Arrests in West Virginia coal mining protest

Five people were arrested March 5 as they blocked an access road to protest blasting near a dam on the Edwight “mountaintop removal” coal mining site operated by Massey Energy in West Virginia. It was the latest in a wave of protest actions against mining operations that blast off the tops of Appalachian mountains and dump the rock waste into valley streams below.

The protesters said it is urgent to protect children at Marsh Fork Elementary from the pending danger of a massive dam failure at the Schumate sludge impoundment on the hillside above the school in the town of Sundial. All five were arrested and charged with trespassing as they displayed a banner reading “Stop Blasting, Save The Kids.” The Schumate Dam holds back 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal waste in a sludge pond. If the dam were to fail, students and teachers at Marsh Fork would have less than a minute to get upriver before they would be buried by the sludge, the protesters said.

The arrests took place less than a week after Raleigh County Circuit Judge John Hutchison granted Massey Energy’s motion for a temporary restraining order against Mike Roselle and other members of Climate Ground Zero, who had been arrested Feb. 25 for trespassing on Performance Coal’s Edwight mountaintop removal site in southern West Virginia. “They have no right to destroy this mountain and put more unsafe material behind this unstable dam,” said Roselle. “If the blasting continues, and the Shumate Dam was to fail, thousands of West Virginians would die.” (Environmental News Service, March 5)

In a national mobilization March 2, some 2,500 protesters marched through chilly winds and snow to the coal-fired Capitol Power Plant in Washington DC to bring the attention of lawmakers to the dangers of climate change. The blockade lasted nearly four hours, forming what organizers called the largest display of civil disobedience on the climate crisis in US history. Police were out in force, but no one was arrested.

The 99-year-old Capitol Power Plant no longer generates electricity for the legislative buildings but provides steam for heating and chilled water for cooling buildings within the Capitol Hill complex. (ENS, March 2)

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