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Police Remove 11 During Raleigh County, W.Va. Protests of Coal Sludge Dams and Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining; More Protestors Expected This Afternoon
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MAY 23, 2009
CONTACT: Sludge Watch Collective 304-854-7372
COAL RIVER VALLEY, W.Va.– This morning, eleven activists in two civil disobedience actions were removed by state police. As part of the continuing campaign to end mountaintop removal, six people locked themselves to mining equipment on a Patriot Coal-owned mountaintop removal mine on Kayford Mountain and another group floated a 20-by-60-foot banner on the surface of Massey Energy?s Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment near Pettus, W.Va. The activists are part of a coalition that includes Mountain Justice, Climate Ground Zero and concerned individuals.
At noon today, more protestors are expected to converge at the gate to the Brushy Fork dam with hundreds of pairs of shoes to represent the number of immediate deaths should the dam fail.
“The toxic lake at Brushy Fork dam sits atop a honeycomb of abandoned underground mines, ” said Chuck Nelson, from Raleigh County, W.Va. “Massey wants to blast within 100 feet of that dam. The company’s own filings with the state Department of Environmental Protection project a minimum death toll of 998 should the seven-billion-gallon dam break. EPA should override the DEP and revoke this blasting permit for the safety of the community.” Nelson did not participate in the civil disobedience actions this morning, but is expected to speak at the Brushy Fork gate this afternoon.
The floating banner unfurled this morning atop Brushy Fork read, “West Virginia Says No More Toxic Sludge.”
“If the dam fails, 7.2 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry will flood to 38 feet deep, 26 miles down the Marsh Fork of the Coal River, from Pettus, past Whitesville,” Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero said. “These coal companies, the land companies and their corrupt politicians are destroying the headwater streams that supply drinking water to millions of Americans downstream.”
In the Kayford action, independent photojournalist and Rock Creek, W.Va. resident Antrim Caskey was removed from the direct action site by police. She previously had been cited three times for trespassing while embedded with Climate Ground Zero.
“About 12,000-acres of Kayford Mountain has been destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining,” said Maria Gunnoe, Boone County resident and winner of the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize. “Not another family should be forced to move because a coal company is going to blow up the mountain above them, then bury and poison their streams.” Gunnoe did not participate in the civil disobedience actions.
The people who locked down on Kayford Mountain unveiled a banner reading, “Never Again.”
“The regulatory agencies that are supposed to be the people’s watchdogs are acting instead as the industry’s guard dogs,” said Willie Dodson of Mountain Justice, one of the Kayford protesters. “Neither Governor Manchin, the DEP, President Obama, nor the EPA are enforcing the law, so we have no choice but to come out here and do it ourselves.”
On Feb 3, five people chained themselves to mining equipment and eight others were cited for trespassing while attempting to deliver a letter to Massey Energy insisting that the company cease all mountaintop removal operations on Coal River Mountain. Since then, four related actions have occurred in the Coal River Valley.
“We are forced to take action today because we have exhausted our legislative and litigatory options,” activist Charles Suggs of Raleigh County said. “We have walked the halls and pounded the doors of our state and national capitols, asked the DEP to complete studies, met with the EPA, filed lawsuits, and what happens? Our West Virginia legislature passes bills to let the destruction continue, and opposes bills that would stop poisoning our water and bring permanent, sustainable economic development to the state.”
NOTE: Massey’s filing with the WVDEP that indicate sludge depth and distance are available upon request.
Video, still images and breaking news will be posted continually to www.mountainjustice.org.