Coal Tattoo

The folks down at Climate Ground Zero put out  this news release today, harshly criticizing Massey Energy for the company’s lawsuits against anti-mountaintop removal protesters:

Massey Energy has filed a politically motivated civil suit, also known as a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit, against fourteen activists arrested last year in relation to a protest on a mountaintop removal mining site. The suit seems to be part of a larger strategy on the part of the mining company to intimidate and silence critics of the company’s safety record and controversial mining practices, particularly mountaintop removal coal mining.

Climate Ground Zero says Massey has already filed four such suits against activists who have taken part in peaceful civil disobedience protests against the company’s mountaintop removal mining operations in Southern West Virginia. I’m aware of several court orders meant to block these protests, including this one in state court and this one by U.S. District Judge Irene Berger.  The latest of the suits targets those who took part in this protest shutting down a dragline mining machine.

In its news release, Climate Ground Zero said:

Commonly used to exhaust critics by burdening them with the cost of a massive legal defense, SLAPP suits have been banned by at least 26 states and one territory has protections against SLAPP suits. West Virginia does not have a ban, but its courts have adopted some protections against them.

The release then cites a case concerning SLAPP suits in West Virginia.

Now, Massey has sought (and in some cases received) somewhat broad court orders against these protests.  But in general, my reading of the suits is that Massey wants the courts to order folks to stop trespassing on their mining sites.

That’s quite a different sort of situation than the one outlined in the court case cited by Climate Ground Zero, where a citizen was sued for standing up at a Weirton City Council meeting and criticizing a public official.