Coal Tattoo

Coal Tattoo update: Back online now

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Anti-mountaintop removal protesters were arrested at the Kayford Mountain mining operation as part of several peaceful actions against the coal industry over the holiday weekend. Photo by Antrim Caskey, via Climate Ground Zero.

OK, folks, sorry for my disengagement there for several days. But I’m back and there’s lots of news to pass on …

First, the peaceful civil disobedience against mountaintop removal coal-mining continued over the Memorial Day weekend, with 17 arrests at three different sites: the Kayford Mountain mine (see photo above), the Brushy Fork impoundment, and outside Massey’s Marfork operation (which includes Brush Fork).

Climate Ground Zero, which is organizing the protest actions, has  descriptions of what happened at each site here, along with video and photo slide shows. The Gazette had a report on the events on Sunday, and The Associated Press did a brief follow-up story. There’s also more on the site of Mountain Justice, another group involved in organizing the protests.

One interesting point, I thought, was that the Kayford protest — a “lockdown” in which activists chained themselves to a giant dump truck — targeted not Massey Energy, but Patriot Coal.

Sunday’s paper also featured a front-page article by Associated Press business writer Tim Huber outlining the coal industry’s complaints about the Obama administration’s policies on strip mining and global warming, and a piece by the Gazette’s Paul Nyden about the new coal tax report issued by  the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy and Downstream Strategies.

Thanks to all you folks who commented and kept is clean and thoughtful over the long weekend. Unfortunately, there were some readers who weren’t so well behaved. So in the future, when I’m going to be off line for a couple of days, I think we’re going to have to put a “time out” on the blog comment section.

Big protest set for Saturday at Massey site

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Photo by Vivian Stockman, flyover courtesy Southwings.

Environmental activists are spreading the word that they’re planning a big protest this Saturday outside one of Massey Energy’s Southern West Virginia operations.

The event is scheduled for noon outside Massey’s Marfork Complex near Pettus, home of the company’s huge Brushy Fork slurry impoundment (photo above).  The announcement I got said:

The picketers will bring nearly 1,000 pairs of shoes to the site at noon to represent the number of people killed if the Brushy Fork Slurry Impoundment were to burst. This number – taken from one of Massey Energy’s filings with the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection – is the minimum number of potential deaths in case of a catastrophic breach, and the company holds permits to blast for coal extraction within a football field’s distance of the impoundment’s retaining wall.

Protests against Massey continue …

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Climate Ground Zero is reporting that three activists and two journalists were charged after a new protest action at one of Massey Energy’s mountaintop removal operations in Southern West Virginia.

They’ve got details on their Web site here, and The Associated Press put out this short item on the event:

 SUNDIAL, W.Va. (AP) — An environmental group says five more people have been ticketed for trespassing at a Massey Energy surface mine in West Virginia.

Climate Ground Zero says state troopers ticketed the five Thursday at Massey’s Edwight Surface Mine in Raleigh County, about 84 miles south of Charleston.

The group says the mine’s coal slurry pond endangers nearby Marsh Fork Elementary School. Massey’s desire to add a second coal storage silo to an existing one about 300 feet from the school has sparked protests and lawsuits.

Thursday’s protest was the fifth recent instance of civil disobedience targeting surface mining in West Virginia.

A spokesman for Richmond, Va.-based Massey had no immediate comment. The company mines in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.

It will be interesting to see how Massey’s lawyers respond. Remember that there’s a broad court injunction in place against such protests, and a court hearing on the case has been postponed until June 1.

Photojournalist Antrim Caskey, one of those involved in Thursday’s incident, recently got some attention from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press about her concerns that the court order is limiting her ability to do her job as a journalist. And protest leader Mike Roselle recently appeared on the show Democracy Now! to discuss the peaceful civil disobedience campaign.

And despite the court order, the activists are seeking help in continuing their protests.  Stay tuned …

Update on Mike Roselle and the anti-coal campaign

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Activist Mike Roselle, right, awaits arrest for laying down in the road with a banner at a Massey Energy mountaintop removal operation in Raleigh county in February. Photo by Antrim Caskey.

A hearing on Massey Energy’s request for a court injunction to block protests — and escalate penalties for protesters — at the company’s mountaintop removal mines in Southern West Virginia has bee delayed until June 1.

But activist Mike Roselle and the peaceful civil disobedience campaign he’s leading against mountaintop removal could end up in court a lot sooner than that … apparently, an arrest warrant has been issued for Roselle, after he skipped a court appearance on a trespass charge to attend last week’s mountaintop removal hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers in Huntington.

See more at Roselle’s Climate Ground Zero Web site, or through his Facebook page, cited on the West Virginia Blue blog.

Continue reading…

Anti-coal protests continue with TVA march

Protests against the coal industry are continuing, and not just here in Southern West Virginia.

Fourteen people were apparently arrested today during a protest at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., according to some local press reports.

The Mountain Justice Web site explained:

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.

More information and photos are here.

Still more from Mike Roselle

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 Activist Mike Roselle, foreground, waits his turn while Massey lawyer Niall Paul speaks during a Monday court hearing in Beckley. Photo by Antrim Caskey.(Yes, that’s yours truly in the left corner of the audience, right behind the Massey security guys).

Coal Tattoo readers seem to be interested in the actions and philosophy of longtime activist Mike Roselle and other citizens who have decided they care enough about stopping mountaintop removal to risk arrest and jail. Some readers are very supportive of this peaceful civil disobedience tactics; others have made it clear they think the world would be better off if Roselle and the rest got run over by a coal truck. I hope readers will continue to comment, and try to be a little more constructive and thoughtful than just suggesting folks they disagree with be taken out and shot.

So I thought I would point readers to another commentary by Roselle in the great muckraking newsletter Counterpunch.  Thanks to Antrim Caskey, an independent photojournalist who has been documenting these protests (and risking jail herself in the process) for pointing this article out to me.

It’s titled, “Why is the environmental movement so timid? From Birmingham to Coal River,” and  it provides more insight into the thinking behind these protest actions.  (For my own most recent thoughts on all this, see Massey gives protesters what they want).

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Massey gives protesters what they want

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Raleigh County Circuit Judge John A. Hutchison might not see the protesters in his courtroom again, but environmental activists seem unlikely to halt their peaceful actions against Massey Energy anytime soon.

As the Gazette reported earlier,  Hutchison agreed yesterday morning to consolidate Massey’s court actions against the protesters and ship the cases over to his fellow Raleigh Circuit Judge, Robert A. Burnside. But first, Hutchison extended his previous temporary restraining order for a couple more weeks.

Continue reading…

Hearing today on Massey protests

That’s the video posted last week by members of Climate Ground Zero of their protest March 5 at one of Massey Energy’s mountaintop removal mines in Raleigh County, West Virginia.

Massey hasn’t responded to my requests for comment on the protests or on the TRO granted to the company by Raleigh Circuit Judge John A. Hutchison.

But the judge has scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. today in Beckley to consider whether he will extend his temporary order demanding an end to the peaceful protests. I hope to attend the hearing, and report on it for Gazette readers, both in our print edition and in Coal Tattoo.

Meanwhile, there’s a spurt of stories out there in the last two days about companies rethinking plans for new coal-fired power plants. See USA Today, The Associated Press via The Washington post, and Reuters.

Despite court order, protests continue

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(Photo by Antrim Caskey)

Despite a broad-ranging court order granted to Massey Energy, protests resumed today at one of the company’s mountaintop removal mines in Southern West Virginia.

The group Climate Ground Zero issued a news release about the action, and it’s posted on their Web site.

For more about the previous protests and the temporary restraining order issued by Raleigh County Circuit Judge John A. Hutchison, see Judge orders halt to Massey protests.  Hutchison previously scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Monday to consider whether to extend his 10-day TRO.

A new report from the Center for Public Integrity explains that, as President Obama and Congress prepare to consider legislation on the issue, “the special interests that seek to derail, blunt, or tailor any new climate policy to their narrow agendas have already gathered in staggering numbers.”

According to the report:

A Center for Public Integrity analysis of Senate lobbying disclosure forms shows that more than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists to influence federal policy on climate change in the past year, as the issue gathered momentum and came to a vote on Capitol Hill. That’s an increase of more than 300 percent in the number of lobbyists on climate change in just five years, and means that Washington can now boast more than four climate lobbyists for every member of Congress. It also means that 15 percent of all Washington lobbyists spent at least some of their time on global warming in 2008, based on a tally of the total number of influence-peddlers on Capitol Hill by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Based on the data, the Center estimates that lobbying expenditures on climate change last year topped $90 million. About 130 businesses and interest groups spent more than $23.5 million on lobbying teams solely focused on climate, but that vastly understates the money devoted to the effort. More than 95 percent of climate lobbyists work on other issues such as tax and health care for their clients as well, and they don’t have to report how much they’re being paid on global warming specifically. But even if just 10 percent of their time last year was spent on climate, that would add nearly $70 million to the grand total spent lobbying on climate in 2008 and push expenditures past $90 million.

Here’s a chart the center produced to break down the categories of climate change lobbyists:

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Here’s the most recent dispatch from The Associated Press on the anti-coal protest in Washington, D.C.:

Thousands rally for legislation on climate change
By BRIAN WESTLEY

WASHINGTON (AP) — Several thousand demonstrators on Monday urged Congress to pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, and they targeted the government’s own Capitol power plant as a symbol of the problem.

An enthusiastic crowd of mostly young people marched from a park near the Capitol to the power plant several blocks away, where they planned to block entrances and were prepared to get arrested. The group chanted along the way, “We don’t want the world to boil, no coal, no oil!”

Continue reading…

Capitol protest gets started

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We’ve mentioned several times that there’s a big protest today in Washington, D.C., about climate change and the coal-fired Capitol Power Plant (pictured above). (See previous posts here, here and here).

Well, the protest is certainly not without its critics, and here’s what a few of them have to say:

The National Association of Manufacturers says the “narcissists at Capitol Climate Action” [the group organizing the protest] are trying to make an “unpersuasive argument … on a snowy day in Washington at the end of an unusually cold winter.” Also:

On a day when snow has turned the roads slippery and police have other things to worry about — like public safety! — trying to get yourself arrested for the cameras is just self-indulgent disregard for your fellow humans.

Continue reading…

Judge orders halt to Massey protests

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As anti-coal activists from around the country travel to Washington, D.C., for a mass rally, a judge in West Virginia has ordered environmentalists here to stop their peaceful protests against Massey Energy’s mountaintop removal operations.

On Friday, Raleigh County Circuit Judge John A. Hutchison issued a temporary restraining order requested that same day by lawyers for Massey Energy subsidiaries Alex Energy, Independence Coal and Marfork Coal. I’ve gotten additional information since my earlier post on this issue.

Continue reading…

One of the major backers of the big anti-coal protest Monday in Washington, D.C., is author Bill McKibben.

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McKibben has a commentary in Sunday’s Washington Post about the protest. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:

Washington has seen its share of big protests over the years, and most of them center on the White House, the Mall or the Capitol. That will change tomorrow, when the first big protest of the Obama era — and the first mass civil disobedience against global warming in this country — will take place against the not-very-scenic backdrop of the Capitol Hill Power Plant, a dirty symbol of the dirtiest business on Earth, the combustion of coal.

Continue reading…

West Virginians at D.C. coal protest

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Vivian Stockman at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition reports that a number of West Virginians are headed to Washington, D.C., this weekend for the big protest on Monday over climate change and the coal-fired Capitol Power plant. (See Coal and our Capitol)

Continue reading…

Coal and our Capitol

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Citizens and activists from around the country are planning to descend on Washington Monday for what organizers hope is a huge protest against the burning of coal to fire an antiquated power plant that generates steam and chilled water to heat and cool the Capitol building. (The Capitol buys its electricity from Pepco).

The protest is being billed as:

…A multi-generational act of civil disobedience at the Capitol Power Plant — a plant that powers Congress with dirty energy and symbolizes a past that cannot be our future. Let’s use this as a rallying cry for a clean energy economy that will protect the health of our families, our climate, and our future.

On their website’s FAQ section, under the heading “Why this Action? Why Now?” the organizers explain:

It’s time to take a stand on global warming. For more than 30 years, scientists, environmentalists, and Americans from all walks of life have urged leaders to take action to prevent a climate catastrophe. Yet even with the impacts of global warming mounting–droughts and wildfires in the West and Southeast; hurricanes in the Gulf; record floods year after year in the Heartland; deadly heat waves in the Northeast; and the spiraling cost of it all—our leaders have failed to take the action so urgently needed. Now we are running out of time. The Bush administration has left our world with precious little time to avert the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.

Continue reading…

I don’t have many details right now, but apparently Massey Energy lawyers are trying to get a Raleigh County judge to block further protests at the company’s mountaintop removal sites.

Antrim Caskey, a photographer who has been documenting the protests, passed on word of the action to me in an e-mail message, and I see that Climate Ground Zero has mention of it — along with part of a court document — on their Web site. It’s not clear from the site whether Massey has simply asked for the TRO, or if it’s already been granted. (Antrim, by the way, is listed among the defendants in the Massey court filing).

Recall that these protests have really geared up with leadership from environmental activist Mike Roselle. See previous posts here, and here.