participation" with the named protesters.

Berger ruled that "the public has an interest in ensuring that property
owners enjoy the exclusive use of their property" and that Massey was
"being precluded from continuing its business of mining for coal" by
the protesters.

The judge ruled that, "Even if the [court] assumes that Defendants have
the right to call attention to any political or environmental cause,
they have no right to unlawfully trespass upon the surface mine
property."

Berger set her restraining order to run through 3 p.m. Feb. 10 and
scheduled a hearing to consider Massey's request for a longer-term
preliminary injunction for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4 in U.S. District Court in
Beckley.

A year ago Wednesday, Climate Ground Zero activists began their civil
disobedience campaign against Massey with two actions that prompted 14
arrests, including those of five protesters who chained themselves to
mining equipment at the Bee Tree operation, along Coal River Mountain
in Raleigh County.

Police have made 150 arrests since the campaign began, but Massey
lawyer Sam Brock argued in court papers that trespassing arrests would
not deter more protests.

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