Climate Ground Zero

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Climate Ground Zero is an anti-coal group based in West Virginia that often takes a direction action approach to stopping the practice of mountaintop removal. According to the group's website, "Climate Ground Zero is not another environmental organization. It is an ongoing campaign of non-violent civil disobedience in southern West Virginia to end mountaintop removal coal mining and its effects on our future."[1]

Founded by veteran environmental activist Mike Roselle, the group says it will not stop its actions, which have resulted in several arrests since its inception inn 2009, until mountaintop removal is banned.[2]

Related Actions

February 16, 2009: Two arrested for halting blasting at mountaintop removal site, Raleigh County, WV

On Monday, February 16 2009, two protesters associated with Climate Ground Zero were arrested for interfering with mountaintop removal blasting on the Massey Energy-owned Edwhite site near the Shumate sludge dam in Raleigh County, WV. The Shumate sludge dam holds back 2.8 billion gallons of toxic sludge, the waste by-product of chemically cleaning coal, and sits directly above the Marsh Fork elementary school. aerial map [3]

April 16, 2009: Activists arrested at Massey Energy mine

Five people were arrested when activists from Climate Ground Zero unfurled a 40-foot-tall banner that read, "EPA stop MTR" at Massey Energy's Edwight mountaintop removal mine. Massey recently starting blasting at the mine directly above the town of Naoma. Activists are concerned because the blasting is near a slurry dam, which poses a risk to the local Marsh Fork Elementary School.[4]

May 23, 2009: Police remove 11 activists from mountaintop removal protests in West Virginia

State police removed eleven activists from two civil disobedience actions in West Virginia. In one action, six people locked themselves to mining equipment at a Patriot Coal mine on Kayford Mountain. Another group raised a 20-by-60-foot banner at Massey Energy's Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment near Pettus. The protesters are part of a coalition that includes Mountain Justice, Climate Ground Zero, and concerned citizens.[5] Two of the eleven activists arrested were released from custody by May 25. Mike Roselle, the director of Climate Ground Zero, said the group was raising money to pay bail for the others.[6]

June 18, 2009: Activists scale 20-story dragline at MTR site in Twilight, WV

Ken Hechler discusses June 23 Massey Energy protest in WV

Four protesters visited the Massey Energy Twilight mountaintop removal site in Boone County, WV, and climbed a 20-story strip mining machine called a dragline. The activists unfurled a 15 foot by 150 foot banner that read, "Just Stop Mountaintop Removal." The action launched a week of protests at West Virginia MTR sites, leading up to a special action on June 23 in the Coal River Valley area. The June 23rd action will include local coalfield residents, NASA climate scientist James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, former US Representative Ken Hechler, and many others.[7]

August 25-31, 2009: Activists occupy trees to stop blasting in Coal River Valley, WV

Protesters from Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice occupied treetops at the edge of Massey Energy’s Edwight mountaintop removal site in Raleigh County, West Virginia. The activists unrolled banners reading "Stop Mountain Top Removal" and "DEP – Don’t Expect Protection." They were less than 30 feet from the mine and less than 300 feet from the blasting activity, which was forced to stop because of their close proximity.[8] The protest lasted six days, when the last activist finally descended and was arrested. A spokesman for Climate Ground Zero said sleep deprivation had been endangering the treesitters.[9]

October 22, 2009: Lockdown on WV MTR mine

Four Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice activists chained themselves to each other and blocked a road on a mountaintop removal mine in Kanawha County, WV.[10] The protesters were joined by four people who provided them with support; all eight were arrested.[10] Bail was set at $2,000 each (totaling $16,000) with no 10% bond option and was ordered to be paid in cash only.[10]

January 21, 2010: Tree-sitters shut down infamous mountaintop removal operation in West Virginia

Three non-violent climate change activists associated with Climate Ground Zero, perched themselves on 60-foot high platforms to protest the Bee Tree strip mine on Coal River Mountain. Reports indicate that the protesters halted the day's operations. The activists were David Aaron Smith, Amber Nitchman and Eric Blevins. According to Climate Ground Zero reports, the three scaled trees by the access road to Massey Energy's infamous mountaintop removal operation near the company's Brushy Fork impoundment.[11]

February 18, 2010: No-coal activists stage sit-in at Marfork Coal Company in West Virginia

Mike Roselle and two other environmental activists of Climate Ground Zero delivered a citizen's arrest warrant to the president of Marfork Complex on February 18, 2010, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, for allegedly violating West Virginia State Code §61-3E-10 for "wanton endangerment involving destructive devices, explosive materials or incendiary devices." The three were arrested after chaining themselves to chairs in the company's lobby. A cash bail was set for $5,000 to two of the activists, Joseph Hamsher and Thomas Smyth, causing the two to go on a hunger strike in protest of what they believed to be too high of a bail fee. As of February 22, 2010 the three remained in jail. A receptionist for the company was said to have had an anxiety attack following the event.[12][13]

Anti-coal activists appeal to West Virginia Supreme Court

On March 2, 2010 environmentalists seeking to end the practice of mountaintop removal took their efforts to the state's Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn what they called "overly broad and unconstitutional" restraining orders that were designed to keep protesters away from Massey Energy operations. Attorneys Thomas Rist and Roger Forman filed an appeal and asked the court to "overturn contempt convictions resulting from the violation of those restraining orders." Massey Energy has 30 days to respond to the matter, at which point the West Virginia Supreme Court will decide on whether or not to hear the matter.

Protests against mountaintop removal have escalated as a result of non-violent direct actions taken by Climate Ground Zero, which have resulted in over 100 arrests since February 2009. Lawyers for the activists believe that the law violates freedom of speech. Similar to the state law, federal U.S. District Judge Irene Berger barred protesters from trespassing on Massey Energy property.[14]

March 9, 2010: Climate Ground Zero activists face magistrate

On March 9, 2010 two of the activists, Nick Martin and Josh Graupera, appeared before a Magistrate in Raleigh County for charges stemming from the November 21, 2009 drill rig lockdown and a January treesit on Coal River Mountain protesting Massey Energy.

As reported by a Climate Ground Zero press release,

Nick Martin locked himself to the actual drill itself, refusing to unlock, and was charged with trespassing , conspiracy, obstruction and littering. He was also accused of violating his bail agreement by failing to appear for an earlier court date; however, he never received notice of his court date due to postal service mistakes. Magistrate Massie refused to return the $2000 bail unless Martin plead guilty to trespassing and obstruction, which he did. Martin was sentenced to seven days in jail and $55 in fines for the two charges, while the conspiracy and littering charges were dropped. He began serving his sentence immediately. Martin had faced up to two and a half years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.
Josh Graupera provided initial direct support to the treesitters on Coal River Mountain and was charged with trespassing and conspiracy. He plead guilty to both charges today and received a sentence of $100 in fines and no jail time.[15]

May 17, 2010: Climate Ground Zero activists blockade Massey Energy headquarters

On the morning of May 17, 2010 two activists associated with Climate Ground Zero erected a tripod tent on the driveway of Massey Energy's regional headquarters in Boone county, West Virginia. The two activists, EmmaKate Martin and Benjamin Bryant, locked themselves to the base of one of the poles. Both were arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses of trespassing, conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, obstructing an officer and littering. Their bails were set for $100,000 each by West Virgina Magistrate Snodgrass.

The banner they hung from the tripod read “Massey, Profits Before People & Mountains, Fight Back!” The bail was the largest ever set against any activists conducting non-violent actions against mountaintop removal in West Virginia.[16]

July 14, 2010: Lockdown on Coal River Mountain

Two protesters with Mountain Justice and Climate Ground Zero locked themselves to mining equipment on the Massey Energy's Bee Tree mine, close to the Brushy Fork sludge impoundment.[17] They were joined by two people filling supportive roles.[17] All four were arrested and held on $12,000 bail altogether.[18]

2008 Poll shows Amerians oppose mountaintop removal

Stop Mountaintop Removal

The results of nationwide poll on mountaintop removal conducted in October 2008 showed that Americans oppose mountaintop removal coal mining by a wide margin. Researchers questioned 1,000 likely voters nationwide. Half the participants were asked if they supported or opposed mountaintop removal, without any additional information on the subject. 39 percent opposed mountaintop removal, versus 15 percent who supported it. 46 percent were undecided. The other half of participants were given a short definition of mountaintop removal; of these voters, 61 percent opposed mountaintop removal, versus 16 percent who supported it. 23 percent were undecided. Other findings included:[19]

  • Opposition to mountaintop removal was highest in the Northeast, where 79 percent of people polled were against it. In the South, which included the biggest eastern coal states of Kentucky and West Virginia, opposition was 59 percent.
  • By a margin of more than 2 to 1, voters polled disagreed that environmental protections are bad for jobs and business. 47 percent believed environmental protections are good for the economy, versus 20 percent who believed such protections are bad for the economy.
  • Two-thirds of Americans are against the repeal of the stream buffer zone rule, which bans mining activities within 100 feet of streams.

Resources

References

  1. [1] Climate Ground Zero, accessed January 26, 2010.
  2. Jeffrey St. Clair & Joshua Frank, "Facing Down the Machine, Mike Roselle Draws a Line" CounterPunch, October 1-November 3, 2009.
  3. "Blasting at Clays Branch" Climate Ground Zero press release, February 16, 2009.
  4. "Activists hang “EPA stop MTR” banner on Massey mine, arrested," Climate Ground Zero, April 16, 2009.
  5. "Removal Coal Mining; More Protestors Expected This Afternoon," Press Release, May 23, 2009.
  6. "Group raising money for bail for coal protesters," Associated Press, May 26, 2009.
  7. Jeff Biggers, "Daring Dragline Protest Launches 7 Days That Will Shake Mountaintop Removal Operations," Common Dreams, June 18, 2009.
  8. "Treesit stopping blasts above Pettry Bottom, Coal River Valley," Climate Ground Zero, August 25, 2009.
  9. "Tree-sitting protest of mountaintop removal ends in W.Va. after 6 days; activists arrested," Taragana blog, August 31, 2009.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 [ http://climategroundzero.net/2009/10/kanawha-bail/ "8 arrested on Kanawha Co. strip job, $16,000 cash-only bail",] October 22, 2009.
  11. Jeff Biggers, "Tree-Sitters Shut Down Infamous Mountaintop Removal Operation; TVA Cops Strike Again," Commondreams.org, January, 21 2010.
  12. Jeff Biggers, "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Mike Roselle" HuffingtonPost.com, February 19, 2010.
  13. Kennie Bass, "Massey Employee Returns To Work After Treatment" WCHS, February 22, 2010.
  14. "Mining protesters appeal to state Supreme Court" Viki Smith, Charleston Daily Mail, March 2, 2010
  15. "Two Pro-Mountain Activists Go to Court; One Goes to Jail" Climate Ground Zero, March 10, 2010.
  16. "Magistrate Snodgrass of Boone County sets two $100,000 bails for non-violent protesters" Climate Ground Zero, accessed May 17, 2010.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Activists stop strip mining machine on Coal River Mountain", Climate Ground Zero website, July 14, 2010.
  18. "All highwall miner protesters released", Climate Ground Zero website, July 24, 2010.
  19. "Americans oppose mountaintop removal, according to poll," The Charleston Gazette, October 23, 2008.

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