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Successful Week of Anti-Mountaintop Removal in Lexington

by Maude Richards and Micah Lee Monday, Jun. 20, 2005 at 5:37 PM
mountainjusticesummer@gmail.com

During the week of June 13 in Lexington, KY, a meal of toxic coal sludge scraped out of a stream in eastern Kentucky was delivered to the president of a coal advocacy group, hundreds of concerned citizens attended an anti-mountain top removal (MTR) rally and march that ended at Kentucky Utility's headquarters, a film festival educated Lexingtonians about the dangers of strip mining and its repercussions, and activists passed out literature on the streets, all part of Mountain Justice Summer's week in Lexington, Kentucky.

Mountain Justice Summer (MJS), an anti-MTR campaign occurring in a number of Appalachian states, is working to raise public awareness about the adverse environmental, economic, and health effects of this form of strip mining, and to pressure the corporations involved into ceasing their destruction of one of the world's most biologically diverse ecosystems.  Volunteers have come from as far away as Arizona and Seattle to join local organizers and residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and southwest Virginia.

A large downtown rally and march, preceded by four banner drops on major Lexington roads, ended MJS's Lexington week on a high note as over 175 people listened to residents of the coal fields speak out against MTR, marched peacefully past a counter-rally at Kentucky Coal Association (KCA) headquarters, and presented a list of demands to Kentucky Utilities, an electricity company that provides much of its energy from MTR-mined coal.  Organizers also put on an energetic skit with such characters as King Coal and The Sludge Monster outside the Kentucky Utility headquarters.

During the rally, MJS activists presented Bill Caylor, President of KCA, with a silver platter of toxic sludge collected at the October 2000 slurry spill in Martin County, Kentucky.  Caylor dipped his finger in the goo and stuck it in his mouth, to the bewilderment of onlookers.  In April of 2004, at a Kentucky University panel discussion, Caylor had accepted a challenge to eat sludge after claiming that it was as harmless as dirt.  Sludge, the carcinogenic, heavy-metal-filled by-product of the coal cleaning process, is often stored by the billions of gallons behind dams at MTR sites that are directly above houses and even elementary schools.  The Martin County spill has been called "the worst environmental disaster in the southeastern United States" by the Environmental Protection Agency, and Massey Energy, the coal company responsible, was fined ,500.

After the sludge delivery, MJS activists engaged in healthy dialogue with Caylor about the economic and environmental concerns of MTR and the role that KCA plays in energy consumption.  "We asked him to write a policy on conservation for KCA," said Benji Burrell.  Caylor is reported as saying, "In our next board meeting in October, I'll present [these ideas] to the board and we'll talk about writing a conservation policy."

Earlier in the week, MJS organized a screening at the Kentucky Theater of films relating to strip mining in Appalachia, including Mucked, To Save the Land and People, Kilowatt Ours, Sludge, and The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream. Roughly 200 people attended the educational event, and stayed for the ensuing question and answer session with Lexington organizer Dave Cooper.

Throughout the week, the MJS activists engaged people on the street in conversation about MTR, gathered signatures for local non-profit Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), tested streams affected by mining sites, and interviewed coal truck drivers to compile information on dangerously overloaded trucks.  Said MJS activist Kenlan Chiosso, "Seeing the local children hold anti-MTR signs at the rally was one of the most rewarding parts of the week."

Mountain Justice Summer (MJS) seeks to add to the growing anti-MTR citizens movement. Specifically MJS demands an abolition of MTR, steep slope strip mining and all other forms of surface mining for coal. We want to protect the cultural and natural heritage of the Appalachia coal fields. We want to contribute with grassroots organizing, public education, nonviolent civil disobedience and other forms of citizen action.
Historically coal companies have engaged in violence and property destruction when faced with citizen opposition to their activities. MJS is committed to nonviolence and will not be engaged in property destruction.

To let them know how you feel, contact:
Massey Energy
(destroyer of mountains, waterways and communities in WV and KY; also viciously anti-union)
4 North 4th Street, Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: 888.424.2417, 804.788.1824
Some of Massey's top managers:
katherine.kenny@masseyenergyco.com,john.parker@masseyenergyco.com,
michael.allen@masseyenergyco.com,steve.sears@masseyenergyco.com,
gary.smith@masseyenergyco.com,gary.temple@masseyenergyco.com,
tom.kielty@masseyenergyco.com,thomas.dougherty@masseyenergyco.com

Contact us at mountainjusticesummer@gmail .com and visit www.mountainjusticesummer.org for more information










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