“They are going forward as if the permit hadn’t been denied.” –Jimmy Weekley
In the struggle to end mountain top removal, we don’t often have occasions to celebrate, so the December 18th announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency had vetoed the permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia was reason to pop the champagne corks. After all, this was the largest mountain top removal operation ever approved by the EPA, covering an area larger than Pittsburgh. And it seemed to signal a sea change for the way the EPA does business. Up until then the EPA had approved every mine permit that they reviewed since 1972, when the agency was created to enforce the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other laws passed by Congress in the wake of the Santa Barbara oil spill, the Cuyahoga River fire and a slew of other environmental disasters that had captured the nation’s attention during the turbulent 1960s.
Certainly if you were reading the headlines, checking your e-mail, or getting the numerous fund raising appeals from well meaning environmental groups claiming victory you would be right to believe that here was a victory grasped from the jaws of defeat, a testament of the strength of our movement and our ability pressure the government to enforce the laws. It was the death of mountain top removal.
Our Friends from Rainforest Action Network staged a sit-in this morning at EPA Headquarters, where activists occupied the lobby and used metal lock boxes to lock themselves together. The sit-in was to bring attention to EPA’s newly approved Pine Creek mountaintop removal permit in Logan County, West Virginia. This was a horrendous first decision,after last April it was anticipated that the EPA was going to be enforcing stricter MTR guidelines.
Photo by Chris Eichler Copyright Rainforest Action Network
Beckley, WV — The final four of seventeen people who were arrested this Memorial Day weekend after three separate acts of non violent civil disobedience on Massey Energy and Patriot Coal mine sites in southern West Virginia were released at 1:08pm today from the Raleigh County Southern Regional Jail.
BECKLEY, W.Va.—Seventeen mountaintop removal activists had no choice but to enforce the laws since all administrative remedies have been exhausted, said some of the activists and supporters at a press conference today. The four still-jailed activists were released on their own recognizance by Judge Burnside shortly after the press conference, which was held on the Raleigh County Courthouse steps.
“I’ve lived in West Virginia most of my life. I’m sick and tired of big business and the corrupt government telling us what to do,” began Sid Moye of Mercer County, who participated in the Picket at Pettus. “They come in and they can take our land, they can ruin our water and they can take our resources. It’s not right and somebody has to do something about it so we do the little things that we can.”
Eric Blevins, also arrested in the Pettus action, said, “I asked the officer arresting me if Massey is going to be allowed to blast near the dam and he didn’t want to talk about it. I asked him, doesn’t he have a responsibility to enforce the law, and he said ‘Not those laws.’”
“We locked down on the Kayford mountaintop removal site with mud from Mingo County on our boots,” Ashlee Henderson said in a statement from the Kayford 8, “After we were arrested we had the dust remains from Kayford Mountain added to that mud.”
“Just because a mining permit is applied for,” Debbie Jarrell of Rock Creek, Raleigh County asked the crowd, “Is there a law that states that it has to be granted? If there’s a cleaner way to develop energy, such as the Coal River Wind Project, should we not take advantage of it?”
Mat Louis-Rosenberg pointed out the absurdity of the littering charges for the two individuals on the Brushy Fork Dam and the $2,000 bail for each of the protesters. He contrasted the bail rate with the $1,800 fine Massey paid in 1999, when 14.5 miles of the Coal River were blackened with slurry and the $15,000 A & G Coal paid for the death of three year old Jeremy Davidson outside of Appalachia, Virginia in 2004.
“It was extremely unjust that the magistrate illegally posted such a high bail, when our maximum fine was only one hundred dollars,” said Laura Steepleton of the Pettus 7, who was released this afternoon. “He justified his statement by telling us that we had no ties to the area. As a human being and a citizen of this country I do not only have a tie to this area, but a responsibility to ensure security for these mountains and the safety for the people of this beautiful community. “