Activists Risk Arrest to Stop Mountaintop Removal

For Immediate Release

Mountain Action
Contact: 

Nell Greenberg, 510-847-9777
Celia Alario, 310-721-6517
Vivian Stockman, 304-927-3265

Activists Risk Arrest to Stop Mountaintop Removal

COAL RIVER VALLEY, WV - Moments ago, four concerned citizens entered onto Massey Energy’s
mountaintop removal mine site near Twilight WV and have begun to scale
a150-foot dragline machine to drop a banner that says, ‘stop
mountaintop removal mining.’ The climbers plan to stay on the enormous
dragline, a massive piece of equipment that removes house-sized chunks
of blasted rock and earth to expose coal, until police arrest them.
Equipped with satellites phones and a web camera, the climbers will be
available for interviews.

This is the first time a dragline has been scaled on a mountaintop
removal site, and marks the latest in a string of increasingly dramatic
protests in West Virginia by residents and allies from across the
country. This act of protest against mountaintop removal comes just
days after the Obama Administration announced a plan to reform, but not
abolish, the aggressive strip mining practice.

“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country’s dangerous and outdated reliance on coal.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?”

An increasing number of concerned Appalachians and environmentalists
are calling for the end to mountaintop removal, a practice that harms
the people and places of Appalachia, destroys the economic potential of
the Appalachian Mountains for long term clean energy opportunities and
jobs, and furthers the burning of climate-killing coal.

“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 who is one of those climbing today. “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.”

Every day, mountaintop removal mines use more explosive power than
the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Mining companies are
clear-cutting thousands of acres of some of the world’s most
biologically diverse forests. They’re burying biologically crucial
headwaters streams with blasting debris, releasing toxic levels of
heavy metals into the remaining streams and groundwater and poisoning
essential drinking water. According to the EPA, this destructive
practice has damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 miles of streams and
threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of forest by 2020.

“We are all complicit in mountaintop removal whenever we turn on our
lights, and we are all responsible to stop it. Mountaintop removal, the
world’s worst strip-mining, is unacceptable.  Period.” said Rebecca
Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network, a lead supporter of the action
today. “This is not a practice that needs to be reformed. It is a
practice that needs to be abolished. By sacrificing the Appalachian
Mountains for the country’s coal addiction, we undermine future
investments in 21st century clean energy solutions that will protect
our planet, produce more jobs and preserve our natural resources.”

Mountaintop removal coal provides less than seven percent of all
coal produced in the United States, and could be replaced with energy
efficiency initiatives or renewable energy sources, instead of
permitting massive environmental destruction of historic mountain
ranges and essential drinking water for a relatively tiny amount of
coal.

Recent studies have shown that the Appalachia Mountains could
support commercial scale wind energy facilities, which would bring
long-term, sustainable jobs to the region – but only if the mountains
are left standing. In West Virginia, jobs from mining account for just
3.3% employment in the Mountain State – that is less than 20,000 jobs
total. A recent University of Massachusetts study found investing in
clean energy projects like wind power and mass transit creates three to
four times more jobs than the same expenditure on the coal industry.
The wind power sector has grown to employ more Americans than coal
mining as demand for clean energy has jumped over the past decade.

Just days before this action, the Obama Administration announced
steps to end the fast-tracking of certain mountaintop removal coal mine
permits and to add tougher enforcement in Appalachia. However, it
remains unclear what, if any, improvements this will have on-the-ground
in Appalachia or elsewhere. Without a significant change in policy,
mining companies will continue to destroy historic mountain ranges and
bury community’s drinking water in toxic waste.

Following this protest, on June 23rd leading climate
scientist, Dr. James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, Michael Brune, the
Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network, and former
Representative Hechler will join Coal River Valley residents in a
second round of protests in West Virginia.

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Mountain Action is a group of concerned individuals working to abolish mountaintop removal.

For more information, video and photos, please visit www.mountaintaction.org

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