Archive for November, 2011

Junior Walk on his day in court

Thursday, November 17th, 2011
posted by admin

As it turns out the criminal justice system of West Virginia didn’t feel like I deserved to get thrown in the slammer for standing up for myself and my neighbors. I could tell that the magistrate I had to go in front of wanted to lock me up and throw away the key though, legally he couldn’t do that for a simple trespassing charge though. I plead “no contest” to one count of trespassing A. What that means is that I now owe the state of West Virginia about two hundred and fifty bucks. I for one feel like they should take that money and improve access to safe, non-contaminated drinking water in this state. As we all should know by now though that isn’t going to happen, because the people who have the power in this state refuse to admit there are serious problems with the coal industry.

I am very happy about what the four of us did this summer, I feel like more actions like the ones we took are necessary if we’re ever going to change the way our society operates, stealing from the poor to make the rich richer. I’d recommend to anyone that they should take direct action in one way or another to oppose this oppressive system that has had the poor and oppressed under it’s iron fist for so long. If you can’t find a way to do that in your own community I’d suggest figuring out a way to plug in and help out with the RAMPS campaign.


Blair Mtn. Camp Branch Permit Renewal Hearing

Thursday, November 17th, 2011
posted by admin

Recorded video from the Camp Branch Permit hearing at Logan High School Theater, by Coalstories

The Camp Branch permit #S501390 is an active 1123.14 acre permit for surface contour mining and mountaintop removal that includes 6 variances (3 Approximate original contour, a Contemporaneous reclamation, Topsoil Substitutes, and Within 100 feet of a stream)

Applicant: Aracoma Coal Company, Inc. (a subsidiary of Alpha Natural resources)

Camp Branch is a major surface mine permit that will heavily impact the Blair Mountain battlefield as well as devastate the integrity of a nearby watershed, the Dingess Run. The Camp Branch Permit is now up for its five-year review for renewal. It is our chance to send comments to the Department of Environmental Protection telling them they need to seriously study the impacts and costs of renewing the permit.

This permit intrudes into the Beech Creek area of the battlefield, a very significant portion of the battlefield that has evidence of intense fighting and complex defensive positions. In addition, if the Camp Branch surface mine is allowed to continue, the battlefield will be cut in two running north-south, which would be highly detrimental to our attempts to make the battlefield into a National Park.

In regards to environmental concerns, this particular permit has already had numerous safety and environmental violations. The Dingess Run watershed, where the Camp Branch mine is situated, has been permitted or is already being mined in 25 percent of the watershed. Dingess Run has a WV Stream Condition Index of 33.6, indicating an already severely impaired stream.   (more…)

Dave Cooper takes Treesitter on Tour

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
posted by fern

During the first half of the month of November, Dave Cooper took me on a New England tour with his Mountaintop Removal Roadshow. We visited Columbia University, Skidmore College, Salem State College, Eastern University, Emerson College, College of the Atlantic, and Green Mountain College, recruiting new activists and raising critical funds.

Dave has been doing the roadshow for eight years now, educating college students across the U.S. about mountaintop removal and teaching other activists how to speak about their struggles. When he heard that RAMPS members were facing their second winter without having housing secured, he volunteered to take me on the road to talk about the RAMPS treesit and the direct action campaign. Dave Cooper is generously donating all proceeds from the tour to the RAMPS housing fund.

Some of the students we spoke to didn’t really know about mountaintop removal, and bringing our story to them was one of the most gratifying aspects of our trip. At Emerson, for example, students in the environmental organization said that they may dedicate their next semester to working on MTR. Another rewarding aspect was that got to have some valuable discussions, whether in the hall for the East Lynn Labor Council or while wandering Green Mountain’s rural campus; many people on our peregrination had experiences, advice, and wisdom to share.

We’re now about $1,700 closer to our goal of having a campaign house. Some day maybe we’ll have internet and phone access to get our work done, heat to keep our hands thawed, a kitchen to keep our bodies fed, and a common space so that everyone who wants to work on the campaign has a place to come, and everyone who is already working on the campaign has a place to be together and collaborate effectively.


Skidmore’s Integrity Board Hearing

Sunday, November 6th, 2011
posted by becks

Friday morning at 9:30, I walked into Skidmore’s Residential Life conference room to begin the hearing that would decide whether or not the tree sit violated Skidmore’s Honor Code and Student Codes of Conduct.  Several days prior I had received a packet of information, including a piece of paper asking me to mark if I believed I was guilty or not guilty of committing the violation. The hearing began with introductions and general formalities, and then delved into questioning why I checked not guilty as well as a more thorough explanation of the sit, what happened, why, etc.  It was here that I was able to explain that I had tried other methods at ending mountaintop removal, including lobbying for a ban on underground slurry injections and helping to organize the March on Blair Mountain.  I explained that the coal industry’s control in Appalachia goes beyond the land and into the courts and governmental agencies.  At that point, someone read a letter from Alpha, helping to show even more that their “nice” facade that they attempting to uphold during the sit was merely that, a facade.  They claimed that I should absolutely be disciplined by Skidmore because their actions are lawful (well, let’s address how you don’t follow regulations or permits and also that the laws are created by politicians and judges who are bought out by you…) and as a result what I did was unlawful.  With well-paid lawyers and insidious manipulation of the law, the villains are able to construct statements that make us look like the bad people, when in reality we know who is poisoning communities, destroying diverse forests and mountains, and erasing a rich culture.

After about an hour and a half of questioning and an invigorating statement from my faculty “character witness,” there was a closed deliberation.  I came back into the room and the advising committee of three faculty advisers and the Dean of Residential Life (Don Hastings) explained that they could only see me sort of violating one of the codes (the code that says students can’t break any federal, state, or local laws) but that claiming I violated all the codes I was accused of violating would be taking it entirely out of context. So based on that, they determined that I did NOT in fact violate any of the codes!

I want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who was able to write letters, emails, and phone calls and all others who were there in support. These words were certainly helpful in showing that there was an incredible amount of support not just for me, but for this type of action and response to the illegality of mountaintop removal mining and other forms of environmental injustice, social injustice, and corporate domination. I hope that this case sets not only a precedent for other cases at Skidmore, but that it propels other students to act in similar ways.