Tree-Sit Stops Mountaintop Removal Blasting on Coal River

Written by Scott Parkin

Topics: Coal

share this story
facebook twitter email stumble upon
Get Energy Alerts
Mountaintop Removal Damage

Mountaintop Removal Damage via RAMPS

I love the smell of direct action in the morning.

Last week, I was part of Earth First! and Northern Rockies Rising Tide taking over the governor of Montana’s offices in protest of tar sands development, and this morning, the RAMPS Campaign put a couple of tree-sitters up on Coal River Mountain to stop mountaintop removal coal mining.

The tree-sit has stopped Alpha Natural Resources strip mining operations on Coal River Mountain. Catherine-Ann MacDougal and Becks Kolins currently are sitting in trees 80 feet off the ground about 300 feet from active blasting operations.

Their banners read “STOP STRIP MINING” and “FOR JUDY BONDS.”

via americanswhotellthetruth.org

Judy Bonds was an Appalachian leader in the anti-mountaintop removal fight who died of cancer earlier this year.

Judy’s daughter, Lisa Henderson, said in support of the tree-sit, “I hope that today’s actions serve as a symbol that the struggle to live peacefully and pollution-free in the Coal River Valley did not end when my mother’s life did.  My mother and I often compared the fight to survive here on Coal River to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.  I am sure that generations from now, our children will look back on this movement also and the actions of the people involved, and ask the question of their elders, ‘Whose side were you on?’”

————————————-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20th, 2011
Contact: Mathew Louis-Rosenberg, 304-924-1836

Activists Block Mining Operations on Coal River Mountain Call for end to strip mining in the Coal River Watershed

MARFORK, W.Va. – Two protesters associated with the RAMPS Campaign halted blasting on a portion of Alpha Natural Resources’ Bee Tree mountaintop removal mine on Coal River Mountain today by ascending two trees.  Catherine-Ann MacDougal, 24, and Becks Kolins, 21, are on platforms approximately 80 feet off the ground within 300 feet of active blasting on the mine.  The banners hanging from their platforms read “Stop Strip Mining” and “For Judy Bonds” in honor of strip mining activist Julia “Judy” Bonds of Packsville, W.Va. who died of cancer earlier this year.  The activists demand that Alpha Natural Resources stop strip mining on Coal River Mountain and that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection prohibit future strip mining in the Coal River Watershed.

“I feel, with the keen urgency of extinction, that Alpha Natural Resources cannot be allowed to tear apart Coal River Mountain and allow all those living below it to suffer for their profits. The Coal River watershed cannot tolerate any more damage. There is no way that I can begin to detail the comprehensive destruction that surface mining and mountaintop removal wreak on the forest ecosystem of the southern Appalachian mountains,” said Catherine-Ann MacDougal.

Coal River Mountain is the last major intact mountain in the watershed, which encompasses roughly 570,000 acres in the heart of the southern WV coalfields.  Nearly a quarter of total land area in the watershed is being mined or permitted to be mined in the future, including over 5,000 acres of Coal River Mountain.  As of January 2011, Marfork Coal Company, a subsidiary of Alpha, has destroyed about 75 acres of Coal River Mountain on the Bee Tree permit, the only active mountaintop removal permit on the mountain.  Activists say they are determined to prevent further strip-mining.

Elias Schewel, 27, and Junior Walk, 21, are supporting the sitters from the base of their trees.   Walk, who grew up in Eunice W.Va. at the foot of Coal River Mountain says that he was inspired to take action, in part, by his lifelong relationship with Judy Bonds.

“The last two families to be driven out of this holler we’re in today were Judy Bonds and my great uncle and they both died of lung cancer. Judy spoke often about how hard it was to leave, but black water spill after black water spill, the blasting dust clouds, and fears for the health of her family forced her out. Packsville is gone. We’re not just losing our clean air and clean water. We’re losing our communities, our history, and our culture.”

Judy Bonds’ fears of the health impacts from coal operations have been increasingly backed up by research from WVU.  A recent public health study found a correlation between residence in a mountaintop removal area and higher rates of birth defects, even accounting for other socio-economic factors(i).  Public health research has linked residence in coal-impacted regions to increased rates of cancer, kidney disease, and some chronic illnesses, confirming long-held community concerns.(ii)(iii)

“Those who are drinking tainted water, breathing coal dust, and watching the mountains fall around them don’t need a scientific study to tell them what’s wrong,” noted MacDougal. Fellow tree sitter Becks Kolins remembers their first visit to the home of a Coal River Valley resident last year.

“He showed me his yearbook and pointed out everyone that had gotten cancer. The only teachers that hadn’t gotten cancer had made a point of not drinking the water.”

Lisa Henderson, Judy Bonds’ daughter and Coal River Valley resident, sees this action as a continuation of her mother’s work.

“I hope that today’s actions serve as a symbol that the struggle to live peacefully and pollution-free in the Coal River Valley did not end when my mother’s life did.  My mother and I often compared the fight to survive here on Coal River to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.  I am sure that generations from now, our children will look back on this movement also and the actions of the people involved, and ask the question of their elders, ‘Whose side were you on?’”

RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival) is a non-violent direct action campaign based in southern West Virginia dedicated to ending all forms of strip-mining in Appalachia.  Ongoing updates about this action will be available at www.rampscampaign.org.

###

i M. Ahern, M. Hendryx, J. Conley, E. Fedorko, A. Ducatman, and K. Zullig, “The association between mountaintop mining and birth defects among live births in central Appalachia, 1996-2003” Environmental Research in press, 2011 ii N.P. Hitt, M. Hendryx, “Ecological integrity of streams related to human cancer mortality rates.” Ecohealth. 2010 Aug;7(1):91-104.
iii M. Ahern, M. Hendryx, ““Relations between Health Indicators and Residential Proximity to Coal Mining in West Virginia.” American Journal of Public Health, 2008.

via RAMPS

4 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. denise says:

    What is the truth on the cancer of Judy Bonds? The young fellow interviewed said, “Lung Cancer”. A trusted friend of Judy’s told me her breast cancer returned, and it moved to her brain? Kathy Mattea in her presentation said, ” brain cancer” ?
    If I am to believe what you all post about statistics, regarding direct cause and effect of coal contaminating water and air, you will need to get the stories to be consistent.
    I worked in Boone county, and I can attest, the air quality is not good. Coal dust is everywhere. What people seem to forget is that statistics can be made to support whatever side you are on.
    I have spoken to people who live rural, and their wells have been contaminated due to gas. Also, improper sewage drainage. They dump waste into the streams. Also, water pressure to put city water in, is hard to do.
    One can have stinky water like sulphur and live in Akron OH, and it is far away from MTR.
    No one ever questions smoking habits and secondary smoke in WV. If kids start smoking in WV at ages of 10 and 12, and their parents smoke, they are dead with lung cancer in their 30′s. You never ask what work people do, like working in bars, second hand smoke… You never ask about other possible ways people are exposed to cancer causing agents. People never look at their cell phones for radiation..
    I worked with patients with Kidney failure in Boone County and I can tell you most have kidney failure is due to diabetes and high blood pressure or liver failure causing kidney failure because of medication. I also can tell you I ate a lot of fast food as a forty, fair, female who is fertile—The picture of gall bladder attacks because estrogen and birth control pills and a bad diet causes this. I also had a sedentary lifestyle.
    So, I worked in Boone county for a year and had a bad gall bladder, but I am honest and will say, I ate everything bad for me. Some doctors make a nice chunk of change taking gall bladders out because people choose not to change how they eat. Surprise that my gall bladder issues stopped when I changed how I ate and did not use birth control pills.
    Well water also DOES NOT have Iodine which helps the thyroid. Hypothyroidism is an auto immune disorder and Hashimoto’s and a thyroid without Iodine fails. So, you have inflammation in your body due to a low immune system, adrenal stress and you get sick. So, Hendryx never looks at Iodine, but Psychiatrists do with kids, and find it effects mood and suicide in kids in WV.
    So believe it or not, I am against MTR, for air quality and water quality, but every time you all climb trees, I do not find it inspiring me to support this. I do not feel breaking the law, potentially raising the stress level of mine workers, putting them in a position to act and not think, is a lot of senseless drama for the media and people who need that rush of adrenalin to inspire them to act. If your activists feel so strongly about WV and stopping MTR, you would not sacrifice young people to be your martyrs. You would climb that tree yourself and risk a jail record, injury and financial costs. Do not blame WV natives for this, because you never listen to people who have alternative ways. Listen to Kathy Mattea A voice of reason.

  2. Correctinator says:

    Uhhh…
    Technically, it’s a contour strip and not a MTR site. If you want to act like you know what you are talking about, it might pay to learn the difference.
    Also, the recent Hendryx says people in the area of surface mining have higher incidence of cancer, illness, etc., but only in southern Appalacia. It doesn’t state surface mining is the direct cause; there is just a coincidental correlation. Hendryx’s claims do not hold true for Illinois or PRB surface mines (Gilliam, 2010).
    So to report as you have to the mindless minions of the anti-coal ranks, either your unable or unwilling to understand your distortion of the truth.

  3. Morgan says:

    To Correctinator: the signs of the tree-sitters clearly said ‘stop stip mining’. Partly due to the public outcry about the illegality of MTR mining (tends of thousands of violations being just the cost of doing businesss…) mining companies have resorted to marginally less destructive forms of strip mining which still damage streams, habitat, drinking water and of course the majestic mountains that should have some intrinsic value beyond what we can extract from them.

    To Denise: what do you mean by this?

    “I do not find it inspiring me to support this. I do not feel breaking the law, potentially raising the stress level of mine workers, putting them in a position to act and not think, is a lot of senseless drama for the media and people who need that rush of adrenalin to inspire them to act. ”

    MTR inherently breaks the law – it cannot be done without violations. Surface mining, as well as underground mining is a deadly occupation that raises the stress of the workers who mostly know the dangers but do it because there is no other choice. A direc action forces miners to think, for once, instead of just blindly acting as the company wants. And the ‘senseless drama for the media’ is precicesely that – for the media so that there will be stories written about what is going on and what is at stake. The American people will not condemn the crime that is blowing up mountains unless there is drama — faces and plots that build suspense and get people outside Appalachia to care enough to change the politics and change the way they consume energy.

  4. heidi says:

    The idea of breaking a law to save a tree or a river or a forest is very scary to some. I understand that fear. And if its that fear that holds us back from saving what healthy life we have left on the planet than the fear must be faced inside of us. But we must remember that laws sometimes reflect that the power is in our hands. For example, noble prize winner Dr. Wangari Matthai ( biology) was trying to save her country from desertfication through getting women to plant trees on their own private property. Laws were made that women coyuld not congregate so as the green belt movement could not be successful. Now why is that? Because laws are made sometimes to prevent revolution. Think apartheid, think the term terrorism now being applied to environmentalists. Sadly when the laws work we loose more life.

Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Tree sits Block Mining Operations on Coal River Mountain « Earth First! Newswire
  2. Tree sits Block Mining Operations on Coal River Mountain | Earth First! Newswire
  3. Spreading the Peaceful Uprising « It’s Getting Hot In Here
  4. Coal River Tree-sitter Sentenced To 7 Days In Jail » Rainforest Action Network Blog

Leave a Comment Here's Your Chance to Be Heard!

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.