Massey Energy released a statement yesterday in response to the ongoing tree sit on Coal River Mountain. It’s partially posted here, but we’ve been unable to find the rest of it because it was not given directly to Climate Ground Zero. This is Climate Ground Zero’s response:
Massey Energy, in their recent statement, makes a number of allegations against Climate Ground Zero and our ongoing tree sit on Coal River Mountain’s Bee Tree Mine Site. We would like to address these allegations formally, in order to set the record straight and clarify some of Massey’s more misleading comments.
Massey has repeatedly and vociferously pointed out that certain individuals taking part in actions on Massey property are not from the state of West Virginia. Though the sitters are not West Virginian, neither is Massey. Massey Energy is an out-of-state mining and landowning company – falling in tradition to the absentee landholders that have plagued West Virginia for centuries. Landholding companies own 90 percent of Coal River Mountain and out-of-state landholding companies own 60 percent. In fact, out-of-state, usually absentee landholders like Rowland Landholding (Massey’s sometime landlord) hold the vast majority of southern West Virginia.
Coal River Mountain is by no means untouched; underground mining, contour mining and the huge toxic threat that is the Brushy Fork Impoundment have already disturbed it. However, taking down Coal River Mountain’s mountaintop would still be extremely detrimental to the watershed, because it would remove a large chunk of the land that currently absorbs rainfall and sequesters carbon. This would cause more flooding along the lines of what was seen along the Tug Fork last May, kill the Coal River with sediment and contribute to climate change.
According to the WV Office of Miners’ Health, Safety, and Training 2008 Annual Report and Directory of Mines, 25 % of the coal mined in West Virginia was mined by mountaintop removal, yet the industry routinely claims that only a tiny fraction of permits are “true mountaintop mining” permits. “For example, in the Mountaintop Mining Fact Book, the National Mining Association wrote “About 70 percent of U.S. coal production is mined using surface mining methods, including MTM.” Massey claims surface mining as mountaintop removal when it suits them, and then reverts to a highly specific definition in order to attempt to discredit those who oppose MTM.
Massey’s planned 6,000 acre mine on Coal River Mountain would destroy the entire mountain and create 17 valley fills. It falls clearly into the EPA’s definition of mountaintop mining from its 2003 Environmental Impact Statement: “’Mountaintop mining’ refers to coal mining by surface methods (e.g., contour mining, area mining, and mountaintop removal mining) in the steep terrain of the central Appalachian coalfields.” The tree sit is stopping a box cut, and whether it is on the top of the ridge, or just underneath, to claim that it is not a mountaintop removal operation is a deceptive splitting of hairs.
At the Twilight, Edwight and Kayford mine sites they destroyed multiple mountains, including Bailey Mountain, Cherry Pond Mountain and Kayford Mountain. The more mountains that are leveled by the mining companies in this valley, the more the valley and the communities in it are made into a drainage ditch; if it continues this way, they will have to rename the Mountain State.
According to Massey’s “Monitoring and Emergency Warning Plan and Procedures for the Brushy Fork Impoundment,” the Brushy Fork Impoundment is permitted to hold up to 8.2 billion gallons of sludge. That in itself is dangerous. Massey’s own filings with the WVDEP state that the children in the Head Start facility in Pettus, W.Va., would have no time to get out before they are hit by a 72 ft wall of toxic coal sludge. Five hours later, 25 miles away, the sludge will be 40 feet deep.
Massey accuses us of misrepresenting the volume of sludge in Brushy Fork, but their lower estimates on the volume of toxic sludge could be due to their recent drainage of the dam and the movement of the sludge to another location. Moving the sludge does little to address the real dangers of the matter of toxic coal waste storage.
The Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill was just over one billion gallons. The resulting flood covered 300 acres and contaminated tributaries of the Tennessee River with toxic coal ash waste. The full extent of the disaster’s ecological and health impacts are still unknown more than a year later. This is just one of many coal waste storage failures or spills in the past two decades. What’s more, despite their rejection of the figure, Massey offered no exact figure to counter 8.2 billion gallons because they’re just playing a semantics game.
As we have said before, when Massey leaves Coal River Mountain it will be so scarred and de-elevated that, in the end, the effects will be the same whether you checked the box on that permit or not. It’s mountaintop removal.
Massey stated that MTM/VF sites will be useable for wind farms. On the contrary, Gamesa, a major wind developer, said they won’t put a wind farm on Coal River Mountain after mining. After a mountain is strip-mined, the ground is too unstable to support wind turbines without making their foundations many more feet deep, which is prohibitively expensive.
The sitters acknowledge they are putting themselves at risk and believe it’s worth that risk to stop the greater crime of strip mining. The statement that the sitters are a threat to the safety of the miners and police is unsound. The protestors seek to make this situation as safe as possible for all individuals, being careful to avoid dropping things from their platforms or engaging in any other unsafe behavior. Alternatively, Massey actively seeks to endanger the sitters through their wanton use of noisemakers and lights; depriving the sitters of sleep and creating a more dangerous situation. The more significant danger at hand is Massey’s gambling with the lives of over 1,000 people living on, around and downstream of Coal River Mountain and the Brushy Fork Impoundment as well as the safety of their own workers.
It’s high time Massey stopped shifting the focus away from their destructive behavior and time for them to take responsibility for the danger they are creating in these communities. If Massey were truly held to the law just like the rest of us, they would have been locked up long ago.
We take accuracy and facts very seriously and believe the truth is on our side. It is never our intention to deceive anyone or to be untruthful. It’s time the EPA stopped beating around the facts and ban strip mining for good. No more SMCRA compromise, no more mountaintop removal.
Learn About Mountain Top Removal on Coal River Mountain
Take Massey’s advice and look at Google Earth. You’ll see strip mines all around Coal River Mountain. However, since Massey has been so quick and efficient at destroying mountains, Google Earth has not been able to keep up and doesn’t show all the destruction. First, turn on the mountaintop removal layer under “Global Awareness.” Second, download additional layers of mining permit boundaries here. Just take a spin around and see the reality of this horrible mining practice.