Watch out King Coal, we’re coming for you.
Today, fourteen activists from local Appalachian communities and other parts of the country were arrested at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) headquarters in Knoxville, TN.
United Mountain Defense and Mountain Justice organized the action against the public-private entity which is the largest consumer of coal in the country and the biggest utility. In Dec. TVA caused a spill of coal ash waste 40 times the size of the Exxon Valdez that has caused serious health problems for people in eastern Tennessee.
Today’s march and civil disobedience is another in a series of escalating actions against the coal industry. Others include several actions at Coal River Mountain in southern West Virginia and last week’s Capitol Climate Action, where over 3,000 blockaded the Capitol Power Plant in Washington D.C.
From their press release:
Local residents joined dozens of activists from across the country today in a demonstration at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s headquarters, which resulted in the arrest of 14 individuals, after participating in a “die in” in front of the building . This event was held to in solidarity with communities affected by the destructive impacts of Mountaintop Removal coal mining and the surivors of the recent coal ash disaster in Harriman.
“It is time for TVA to take full responsibility for its destructive behavior,” Eric Blevins said, an organizer with Mountain Justice. He continued, “They need to support the recovery of the community that is still being hurt by the ash disaster, and take an active role in the transition away from dirty and dangerous practices towards renewable energy and healthier jobs.”
Saturday’s demonstration began with a rally in Market Square, where organizers from United Mountain Defense, and Mountain Justice spoke about coal’s impact from cradle to grave on communities in Appalachia and the surrounding area. The crowd then marched through downtown Knoxville and ended at TVA’s headquarters. At the end of the march people interested in participating in Civil Disobedience gave a statement as to why they wanted to take this action. With the support of a singing crowd each participant fell to the ground representing the deaths caused by the coal industry. After a few minutes Knoxville law enforcement informed the participants that they were blocking the sidewalk, and that they needed to remove themselves from the area. All 14 people were arrested, and cited for loitering.
TVA owns and operates the Kingston coal plant, where last December an impoundment failed, spilling 1.6 billion gallons of heavy metal-laden coal ash waste over an area of 400 acres. The spill has been called the worst environmental disaster in US history, which disproves the energy industry’s recent “clean coal” smokescreen.
“The massive toxic fly ash disaster is just one more reason that coal is filthy. Coal fly ash, a byproduct of coal combustion, is an end result of the dirty life-cycle of coal,” explains Bonnie Swinford, full time volunteer for United Mountain Defense, “which often begins with surface mining and mountaintop removal, followed by a washing process that produces coal toxin concentrate known as slurry. Mountaintop removal coal extraction has destroyed almost 500 mountains, and, in addition to coal slurry, continues to destroy water sources across Appalachia.”
Mountaintop removal is the most destructive method of coal extraction, in which mountains are blown up to expose coal seams. This process destroys fragile mountain ecosystems, fills valleys and streams with waste, and leaves behind billions of gallons of toxic coal sludge that contaminates essential drinking water supplies for many cities surrounding Appalachia.
Today’s demonstration was part of an escalating series of protests across the country calling for immediate action on the coal industry’s destructive practices, including recent arrests in the Coal River Valley, WV on March 5th and the Capital Climate Action, where on March 2, nearly three thousand protesters closed all entrances to the Capitol Coal Plant in Washington, D.C. We need your help and support to continue this call out for immediate action to end the unjust practice of Mountaintop Removal, and push for a just transition to renewable energy.