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Tree-Sitters Shut Down Infamous Mountaintop Removal Operation; TVA Cops Strike Again

Jeff Biggers

Perched on 60-foot-high platforms in tulip poplar and oak trees,
three nonviolent tree-sitting protestors associated with Climate Ground
Zero and Mountain Justice carried out the duty of the EPA and the West
Virginia Department of Environmental Protection this morning--they
reportedly shut down the reckless mountaintop removal blasting at the controversial Bee Tree Strip Mine on historic Coal River Mountain today.

Meanwhile, as a dark reminder of the anniversary of the the 2008 TVA coal ash disaster,
nonviolent Tennessee residents and aide workers associated with the
United Mountain Defense were arrested by the Tennessee Valley Authority
police in a blatant act of harassment.

Only days after a major study published in Science magazine by a
panel of environmental science experts called for the halt of
mountaintop removal mining operations, citing "the preponderance of
scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and
that mitigation cannot compensate for losses," the tree-sitting
protestors David Aaron Smith, 23, Amber Nitchman, 19 and Eric Blevins,
28, according to Climate Ground Zero reports, scaled trees by the
access road to Massey Energy's infamous mountaintop removal operation
near the Brushy Fork Impoundment. One of the nation's largest and most
precarious coal slurry impoundments, the Brushy Fork pond hovers over
the area residents in the Coal River Valley. The historic range, facing
a devastating 6,600-acre strip mining operation, has been hailed by
area residents and clean energy experts as an exemplary site for an
industrial wind farm.

"Brushy Fork sludge dam places the downstream communities in
imminent danger. The threat of being inundated by a wall of toxic
sludge is always present. Blasting next to this dam increases the risk
as well as destroying the opportunity for renewable wind energy," said
Coal River Mountain Watch's Vernon Haltom. According to the Coal River
Wind Project, the wind energy produced by a turbine farm on Coal River
Mountain could power 70,000 homes, provide more permanent jobs for
local residents and annually bring over a million more dollars in tax
breaks revenue to Raleigh County than coal currently does.

For updates and video on the tree-sitters, visit the Climate Ground Zero site.

In Tennesee today, according to United Mountain Defense accounts, the bizarre antics of the TVA continued:

On Wednesday, January 20, 2010, (UMD) volunteer Matt Landon Jones and
two journalists who were reporting on the current clean-up efforts of
last year's Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal ash disaster where
arrested by TVA police. Last year, a man-made earthen dam containing 50
years of contaminated coal ash erupted, forcing over 1 billion gallons
of toxic ash into tributaries of the Tennessee River and devastated the
surrounding community. Marking the event anniversary, the reporters
were planning to report on the lives of the residents still living in
the area as well as the communities receiving train loads of the toxic
waste each week from the disaster site. Noticing the train cars filled
with coal ash heading to Perry County, Alabama - a poor, predominately
African American community where TVA is currently shipping large
amounts of the coal ash for storage in a landfill. The journalists
stopped to take photographs, at which point they were approached by TVA
police. The TVA police detained all three individuals, confiscated
their camera and searched their vehicle.

Landon stated, "TVA Officer Thomas Brooks forcefully ripped the
video camera from my hands and proceeded to try and pry the battery
pack and view screen from the video in an effort to stop the
recording." The police officer was going to release the individual
after writing up citations. The officer was nearly done writing up the
citations when he received a phone call. Upon hanging up the phone, the
officer told the three individuals that "things had changed." Instead
of issuing warning citations, the officer then arrested and charged all
three individuals with criminal trespassing in what can only be
described as a gross overreaction."

"These arrests are part of a pattern of harassment of UMD volunteers by
TVA," said Jones. "TVA has tried to prevent United Mountain Defense
from conducting independent water testing, deploying air monitoring,
and working with the community of Roane County and they have
consistently harassed me while doing this work." In 2009, Jones was
arrested for assisting a partially blind Roane County resident return
to her home from a community meeting.

Here's a film clip of the incident:

For more updates, see the United Mountain Defense.

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