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LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights : Environment : Globalization : Protest Activity

Protest Massey in Richmond today

Citizens March to Massey Energy’s Headquarters to Demand an End to Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining.
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Richmond, VA - Today, as millions around the world protest the Group of Eight and the root causes of climate change, coalfield residents, human rights advocates and environmentalists will converge on Massey Energy at their headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.

At noon, people from across the country will rally in Monroe Park in downtown Richmond and hear from coalfields residents about Massey’s human rights violations. From there they will march down Franklin Street to Massey’s headquarters to demand an end to Mountain Top Removal (MTR) mining and bring attention to the role that the coal industry plays in climate change.

“Massey is turning Appalachia into a sacrifice zone for cheap electricity. The people of Appalachia are here to take a stand against the devastation of their land and communities by greedy coal companies,? said Erin McKelvy, a Mountain Justice Summer participant from Blacksburg, VA.

This event is part of the Mountain Justice Summer, a nonviolent, grassroots, direct action-based campaign to stop Mountain Top Removal (MTR) coal mining in Appalachia. In their MTR mining operations, Richmond-based Massey Energy literally blows the tops off mountains to get to the thin seams of coal that lie beneath. The leftover rock is then pushed into adjacent valleys, increasing flooding and burying the life-giving streams that many Appalachian communities depend on for food and water. MTR mining has leveled over 500 square miles of mountains and buried over 1,200 miles of streams across Appalachia.

Read more about MTR mining:
www.mountainjusticesummer.org/MTRsteps.htm

Massey operates a sprawling coal facility that includes a coal preparation plant, a toxic sludge pond, and an active MTR mine directly above the Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, WV. “Massey Energy’s only concern is profit and power. Massey has turned an elementary school yard into a surface mine that terrorizes children,? stated Julia Bonds of Coal River Mountain Watch of Whitesville, WV.

In the last two months, 20 coalfield residents and supporters from Mountain Justice Summer have been arrested while attempting to present the following demands to Massey officials: 1) Massey shut down the prep plant and cease its MTR mining above Marsh Fork Elementary School immediately; 2) Marsh Fork Elementary School be cleaned up or that a safe new school be built in their community; 3) Massey abandon plans for a second coal silo directly next to the school; 4) Massey stop blasting the homes of coalfield residents; 5) Massey shut down its surface mine sites and invest in true sustainable energy.

“This is about the people and the lives and the homes that Massey coal is taking away from people. Mountain Justice Summer is about making a positive statement,? said Larry Gibson, long-time mountain defender from Kayford Mountain, West Virginia.

This event also part of an international day of protest against the root causes of climate change, called to coincide with the G8 meetings in Scotland.

Please visit www.mountainjusticesummer.org and www.crmw.net (coalfield community group) for more information about MTR coal mining and the campaign to stop it.


MOUNTAIN JUSTICE SUMMER PRESS ADVISORY

July 7, 2005

Contacts:
Brian Bernhardt, Mountain Justice Summer Rep in Richmond - (703) 439-0725
john johnson, Mountain Justice Summer Rep in Tennessee - (865) 406-2964

Massey Energy to be Targeted During Global Anti-G8 Protests

Citizens Demand an End to Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining


What: Protest Rally Against Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining

When: Noon, Friday, July 8th, 2005

Where: Monroe Park (S. Belevidere St. and W. Main St.) Downtown, Richmond, VA

Who: Mountain Justice Summer participants (mountainjusticesummer.org) and concerned citizens from across Virginia


On July 8th, as millions around the world protest the Group of Eight meeting and the root causes of climate change, coalfield residents, human rights advocates and
environmentalists will protest Massey Energy at their corporate headquaters in Richmond, Virginia.

With mountain top removal (MTR) coal mining operations, Massey Energy and other coal companies literally blow the tops off mountains to get to the thin seams of coal that lie beneath. The leftover rock is then pushed into adjacent valleys, increasing flooding and burying the life-giving streams that many Appalachian communities depend on for food and water. Mountain top removal strip mining has leveled over 500 square miles of mountains and buried over 1,200 miles of streams across Appalachia. Residents of the coalfields live with blasting, dangerous flyrock, overloaded coal trucks and fear of catastrophic flooding. Affected states include West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Activists and Coalfield residents from these areas and around the country are expected to attend the protest rally.

This event is part of the Mountain Justice Summer (MJS) campaign, which utilizes tactics ranging from public education to nonviolent civil disobedience to contribute to grassroots organizing against the devastating practice of MTR coal mining in Appalachia.

Background:

Massey Energy owns the Goals Coal preparation plant in Sundial, West Virginia in the Coal River Valley. This facility includes a coal loading silo that sits 150 feet from the Marsh Fork Elementary School. It also has a 2.8 billion gallon sludge pond with an unstable dam. Parents in the area are reporting unexplained illnesses in their children and a former worker at the plant claims the dam is unstable and was not built properly. The school is 400 feet downstream. Citizens of the Coal River Valley have been leading a campaign to protect the children and school by demanding that the prep plant and sludge pond be shut down and cleaned up.


On May 24th, two coalfield residents from West Virginia, Judy Bonds and Bo Webb, were arrested at Massey's coal prep plant in Sundial, WV as they attempted to deliver a list of citizen demands to the company. The demands are:
1) Massey shut down the prep plant and cease its MTR mining above Marsh Fork Elementary School immediately;
2) Marsh Fork Elementary School be cleaned up or that a safe new school be built in their community;
3) Massey abandon plans for a second coal silo directly next to the school;
4) Massey stop blasting the homes of coalfield residents;
5) Massey shut down its surface mine sites and invest in true sustainable energy.

One week later, on May 31st, 16 people were arrested at the same Massey facility, again attempting to deliver the list of demands. Four coalfield residents, including an
82-year-old grandmother, walked onto company property and were placed under arrest. In an act of solidarity, twelve supporters from Appalachia and around the country followed these women and were also arrested. Simultaneously, two MJS
activists attempted to deliver the same list of demands to Massey executives at their Richmond headquarters. They were promptly removed and Massey officials did not accept the list of demands.

On Wednesday, June 29th, coalfield residents and supporters from West Virginia returned to Massey headquarters in Richmond. Two coalfield residents, one of which has an 8-year-old son attending Marsh Fork Elementary School, were arrested for refusing to leave Massey property.

In addition to escalating the campaign to stop Massey's mountain top removal mining, the July 8th demonstration isn the East Coast Convergence for the global protests against the G8.

Anti-corporate globalization activists protesting the G8 meetings July 6-8th in Scotland have called for a world wide day of protest focusing on global climate change for July 8th. Mountain top removal destroys forests, mountains, streams and communities and contributes to the world wide problem of global climate change. Mountain Justice Summer is acting in solidarity with indigenous peoples of Venezuela as they protest large scale strip mining for coal in their homelands.

The rally will begin Friday, July 8th at noon in Monroe Park (S. Belevidere St. and W. Main St.) in downtown Richmond, VA.

Please visit www.mountainjusticesummer.org and www.crmw.net (coalfield community group) for more information about MTR coal mining and the campaign to stop it.

# # #



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 7, 2005

Contacts:
Bo Webb - (304) 854-2182
Julia Bonds - (304) 854-2182
Hillary Hosta - (304) 854-2324

For photos, please see: www.coalfieldsustainability.org/capitolpics

Former Mine Health and Safety Academy Director has Concerns Over Health and Safety of Children at Elementary School

State and Federal Regulations with Regards to Coal Processing Plants in Question

Charleston, WV - At a meeting today between representatives of West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, Secretary Timmermeyer of the DEP, residents of the Coal River Valley, and several state and national agencies, including the DHHS and MSHA, the Governor’s representatives reiterated his concerns about the health and safety of the children who attend Marsh Fork Elementary School.

Mining Engineer and Former Director of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, Jack Spadaro expressed concern for the children saying, “From everything I heard in the room today and from what I know about Marsh Fork Elementary School there is ample reason to believe that children have been exposed to toxic chemicals and coal dust.? Spadaro went on to say, “There are also valid concerns about the integrity of the coal refuse dam based on testimony provided by a former long-term Massey employee who worked on the dam and is currently experiencing health impacts from exposure to toxic chemicals at the plant behind the school.?

At question are the legalities surrounding the permitting process. “Based upon SMCRA law of 1977 you cannot have a coal operation within 300 feet of a school, yet a permit for a second silo 260 feet from Marsh Fork Elementary has been granted. What’s wrong this picture?? asked Bo Webb of Coal River Mountain Watch. The second silo will be constructed adjacent to an existing silo that stands 150 feet from the school grounds.

Massey has been quick to point out that the site meets all state and federal regulations. “If the regulations are such that the air surrounding the school can be so thick with coal dust that children’s shoes and socks turn black, the regulations simply are not good enough,? said Hillary Hosta, Program Director of the Coalfield Sustainability Project. “Furthermore,? Hosta continued, “Massey has an ethical responsibility to do business in a way that does not put children at risk.?

The grandfather of a Marsh Fork student, Ed Wiley, whose hunger strike on the steps of the capitol building earlier this week which compelled the governor to call this meeting, was more optimistic saying, "I believe the governor will step up to the plate and do the right thing to for the children.?

In response to the concerns of the residents of the Coal River Valley, the Governor’s office promised a multi-agency investigation into the Health issues surrounding the school.


Continued

Background

Marsh Fork Elementary School serves 228 children in the Coal River Valley. Adjacent to the school is the Massey Energy Subsidiary, Goals Coal Preparation Plant. This plant includes a loading silo, which sits 150 feet from school grounds and releases coal dust and toxic chemicals into the air. In addition to the silo, there is a sludge dam located on the site 400 yards upstream of the school. This Dam holds back 2.8 billion gallons of toxic sludge which contains arsenic, mercury and other heavy metals and is leaking in widespread areas according to Mine Health and Safety Administration reports.

Recent Action
At a rally Tuesday, May 24, two Coal River Valley residents were arrested when they were refused admittance to present their demands. On May 31, sixteen people were arrested, including an 82-year-old grandmother, at the same site at a much larger rally supported by Mountain Justice Summer (MJS).
At a May 26 hearing, the DEP allowed the residents only two minutes each to voice their concerns over the silo and also over the renewal of Massey’s permit to operate the waste facility. Despite residents’ earlier protests, in 2004 the DEP approved Massey’s permit to operate the mountaintop removal site above the school.
On June 22nd, Coal River Valley residents met with Governor Manchin in Charleston to discuss the permits that were at the time pending. The Governor expressed concerns about the children's health and safety.
Herb Elkins, a father of a student Marsh Fork Elementary and Hanna Thurman, a West Virginia native and MJS participant were arrested attempting to deliver a list of demands as written by coalfield residents to Massey Energy's headquarters in Richmond Virginia on the 29th of June.
On June 30th, both permits were approved.
On July 5th, Ed Wiley, Grandfather of a Marsh Fork Elementary School student, went on a hunger strike on the steps of the Capitol Building, demanding to meet again with the Governor .
###
www.mountainjusticesummer.org



Massey’s Messes: A Sampler


1. Oct 11, 2000 – The Martin County, Kentucky slurry spill near Inez fouls 80 miles of streams with 306 million gallons of coal sludge. The spill is over 25 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. EPA officials call it the “worst-ever environmental accident in the southeastern United States.?

2. Feb 2003 - $475,000 in damages are awarded by a jury to citizens of Sylvester, West Virginia, a community blanketed by coal dust from Massey’s Elk Run Coal Preparation plant. Massey is ordered by the West Va. Dept. of Environmental Protection to enclose the plant in a plastic dome to help control the dust; a Massey operator later carelessly piles coal against the side of the dome, ripping the fabric and destroying the dome.

3. Aug 1, 2002 – A Boone County, W. Va. jury awards Virginia’s Harman Mining $51 million in damages from Massey for contract interference which drove Harman Mining into bankruptcy. 120 Harman employees were displaced when the company went bankrupt.

4. July 20, 2002 Massey subsidiary Alex Energy allegedly "willfully" dumped 20,000 gallons of polluted mine water into Laurel Creek and Laurel Lake in Mingo County, W.Va. State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) inspectors allege that a scoop or bulldozer was used to make a breach in a temporary sediment control berm located on the property of Alex Energy, allowing the water to flow into the creek and lake.

5. Jan 15 2002 - The West Virginia Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) issues a decision to shut down Massey Energy's Marfork Coal Company mine for 14 days because of repeated water pollution violations.

6. Sept 17 2004 - A civil jury orders Massey Coal Services to pay $1.54 million in damages to 245 Mingo County, West Va. residents whose water wells disappeared after the company began mining under their homes. After six weeks of testimony and more than 40 hours of deliberation, the jury concludes that Massey acted "with malicious, willful, wanton, reckless or intentional disregard for plaintiffs' rights."

7. March 2003 – Massey’s Omar and Independence Mines are fined $400,000 by the EPA for negligent violations of the Clean Water Act.

8. June 2005 – Massey’s Goals Coal Company operates a coal preparation plant, loading silo, and 2 billion gallon coal sludge impoundment directly above Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, West Va. There is also an 1,849 acre strip and mountain top removal site directly above the sludge dam. Goals Coal has applied to build a second silo less than 300 feet from the school. The school yard is full of coal dust and children complain of headaches, nosebleeds etc. from the dust and chemicals used at the plant.


RICHMOND TALKING POINTS

We have come to Richmond from all over the country to stand with coalfields residents in demanding an end to MTR coal mining. In MTR, mining companies such as Massey literally blow the tops off of mountains, sometimes taking up to 900 ft, to get at the thin seams of coal beneath. The waste rock is pushed into the adjacent valleys. This process has buried over1200 miles of streams and leveled over 500 sq miles of mountains in WV alone.

Today is the international day of action against the root causes of climate change, organized in solidarity with the protests against the G8 in Scotland. MJS has organized this demonstration against Massey in coordination with indigenous communities in Venezuela who are resisting destructive coal mining in their country. All over the world, people are calling for real solutions to the impending climate crisis and an end to destructive mining practices like MTR.

We call on Massey to respect the basic human rights of people living in the coalfields. In addition to watching their mountains be blown apart for cheap electricity, coalfields residents are forced to live with constant blasting, dangerous fly-rock, toxic sludge dams, overloaded coal trucks, and fear of catastrophic flooding.

Massey is one of the nation’s largest coal companies, and is setting the industry standard for coal production with devastating MTR practices in WV, Kentucky, and elsewhere.

Massey is turning Appalachia into a sacrifice zone for cheap electricity. The people of Appalachia are here to take a stand against the devastation of their land and communities by greedy coal companies.

Coal companies like Massey are waging a war against the land and people of Appalachia. More explosives are used every day by coal companies in WV than were used during the entire US bombing campaign in Afghanistan. (In WV 3 million pounds of explosives are used daily.) Each blast is up to 100 times as strong as the OKC bombing. No community or ecosystem can long survive such a pounding.

Massey operates a sprawling coal facility including a coal preparation plant, a giant sludge dam, and an active MTR mine directly above the Marsh Fork elementary school in Sundial, WV. Coal dust from the prep plant circulates through the school’s vents, and several teachers and former students, now teenagers, have gotten cancer.

Mining activity poisons residents. The Independence Coal Company operation in Sundial, WV. Has it’s coal loading silo within 200 feet Marshfork Elementary School, posing a health risk to both students and teachers. Every day that children spend in class is a risk. Fumes from cancer causing coal-binding chemicals sprayed on the coal as it is loaded onto coal cars, coal dust and other chemicals used used to wash coal, are breathed by children in class or on the playground. When last checked by a concerned resident, the school air intake vents were coated with black soot. The school has been called a ‘cancer cluster’: a vice principal, three teachers and a 17 year old girl have all died from cancer within the past few years; and another 17 year old student is currently battling ovarian cancer.

MTR replaces miners with machines and dynamite; it does not create jobs. In the last 30 years in WV, as coal company profits have increased, coal employment has dropped from 150,000 jobs to 15,000 jobs due to increased mechanization of MTR and destructive strip mining.

A coal slurry pond broke in October of 2000 in Martin County, Kentucky. Over 300 million gallons of the black toxic slurry was released into the headwaters of Coldwater and Wolf Creeks near Inez, Kentucky. Hundreds of area residents had to contend with black, toxic sludge in their yards. This incident remains the largest environmental disaster east of the Mississippi, but it got almost no mention in the national media. The Bush administration effectively shut down the investigation of the incident and the lead inspector resigned in protest. Massey Coal Company called it “an act of God?.

www.mountainjusticesummer.org
 
 


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