Jan. 26, 2010
Contact: Climate Ground Zero, 304-854-7372 or email@example.com
PETTUS, W.Va.–Benard Fiorillo, 21, was arrested on the Bee Tree Strip Mine site while attempting to offer aid to Eric Blevins and Amber Nitchman, two tree sitters taking action to halt blasting on Coal River Mountain. He was trying to send bags up to the platforms with more supplies, but was apprehended by Massey security before he could do so. Yesterday, David Aaron Smith, 23, descended from a third tree. He is being held on a $2500 cash-only bail and is charged with trespass asked to leave, conspiracy and obstruction.
Since the sitters began their occupation of the trees on Thursday morning, the security guards for Massey Energy – the coal company who owns the Bee Tree Mine – have been blasting air horns mounted just below the sitters’ platforms. At night, the horns are accompanied by flood lights.
Contrary to Governor Manchin’s assertion in yesterday’s press conference that, “We will not in any way, shape or form in this state of West Virginia tolerate any violence against anyone on any side. If you’re going to have the dialogue, have respect for each other,” at least nine attempts to notify the state police by Blevins and other representatives of Climate Ground Zero have been met with silence.When the police arrived to arrest Smith, Blevins asked if they would help stop the noise. Massey security denied using horns; the police accepted this without further investigation and drove away with Smith. About ten minutes later, the air horns were turned back on. The police were shown the appropriate West Virginia legal statute, §61-3E-10, acknowledged the felony endangerment, and declined to take any action.
“Massey’s abuse of the tree sitters fits with the disregard they have shown for human life through their neglect of EPA regulations and worker safety laws,” said support team member Josh Graupera. Massey Energy has over 4,500 recorded violations of the Clean Water Act and the permitted site on which the sitters have occupied trees is one of two located near to the Brushy Fork Impoundment. Blasting near the dam imperils its foundations, and a frontal breach would, by Massey’s own estimate, result in 988 deaths.
Massey has accused the sitters in a formal statement of endangering workers on this site. The horns are certainly louder than 90 decibels, the legal threshold for unacceptably damaging. The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training handbook says “Many miners are exposed to loud and sustained noise levels. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has determined that approximately 13.4% of miners will suffer material hearing impairment during their working lifetime unless preventive measures are taken to reduce overexposures.”
The sitters’ resolve remains strong. With Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice, they are taking action to prevent mountaintop removal and its negative effects on the communities and environments of Appalachia. The sitters plan to remain in their trees for as long as possible, or until blasting is halted on the mountain. Coal River Mountain is one of the last intact mountaintops in the Coal River Watershed.