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Lend Your Voice: Tell EPA It has the Key to Protect Appalachia

Tell the EPA to protect water quality and community health.

Two months ago we worked together to generate thousands of comments to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demanding that they use sound science to create a water quality standard that will protect the health and water of Appalachians.

Today, Appalachians are joining with national allies to take this message straight to regional EPA offices in Philadelphia and Atlanta. You can join them by lending your voice.

Call your EPA office today. Let them know that Appalachia is locked to dirty water and that EPA holds the key to a healthy and brighter future for our region.

Before the blasting begins, and long after the blasting stops, mountaintop removal poisons water in Appalachian communities. We need EPA to act on its own science and issue a legally binding water quality standard on conductivity to protect streams and communities in Appalachia from mountaintop removal mining pollution.

Will you join these Appalachians gathered in Philadelphia and Atlanta today? Can you lend your voice?

URGENT: Tell Gov. Tomblin to Block the Expansion of Brushy Fork just got the word that MSHA has approved a 50 foot and 2 billion gallon expansion to the 750 foot tall and 6.6 billion gallon Brushy Fork coal slurry dam.  Unless the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) denies the expansion, the largest sludge impoundment in Appalachia will become taller than the Hoover Dam.  WVDEP and the Federal Office of Surface Mining have been studying the compaction of coal waste dams in WV for the past two years.

Take action now and call Gov. Tomblin at (304) 558-2000. Demand that he order a halt to expansion to Brushy Fork impoundment until they complete the compaction study. 

Regulators continue to rely on company-submitted data to prove that impoundments are properly constructed.  This is unacceptable given that the same engineers are responsible for the design of this dam as the the disastrous 2000 Martin Co., KY sludge spill and were overseen by the Massey engineering team responsible for the Upper Big Branch disaster. Citizens deserve to know if the existing impoundment is truly safe before this massive dam gets larger.

Please share this image on Facebook to help spread the word!

Stop Brushing off the Bad Stuff: On Mountaintop Removal and Community Health

West Virginia University professor and public health researcher Dr. Michael Hendryx’s latest article, “Personal and Family Health in Rural Areas of Kentucky With and Without Mountaintop Coal Mining,” appeared in the online Journal of Rural Health a couple of days ago. The study immediately gained the attention of Kentucky media, and supporters of the coal industry have been quick to write off Hendryx’s methods and conclusions — they just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

Hendryx has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles. He’s the director of the West Virginia Rural Health Research Center and after receiving a Ph.D. in psychology, he completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Methodology at the University of Chicago. Little of that seems to matter, however, because much of his research is concentrated on poor health in Appalachian coal-mining communities, especially those where mountaintop removal takes place.

Like other studies Hendryx has conducted, the eastern Kentucky-focused article relies on comparing data gathered in counties with mountaintop removal to data from counties without the mining practice. More than 900 residents of Rowan and Elliott counties (no mountaintop removal) and Floyd County (mountaintop removal) were asked similar questions about their family health history and incidents of cancer that the U.S. Center for Disease Control uses in gathering data.

After ruling out factors including tobacco use, income, education and obesity, the study found that residents of Floyd County suffer a 54 percent higher rate of death from cancer, and dramatically higher incidences of pulmonary and respiratory diseases over the past five years than residents of Elliott and Rowan counties.

These results should surprise no one, least of all the families in Floyd County that participated in the study. Yet somehow, supporters of the widespread use of mountaintop removal still refuse to consider that blowing up mountains might impact human health.

Tennessee Game Changer: Conservative Union Running Pro-Mountain Ads Statewide

Conservative Ad Buy Turning Scenic Vistas Bill into Bipartisan Bombshell

When it comes to Tennessee, most everybody has their reason for supporting our mountains. Whether it is a liberal urban Democrat like Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN), or a mainline Republican like Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), its not a complicated equation.

Now, it turns out, a radically right-wing group in Tennessee – the Tennessee Conservatives Union – has not only come out in support of the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act, but is planning to run statewide television ads in support of protecting Tennessee’s mountains. This is astounding, to say the least. The Conservatives Union is no small player in Tennessee politics, calling itself the oldest and largest conservative organization in the state. With more than 12,000 members, they are widely credited for defeating the state income tax, among other things. Now they are looking to protect our mountains from, allegedly, a Chinese company that has bought out mineral rights in Tennessee.

Appalachian Voices doesn’t necessarily agree with every sentiment in this advertisement. It doesn’t matter if somebody is from Beijing or Bristol, we don’t think they should be blowing up mountains. We certainly don’t agree with the Conservatives Union on many important issues related to energy and the environment, but the fact that the Tennessee Conservatives Union is stepping up to stop mountaintop removal shows that the breadth of support for protecting Tennessee’s mountains ranges all the way from left-to-right, odd-to-even, and low-to-high.

According to the TN Conservatives Union, this ad will begin airing tomorrow (3/19) on Fox News.

Now is the time for you to pick up the phone and call Committee Members to tell them YOUR reason for supporting the bipartisan Scenic Vistas Protection Act (SB 99/HB 43). The Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee will take up the bill first at 9:30 AM on Wednesday. The House Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources is scheduled to vote at 1:30 the same day.

These committee offices have told us that they are hearing from a LOT of people who are working to protect our mountains, so keep up those calls! Talking points below…

Senate Committee Members:
Chairman Steve Southerland (R-Morristown)/615-741-3851
Mae Beavers (R-Mt Juliet)/ 615-741-2421
Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) / 615-741-4499
Mike Bell (R-Riceville) / 615-741-1946
Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) / 615-741-3978
Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis) / 615-741-1767
Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) / 615-741-6682
Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) / 615-741-2368
Frank Niceley (R-Knoxville) / 615-741-2061

House Committee Members:
Chairman Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett) / 615-741- 7084
Curtis Halford (R-Dyer) / 615-741-7478
Andy Holt (R-Dresden) / 615-741-7847
Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) / 615-741-7448
Billy Spivey (R-Franklin) / 615-741-4170
John Tidwell (D-New Johnsonville) / 615-741-7098
Ron Travis (R-Dayton) / 615-741-1450
Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) / 615-741-1997 [This is a “Thank you!” as Representative Gilmore is a cosponsor of the Scenic Vistas bill.]

Please pass this along, so that legislators hear from as many Tennesseans as possible. Talking points and bill information below…

URGENT: Tennessee Votes on the Scenic Vistas Protection Act Tomorrow. Call Today!

Call today. Tell your committee members to support the Scenic Vistas Protection Act tomorrow.

Tennessee legislators are scheduled to take up a critical vote tomorrow on the Scenic Vistas Protection Act a bill with broad, bipartisan support that would help ensure the beauty and economic vitality of the Cumberland Plateau.

Call your legislators today and ask them to support the Scenic Vistas Protection Act.

Representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) will be carrying the bill (HB 43 / SB 99) in the House Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Senator Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) in the Senate Committee on Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.

Here are a list of critical legislators who need to hear from you before tomorrow’s vote:


Chairman Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett) / 615-741- 7084

Curtis Halford (R-Dyer) / 615-741-7478

Andy Holt (R-Dresden) / 615-741-7847

Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) / 615-741-7448

Billy Spivey (R-Franklin) / 615-741-4170

John Tidwell (D-New Johnsonville) / 615-741-7098

Ron Travis (R-Dayton) / 615-741-1450

Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) /  615-741-1997 [This is a “Thank you!” as Representative Gilmore is a co-sponsor of the Scenic Vistas bill.]


Chairman Steve Southerland (R-Morristown)/615-741-3851

Mae Beavers (R-Mt Juliet)/ 615-741-2421

Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) / 615-741-4499

Mike Bell (R-Riceville) / 615-741-1946

Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) / 615-741-3978

Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis) / 615-741-1767

Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) / 615-741-6682

Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) / 615-741-2368

Frank Niceley (R-Knoxville) / 615-741-2061

Let these legislators know that you are a Tennessean who cares about protecting our mountains. And please pass this along so that legislators hear from as many of us as possible.

What does this bill do?

The Scenic Vistas Protection Act says that you can’t blast apart virgin ridgelines above 2,000 feet when surface mining for coal.

What does this bill NOT do?

  • Scenic Vistas DOES NOT impact underground mining or other important industries in Tennessee.
  • Scenic Vistas DOES NOT Impact any current surface mining permits or their renewals, which are grandfathered in.

A few talking points

  • As Tennesseans, we love our mountains, and we don’t think we need to blast them apart for a small amount of coal.

  • We don’t have to hate coal and we don’t have to hate coal mining to want to protect our mountains. We just want Tennessee to be the first state to say “We’re going to mine coal AND protect our mountaintops at the same time.”

  • Since 1985, the Tennessee coal industry has laid off 85 percent of its workforce, while the percentage of our coal coming from surface mining versus underground mining has increased. Scenic Vistas will help protect coal-mining jobs in our state.

  • Mountaintop removal is bad business, and even the coal industry is realizing that this destructive form of mining is not worth the cost. Patriot Coal, one of the largest coal companies in the nation, recently announced that it is stopping mountaintop removal operations because not only is it damaging to the environment, but it’s bad for their employees and for the communities where they work.

After you make your calls, e-mail us at to let us know what the offices are saying!


Former Massey Official Pleads Guilty, Says He Conspired with CEO

Ken Ward Jr. of the Charleston Gazette wrote yesterday that David C. Hughart, a former Massey official, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the government by thwarting U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspections. Hughart has agreed to cooperate with authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster and yesterday in court stated he conspired with Don Blankenship, implicating the former CEO a decade of avoiding safety laws at several mines.

From the Gazette:

A fairly routine plea hearing here took a surprising twist when U.S. District Judge Irene Berger pressed Hughart to name his co-conspirators and Hughart responded, “the chief executive officer.”

Hughart did not use Blankenship’s name, but Blankenship was CEO of Massey from 2000 until 2010, during the period when the crimes Hughart admitted to committing occurred.

In a nearly three-year investigation that started with the deaths of 29 miners in the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster and has so far prompted four convictions, the accusation by Hughart is the first courtroom statement to specifically allege any wrongdoing by Blankenship.

William Taylor, a lawyer for Blankenship, said his client has done nothing wrong and downplayed the significance of what Hughart said.

“We were quite surprised at the reports of Mr. Hughart’s statements at the time of his guilty plea,” Taylor said. “Don Blankenship did not conspire with anybody to do anything illegal or improper. To the contrary, he did everything he could to make Massey’s mines safe.

“We’re not concerned particularly about the story concerning Mr. Hughart,” Taylor said. “It’s not surprising that people say untrue things when they are trying to reduce a possible prison sentence.”

When he’s sentenced on June 25, Hughart, 54, of Crab Orchard, faces up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $350,000. In a deal with prosecutors, Hughart pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the government by thwarting U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspections and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to violate MSHA safety standards. Hughart also agreed to cooperate with authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation of the mine disaster and broader questions about Massey safety practices.

“Guilty of both charges,” Hughart told Berger when the judge asked him to enter his formal plea.

Hughart did not work at Upper Big Branch, and his plea deal involved crimes he has admitted committing between 2000 and 2010 at Massey’s White Buck operations in Nicholas County, where two mid-level foremen and a Massey operating subsidiary were prosecuted five years ago for criminal safety violations.

Prosecutors identified Hughart as having served as president of Massey’s Green Valley “resource group,” which included White Buck. But Hughart also worked for Massey for more than 20 years, serving as an officer or a director at more than two-dozen subsidiaries, according to public records.

Hughart was fired in March 2010, and internal Massey records, filed in a circuit court case, allege he had failed a random drug test and received kickbacks from a Massey contractor.

In court documents in Hughart’s case, prosecutors alleged a broader conspiracy by unnamed “directors, officers, and agents” of Massey operating companies to put coal production ahead of worker safety and health at “other coal mines owned by Massey.” Those documents, filed in late November, were the first time in their Upper Big Branch probe that prosecutors have formally alleged Massey officials engaged in a scheme that went beyond the Raleigh County mine that exploded on April 5, 2010, and killed 29 workers.

TAKE ACTION: Protect Kentucky’s Fish from Selenium Toxicity

Tell the Kentucky Division of Water to protect fish from toxic selenium pollution.

Recently, the Kentucky Division of Water attempted to sneak weakened selenium standards into their three-year review of water quality standards after the original 30-day public comment period. Kentuckians spoke up. Now the DOW has agreed to seek additional comments from the public on the selenium standards until March 1st.

Please tell the DOW to protect Kentucky’s aquatic resources from toxic selenium pollution.

The DOW has proposed to raise the acute standard for selenium in streams from 20 to 258 micrograms per liter, or even higher in some cases. The DOW has also proposed to replace the current chronic standard of five micrograms per liter in streams, with a measurement of the concentration of selenium in fish tissue. The current standards are supported by the EPA and scientific research, and should not be made less stringent.

Selenium is toxic to aquatic life even at very low levels. It bioaccumulates, meaning that it increases in concentration as it moves up the food chain, affecting fish and even aquatic birds. In fish, selenium toxicity can result in deformities and reproductive failure. Important Kentucky fish species, such as bluegill, sunfish and catfish, are particularly sensitive to selenium. At higher levels, selenium is toxic to people. Humans can be exposed to selenium through the water they drink and the fish they eat. Long-term exposure can damage the liver, kidneys, nervous system, and circulatory system.

Tell the DOW NOT to weaken Kentucky’s selenium water quality standards.

Over 1,000 Celebrate I Love Mountains Day in Kentucky

For thousands in Kentucky and across Appalachia, Feb. 14th is more than just Valentine’s Day, it’s I Love Mountains Day. Our friends at Kentuckians for the Commonwealth shared photos, video and blog posts from the event, where mountain lovers celebrated their hope for Appalachia’s Bright Future. We wanted to share some of the highlights from an amazing event. Read more at

Voices of I Love Mountains Day

Catch up on all the news and get recaps from this year’s I Love Mountains Day.

KFTC members and friends celebrated their hope for Appalachia’s Bright Future at the annual I Love Mountains Day march and rally in Frankfort today.

“I believe in Harlan County’s Bright Future, in Kentucky’s Bright Future, in Appalachia’s Bright Future,” KFTC member Carl Shoupe of Benham told the crowd on the capitol steps. “But we must do more than want it. We have to dream it. We have to build it and protect it, together. We have to demand it and work for it every day. We have to organize for it and we have to vote for it.”

More than a thousand people met at the Kentucky River and marched up Capital Avenue to call for New Power – new energy, economic and political power – and an end to mountaintop removal and other destructive mining practices that threaten our mountains, water, air and health.

Twelve-year-old Ella Corder of Somerset, winner of the first I Love Mountains Day essay contest, also spoke at the rally. “We all have a fire in our hearts. It may have started as a small, weak flickering flame, but it grew, as does our love for our treasured mountains. We need to use that burning fire to stand up for what we believe in and let our voices be heard.”


Message to Members: I Love Mountains Day 2013 from Kentuckians For The Commonwealth on Vimeo.

Keynote speaker Silas House challenged those gathered to take action. “We have talked for years about the problems of mountaintop removal and this outlaw industry. For the past decade, KFTC has actively worked toward solutions with four main goals: enforcing existing laws, passing stronger laws where needed to protect health and environment, developing a diverse and sustainable local economy, and, lastly, developing clean energy solutions in the region. New Power.”

Elizabeth Sanders, who left the mountains with her family before she started high school and than returned as an adult, said, “Like many people I know, I reject the idea that people have to leave eastern Kentucky if they want opportunities and a good life. Some people will choose to leave; that’s their call. But many of us are choosing to stay, or choosing to come back. We love this place. We are committed to building a better future here.”


Farewell to Larry Gibson, an Appalachian Hero

Larry Gibson at his cabin on his beloved Kayford Mountain

This past Sunday, an Appalachian hero and a tireless warrior against mountaintop removal coal mining passed away. For decades, Larry Gibson stood up to threats and intimidation, spoke to thousands of people about the destruction of his homeland, and inspired a nationwide movement to take up his cause of creating a safe and prosperous future in Appalachia. In fact, if you are receiving this email, then directly or indirectly, you are one of the people Larry inspired.

Larry’s journey to becoming an Appalachian hero began in the late 1980s, when one of the largest mountaintop removal mining operations in Appalachia started up near his home on Kayford Mountain in Raleigh County, W.Va., adjacent to a cemetery where generations of his ancestors were buried. He could have made millions of dollars selling his land to the coal companies but refused every offer. Larry would often say to people who visited Kayford Mountain or attended his many speeches around the country:

“Let me ask you this: What do you hold so close to your own circle of life that you would not put a price on it? What would it be for you? For me, it is the mountains and the people of Appalachia.”

As the mountains around Larry’s home were systematically demolished, his land became an island in the sky, surrounded on all sides by tens of thousands of acres of a post-apocalyptic landscape left behind by a rapacious industry that cared only about its own bottom line. It was one of the few places where people could experience mountaintop removal up close and where reporters could take pictures and shoot videos for news stories. Thousands of people, including me, had their first life-changing glimpse of an active mountaintop removal mine while standing among the gravestones of Larry’s ancestors on Kayford Mountain.

Larry was wounded more deeply than most of us can ever understand by witnessing the slow destruction of the land on which generations of his family had played in the woods, hunted game, gathered herbs, raised their children and were buried when they died. And yet, remarkably, Larry never got discouraged — even after all the acts of intimidation and violence he experienced. Maybe the mountains, forests and streams near his home could not be saved, but he was committed to making sure that others’ homes would not suffer the same fate.

When we launched six years ago, we encouraged people to spread the word to their friends and family with an animated map that showed the growth of the iLoveMountains movement. In honor of his inspiration and leadership, Larry Gibson’s home on Kayford Mountain was the center of the map from which the national movement spread. Today, more than 100,000 people have taken action to end mountaintop removal on and the movement is still growing.

So you see, whether you knew him or not, Larry Gibson is part of why you have joined the struggle to end mountaintop removal. And if Larry’s dream of ending mountaintop removal and bringing a safe and prosperous future to the communities of Appalachia is to be fulfilled, it will be because you have taken up his torch and continued his fight.

In recent years, Larry and members of his family formed the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, an organization that supported his speaking tours and maintains the community park he constructed on Kayford Mountain. We hope you will visit the Keeper of the Mountains website, read the tributes to him , make a donation if you can, and find out how you can help this important organization continue Larry’s work.

And after the elections in November there may be new opportunities to end mountaintop removal, or we may face new threats to the progress you have helped create in recent years. Whatever the outcome of the election, the people of Appalachia will need your commitment and your energy more than ever.

Tragically, Larry did not live to see the end of mountaintop removal coal mining, but together we can honor Larry’s memory and see his dream of a safe and prosperous Appalachia fulfilled.

For Larry Gibson and the Appalachian mountains and communities that he loved,

Matt Wasson

Safety of Dozens of Citizens Threatened at “Public Hearing”

On October 13, 2009, The Army Corps of Engineering hosted one of six hearing on the proposed suspension of Nationwide Permits 21 permits on mountaintop removal in Charleston, WV. Tonight, hearings are also occurring in Pittsburgh, PA, Big Stone Gap, VA and Cambridge, OH, and citizens are concerned for their safety at these hearings as well.

At the Charleston, WV hearing, lack of respect for public safety as well as lack of proper planning created an extremely dangerous situation and prohibited many people from attending or speaking at the hearing. There was no removal of those people who were disrupting the event and there was no serious reprimand of those who were disrupting the event. The Army Corps did not act to prevent this disruption of free speech.

Before the hearings, the Army Corps and local police were contacted by residents concerned for their safety. Clearly these concerns were not taken seriously.

Citizens who were endangered are calling again upon Governor Joe Manchin and other prominent state officials to publicly reprimand those responsible for creating this dangerous environment and perform a full inquiry into propaganda from the coal industry of other entities that may have contributed to this violent situation. Previous pleas to the governor and industry and political leaders have gone ignored. Instead, inflammatory rhetoric has increased.

Those attending noted that many claims of the coal industry and supporters were extremely exaggerated or simply untrue. This appears to be the result of a national fear campaign which is impeding progress in the state of West Virginia and endangering the lives of citizens. The issues which impact those who live near mountaintop removal are serious and devastating, and those facing these issues should receive a safe atmosphere to address them.

It was noted that in West Virginia, the Federal Court decision under Judge Goodwin all but ended the use of NWP 21 for valley in southern WV where the Huntington Corps regulates such activities. Therefore, it is likely that none of those threatening on behalf of the coal industry had jobs that were in any way impacted by the outcome of the hearing.

Following are a few representative statements from citizens who attended the hearing, each are available for comment or follow up interviews.

From Danny Chiotos, Organizer, The Student Environmental Action Coalition:

I was inside the Army Corps of Engineers Public Hearing on the repeal of Nationwide Permit 21 from 5:30 to 9:30. I am somewhat hesitant to call it a Public hearing because Mountaintop Removal supporters actively prevented us from giving comments and actively prevented people who came at 6:30 or after from waiting in line to enter the building. From what I experienced inside the building and saw outside the building, the Mountaintop Removal industry’s actions were a direct and successful attack on our ability to participate in this Hearing.

I saw Mountaintop Removal supporters shout as loud as they could through every single anti-mountaintop removal speaker. For example, they shouted through Vivian Stockman’s comments and then when the Army Corps gave her 15 extra seconds to speak, the MTR Supporters shouted a countdown of “15-14-13…3-2-1”. They awarded her an additional 30 seconds after that where she tried to put together a statement, but there continued to be intentional disruption of her comments. When I got up to speak, I spoke of my love of my country and my love of our values of democracy. I had to shout this and the rest of my comments into the microphone so that I could hear myself speak over the crowd.

The Army Corps of Engineers does hard and good work, but the way this Hearing was handled allowed the Mountaintop Removal Supporters to prevent both sides from being heard. There were many many many many times during the event that the MTR supporters were asked to be quiet – but none of those requests were honored. There was no removal of those people who were disrupting the event and there was no serious reprimand of those who were disrupting the event. The Army Corps should have had a swifter and more serious response at the beginning of the event to prevent this kind of disruption of all of our free speech from happening.

While I was in a conversation, the MTR supporters repeatedly shoulder shoved me to get me to move.

Outside of the building, the situation was even more serious. There was a crowd of 500 or so Mountaintop Removal supporters who physically and verbally threatened those on our side who were trying to patiently wait in line. Many people who would have waited in line to enter and give their comments (as people left from inside) were forced to leave, infringing on their freedom to participate in this event. My girlfriend and her step-father were outside, about to enter the building when their lives and safety was threatened. At 7:49 PM I received a text message from her that said, “They [MTR Supporters] are screaming at us Said theyd string us from trees One had to be restrained for attacking us We werent responding They [the police] said it was easier to make us leave than to make them [MTR Supporters] stop We were next in line to get in.” The person who had to be restrained from attacking her took three police officers to hold him back. When I went to the police to alert them to the situation, they threatened to kick me out. I got a similar call from friends who were trying to wait to get in but were unsafe from the attitude of the mob-like crowd. This happened time and time again that evening.

When I left the building with a small crowd of friends under police escort, which was necessary because we were getting reports of threats and violence from the MTR supporters outside, there were repeated threats and obscenities hurled at me.

The response of the police was to punish our attempts to voice our opinions. The City of Charleston’s police did all they could to respond to the situation and I know that they were trying to maintain safety as much as possible and I respect them. The police also did a great job of escorting me and other anti-mountaintop removal speakers through the crowd outside to the safety of our cars, which was necessary. The decision on the number of officers present and the decision to allow the MTR supporters to assemble directly in front of the entrance to the Civic Center were poor ones, though. There needed to be more police on hand to keep order. The impression, which I’m not sure is true, of the police’s goal was to maintain safety by doing everything that they could to ensure that the MTR supporters’ crowd kept from rioting (from where I stood it seemed like they were really close to significant violence).

The placement of the crowd of MTR supporters was a serious mistake as well. This crowd should have been kept away from the main entrance to the Civic Center or there should have been another entrance opened up. The MTR supporters definitely have the right to protest, but their rally should have been kept at a respectful distance from the entrance to the building. The reality that the response to the threats of the MTR supporters’ crowd was to remove anti-MTR citizens and prevent them from participating in this event speaks to the fact that this was not a “public” or “safe” event.

This is a serious issue on the protections of our right to free speech and our right to safety. With the increasingly threatening and mob-like atmosphere that surrounds the MTR Supporters’ crowd, the Police who we rely on to maintain safety have to be ready in force to maintain safety.

From Chuck Nelson, Glen Daniel, West Virginia:

There were about ten of us, we were the last group leaving from inside. We were waiting to give our comments when word was brought back in about what was happening outside. As we talked with each of our group inside, things just kept getting more crazy. We decided to leave then as a group, and proceeded to make our departure.

Insults were hurled at us as we were leaving, with a bunch of thugs following. Once in the lobby, I went directly to a Charleston city officer, and requested an escort to our vehicles, with an angry group outside the doors. The officer told me, that we should have known what was going to happen when we came there. He did escort us to the front doors, and told Ben, as we were leaving, “You are on your own.”

We made our way outside, only to be met with more insults — that followed us practically all the way to our vehicles. We made calls on our phones, and tried to make sure that everyone was all right.

I wondered where the state troopers were, not one was ever visible. I wonder, how in the world can the Army Corps make a decision on an important permit, when they can’t even conduct a proper, and peaceful hearing?

From Dana Kuhnline, Charleston, WV

I had to leave early and didn’t see any point in speaking anyway. I had left my bag in my friend’s car, so he waited in the lobby while I dashed out to the car, got my bag, and went to return the keys. He wasn’t at the door when I got back and so I texted him; the police wouldn’t let me in to return them. While I stood there waiting for him to return, the mob folk thought I was trying to get into the hearing and were screaming and pulling at my bag. They got a rousing chant of “Go Home!” started which was ironic, because of course their antics were preventing me from doing so. The Police officer wouldn’t let me inside to wait for my friend even though I was being threatened, pushed and stepped on. When my friend came back and grabbed the keys, the police officer said, “Do me a favor, for your own personal safety, leave as soon as you can, don’t try to engage these people in conversation”

I was a little dumbfounded, but didn’t have the presence of mind to ask for a police escort. So I turned to leave, and someone was stomping my feet and pushing me really hard so that I flew forward into a few miners. I turned to see who it was and it was a lady holding a little baby! She had another woman as her back up and they were both screaming in my face, and trying to pick a fight about why I would attack a little baby. I looked at her and said, “You pushed me with your baby?” and walked away.

As I moved through the crowd, people deliberately blocked my path pushed me and pulled on my bag. I made it through the main crowd and maybe 3-4 people tried to get in a screaming match with me, but I did my best to ignore them.

From Charles Suggs, Rock Creek, WV

I knew that they weren’t letting anyone else into the hearing, so I stayed on the edge of the crowd, keeping distance between myself and most people.

Three people, who have been calling for the abolition of mountaintop removal, were backed up against the entrance doors by the mob crowd who was shouting many things at them, including death threats. The three started to make their way along the wall, moving left with the doors at their backs. Zoe Beavers and a few others joined them.

I was still around the edge of the crowd, but noticed that things were heating up by the wall to the side of the doors and started that way to see what exactly was happening. A well dressed, plain-clothes officer then came up and told me I had to leave for my safety and the safety of his officers.

Beavers was talking with a school teacher whose husband is a miner. The teacher was yelling and getting the mob more riled up. An officer came over and ordered Beavers to follow him well out of the crowd. He forbade her from re-entering the crowd and said that she’d be arrested and booked for disturbing the peace if she did. The most peaceful people in the crowd were threatened with arrest for disturbing the peace.

Four more people opposed to mountaintop removal arrived after we were escorted out by the police and were also subjected to insults and spitting. One person, who was attempting to leave, was surrounded by shoulder-to-shoulder mountaintop removal supporters who were shouting “You’re not getting out of here.” She couldn’t get out until she yelled for a cop to get her out of there.

Only opponents of mountaintop removal were asked to leave who, despite the shouting and aggression from the mob, remained quite peaceful. And they were asked to leave for disturbing the peace. Some democratic, public hearing that was.

From Vernon Haltom, Co-Director, Coal River Mountain Watch:

I went to the Charleston, WV, hearing hosted by the US Army Corps of Engineers, but was unable to get in and give comments because the place was full. This was after enduring a gauntlet of coal cult thugs hurling every insult imaginable at me and the people who came with me to see and listen. Although a few other people and I were in line and had filled out the registration forms to give comments, the Charleston police made us go out of the building where we were surrounded by more thugs pushing against us, threatening our lives, and again hurling insults. Our group included an eighty-year-old woman enduring 300-pound thugs screaming obscenities within three feet of her ears.

After 15 minutes or so of this shameful display, the Charleston police required us to leave. Because it was easier to control a group of 6 or 7 peaceful people than a mob of hundreds of violence prone thugs, and because the police did not want any of us or the police to get hurt, they escorted us off the premises.

Essentially, police inability to control the mob resulted in our inability to give verbal comments. While the building was full, we were prepared to enter once a few people left, but the police removed us from our place in line and removed us from the premises while the insult-hurlers were allowed to stay.

Our friends inside the hearing were able to give comments, but were drowned out by the mob. When they complained to the hearing moderators, they were told the clock was ticking. When they left, the police refused to escort the last small group to their vehicles, forcing them to run the gauntlet without protection. The police said, “You all knew what you were getting into; you’re on your own,” or a similar reply when asked for escort to cars.

The TV news channels didn’t show this side of the night, and no one from the pro-mountain side appeared on TV. Instead, the TV news interviewed coal supporters and implied there was no one from our side giving testimony.

From one of the hearings, news coverage showed one of the Corps of Engineers people saying, essentially, “This is democracy working.” This was not democracy working. It was a mob intimidating both the Charleston police and the US Army, as well as the peaceful citizens who came to give comments to protect their homes, live, and communities.

These are scary times in Appalachia.

Appalachian Voices  •  Coal River Mountain Watch  •   Heartwood  •  Keeper of the Mountains • Kentuckians for the Commonwealth 

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition  •   Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment • Sierra Club Environmental Justice

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards  •   SouthWings  •  Stay Project  •   West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

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