Day 3 of tree sit, all’s well

Day three of the Pettry Bottom tree sit and all’s well. An excavator has been working nearby and people have been walking around, but no aggression. A small crowd has gathered at the edge of the mine to see the tree sitters. Word from security is that tomorrow will be a fun day.

“We are good. Security has been nice other than a few of them like to kick rocks off the berm,” tree sitter Laura Steepleton said. “I have a chipmunk tree friend and there has been a momma bear and her two cubs.”

Recent small updates include and eight and a half-minute audio recording from Steepleton talking about Department of Environmental Protection deception in its investigation of the slide and runoff that occurred in recent weeks near the tree sit. There’s also a two-minute video which is just below:

Stay tuned and we’ll do our best to keep the media coming. If you’d like to pitch in, please call us or donate to the cause. Thanks everyone for all your support.



Tree sit deters blasting, enters second day at Massey Edwight Mine



Contact: Charles Suggs or Andrew Munn 304-854-7372
Editor: Photos, video, audio, and updates are available at It’s also possible to capture video of the tree sit from the mine site itself.

PETTRY BOTTOM, W.Va. —The two tree sitters forced Massey Energy to cancel blasts on the the Edwight mountaintop removal mine above Pettry Bottom. According to a confidential source, Massey Energy had planned to use explosives to blast off a knob near the tree sitters at approximately four p.m., yesterday. This directly conflicts with statements made by the Edwight site supervisor.

As of sun rise on Wednesday morning, the protesters maintain that they will not abandon their treetop platforms until Massey Energy commits to ending blasting above Pettry Bottom and Peachtree, pays the full health care and property repair costs for Pettry Bottom and Peachtree residents, and the Federal Office of Surface Mining commits to the full reclamation of the Edwight mine site.

Mine security called state police to the scene shortly after noon on Tuesday, at which point they arrested Kim Ellis of New Orleans, La., and Zoe Beavers of Hurricane. Ellis and Beavers, an Army veteran, were cited for trespassing and released. According to Ellis and Beavers, they are the only line of communication between the tree sitters and mine security and police.

Following their release, state police asked Ellis and Beavers to return to the tree sit in an attempt to negotiate with the tree sitters. Stocks and Steepleton reiterated their resolve to remain in the trees until their demands are met.

Two state police officers visited the home of Mike Roselle, co-founder of Earth First!, Rainforest Action Network, Ruckus Society, and most recently, Climate Ground Zero. Under the impression that the tree sitters were under his authority, they asked that Roselle recall them, but according to Mike Roselle “We don’t have leaders. All the people who have taken part in acts of civil disobedience, including those who are in the trees today, have done so based on their own personal conviction. Responsible citizens certainly need no orders from me to do their duty in protecting their mountains and communities.”

State police site the tree sitter’s safety as a primary concern as the occupation continues. However, according Climate Ground Zero the tree sitters understand their knots and safety systems, and they’re putting safety first. They’re remaining tied to safety system at all times.

When asked to comment on the protest, Rock Creek resident Ed Wiley said, “If they are worried about the safety of the two tree sitters, they are worrying about the wrong people. What about the 230 little kids at Marsh Fork Elementary School? Those are the ones we need to worry about. They need protection from Massey’s mountaintop removal strip jobs.” Marsh Fork Elementary School is situated under a 2.9-billion-gallon sludge pond and mountaintop removal site. The school is a lightening rod of controversy over mountaintop removal and Massey Energy. Wiley continued, “They are blasting on the ridge that connects to the structure of the dam. Massey is recklessly endangering those kids, and the folks at Pettry Bottom. I’m glad those tree sitters are getting in their way.”

As the sun rises in the Coal River Valley on Wednesday morning, the tree sitters are still on their platforms at the edge of the Edwight mine site.

Treesit stopping blasts above Pettry Bottom, Coal River Valley

PETTRY BOTTOM, W.Va.—Two people are occupying two treetops at the edge of Massey Energy’s Edwight mountaintop removal site above Pettry Bottom and Peachtree in Raleigh County, West Virginia. At 6:30 a.m., concerned citizens unrolled two banners reading “Stop Mountain Top Removal” and “DEP – Don’t Expect Protection” from their treetop platforms. They are perched 80 feet above the ground, within 30 feet of the mine, and within the 300 feet of blasting. Blasting is prohibited when people are within such proximity.

Nick Stocks, 25, and Laura Steepleton, 24, of Rock Creek, West Virginia, are in the trees. Kim Ellis, of New Orleans, Louisiana and Zoe Beavers, of Hurricane, West Virginia are on the ground below. All protesters are associated with Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice.

“I am sitting in this tree to halt the blasting that endangers the residents of Pettry Bottom and Clays Branch,” Steepleton said.  “The people of Pettry Bottom, Clays Branch are living below a land slide waiting to happen and the only barrier between fallen trees, mud, boulders and water and the Pettry Bottom community is a wooden stake and tarp fence. The DEP  needs to step in and protect its citizens – not Massey Energy – stop the blasting above Petty Bottom, and end mountaintop removal.”

According to a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health publication and multiple cases of citizen documentation, flyrock has been known to land a half-mile from blasting sites. Several homes in Pettry Bottom are within a half-mile radius of the permitted blasting area. A map available from Aurora Lights at shows the proximity of homes in Pettry Bottom to blasting on the Edwight site.

Pettry Bottom resident, Carol Beckner, has stated “Me, my husband and both of my children all suffer from respiratory problems, allergies, bronchitis, and really bad headaches, from constantly breathing in coal and silica dust and toxic fumes like diesel fuel and ammonium nitrates.”  The tree sitters say they will not willingly descend until blasting ceases above Pettry Bottom, Massey Energy pays the full cost of healthcare and home repair for Pettry Bottom and Peachtree residents, and the Federal Office of Surface Mining commits to supervising the full reclamation of the Edwight mine.

Army veteran and lifelong West Virginian, Zoe Beavers states “I am on this mountain because I believe that every single West Virginian who is proud of being from ‘Almost Heaven’ should take a stand against mountaintop removal.  I am here because DEP officials have failed to stop the blasting.  I am putting my body and reputation on the line to do their job and stop the blasting.  I served in our military so that we can all live in a country that does not exploit and destroy its land and people.”

This is the thirteenth in a series of non-violent direct actions and protests that have brought together Coal River Valley residents, NASA climate scientist James Hansen, students, underground miners, military veterans, concerned citizens and environmentalists from across the nation with the goal of ending mountaintop removal. This is the third protest in two weeks to focus attention on the WV Department of Environmental Protection and their embattled Secretary, Randy Huffman. It also follows days after the leak of DEP biologist Doug Wood’s memo on the scale of environmental degradation caused by mountaintop removal, directly contradicting Huffman’s statements at a senate hearing last June.