Dear Climate Ground Zero supporters,
You may have noticed that we have redesigned the Climate Ground Zero Web site. This is our third redesign since we were founded in 2005 and is meant to make it more accessible. We will also be posting more content as we continue to follow stories and investigate what is really happening on the ground in Appalachia. Our new look is the product of the work of Tom Smyth, our new webmaster and Antrim Caskey our new creative director. I’ll be taking on the job of executive editor and we are expecting two interns this spring to help us cover the issues that need covering on the Coal River.
Last year was a busy and productive year for Climate Ground Zero. The movement to end mountain top removal achieved a number of goals that would have been hard to imagine a few years ago. Foremost was the announcement that a new school would be built for the students and teachers of Marsh Fork Elementary. Building a new school was an important goal for Coal River Mountain Watch, Mountain Justice and other organizations that had made Marsh Fork ground zero in the fight against mountain top removal. The current school sits beneath the Edwight Dam, an 500 foot high earthen structure holding back over 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal sludge. The school also sits next to a coal silo that’s generates large amounts of coal dust. Everyday blasting is happening on the mine site above the school, and above the dam, creating a very dangerous situation for everyone who lives downstream.
Last year also saw Appalachia Rising, where thousands of angry citizens from coal mining regions gathered in Washington DC to pressure the EPA take important steps to enforce the Clean Water Act. And in December the EPA vetoed a mountain top removal permit for the first time in its history. The permit, the Spruce No. 1 Mine, would allow a strip mine larger than the city of Pittsburgh in Logan County which would bury six miles of streams under hundreds of feet of rubble.
All of these victories were made possible by the hard work and courage of the local community members who have been out on the front lines for decades, and also by the support of a strong and coordinated national network of activists. And Climate Ground Zero has been a part of this for the last two years by moving our office to Rock Creek, West Virginia in 2008, and by supporting the sustained campaign of non violent civil disobedience that began in 2005 with Mountain Justice Summer. Since then, hundreds have been arrested, many did time in jail, some for long periods, and Massey Energy has filed a number of Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation suits against Climate Ground Zero and dozens of individuals.
Known as SLAPPs, these civil actions seek to discourage participation in non violent civil disobedience and are unconstitutional. We are fighting back and have the services of a pro bono legal team with over fifty years of collective experience defending activists. We have two appeals waiting to be heard by the West Virginia Supreme Court over the breadth of the emergency injunction used to entangle anyone who supported the Climate Ground Zero campaign.
We will continue to fight this assault on our civil rights even though for some this may mean serving time in jail. My own trial is coming up on July 28 in Beckley, WV where I face a two and a half year sentence on three criminal charges for trespassing on Massey Energy property, my fourth arrest on the same mine site, the one located just above the current location of Marsh Fork Elementary School. Although the Judge has indicated that he will likely rule against a necessity defense, as others have before me, I will argue that Massey was breaking the law, and that I was obligated under the Nuremburg Principles to intervene.
Our most important mission on the Coal River is to bear witness. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has called mountain top removal the worst environmental crime in America. Every day over a million pounds of explosives are used here in Appalachia. The air and water pollution created by this is killing people and destroying communities, some of which have been here since this was still an English colony. A way of life is being erased and over a million and a half acres of forests have been destroyed forever. We are committed to stay here until mountain top removal is ended forever.