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Youth Occupy Trees, Blasting Halted on Coal River Mountain

It's Getting Hot In Here (blog) - This morning, five individuals took direct action against Mountaintop Removal (MTR) by halting work at an MTR site. Sitting in barren oak trees and a poplar are Eric Blevins, 28, Amber Nitchman, 19, and David Aaron Smith, 23. On standby at the trees’ base are the direct supporters Josh Graupera, 19, and Isabelle Rozendaal, 22. The trees’ location on Coal River Mountain directly impedes on Massey Energy’s attempt to build an access road to an impoundment where the toxic leftovers from coal processing (or, “slurry”) are being held back from the communities below. Their banners state: “EPA: Halt the Blasting”, “Windmills Not Toxic Spills”, and “Save Coal River Mountain.” Blevins expressed disbelief at this careless action, pointing out that “Massey Energy is a criminal corporation with over 4,500 documented violations of the Clean Water Act, yet the government has given them permission to blast next to a dam full of toxic coal waste that will kill 998 people if it fails.

Over the past two years I’ve been following the struggle against Mountain Top Removal – through blog and news articles, through the release of documentaries like Coal Country, and through updates from friends of mine involved in fighting the destruction wrought by mountaintop removal in Appalachia. As my personal connection to mountaintop removal and the movement fighting it has increased, top-notch media coverage has been increasing as well. I’ve been spending time in Central Appalachia for the past couple of weeks, and in that time Dr. Margaret Palmer’s “Mountaintop Mining Consequences” was published in Science Magazine’s January issue and Stephen Colbert brought her on his show to talk about the detrimental effects MTR has on environments and communities. All of this attention comes at the brink of this evening’s debate between Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, and Bobby Kennedy Jr, chief litigator for the Waterkeeper’s Alliance. Read more.

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