Equal Treatment Under the Law ::wink wink::
Seventeen people were arrested May the 23rd in a series of protests against coal industry abuses. In one of three direct actions, two protestors paddled a raft into the middle of Massey’s Brushy Fork impoundment and draped a banner, which read “West Virginia Says No More Toxic Sludge,” across the coal black cesspool of sludge. Obviously the protestors were charged with trespassing, but you will never guess with what else they were cited. Read on.
Brushy Fork, like hundreds of other sludge dams in the coalfields, is the coal industry’s response to the Clean Air Act. No longer able to emit as much mercury, sulfure, or arsenic into the air, coal companies now use 200 chemicals and lots and lots of water to extract (most) heavy metals from the coal. The toxic concoction is then pumped behind huge impoundments (one is larger than the Hoover Dam). The once lush hollows are now holding grounds for billions and billions of gallons of sludge.
These earthen dams are inherently unstable (especially considering the blasting allowed near them) and residents living beneath them have reason to be worried. To make matters worse, the companies in charge of them often violate the already lax laws. Sometimes they are given a small fine, but most often they put lives in greater danger with impunity. Ed Wiley, who helped build the dam above Marsh Fork Elementary but is now its most vocal opponent, recounts how leaks were fixed by putting “band aids” over them.
The activists who rowed into the middle of the vast lake did so to sound the alarm about an impending disaster.
For their efforts they were charged with trespassing. And in this Orwellian dystopia we call America, they were charged with littering for draping a banner across the same lake in which King Coal defecates 100 different heavy metals, 200 different chemicals, and coal slurry.
Such absurdity reminds me of the anti-littering campaign in Logan County. Every few miles along the highways there are huge signs demanding we “Keep Logan County Clean” and warn that the fine for littering can be up to $25,000! These same roads run next to streams suffocated with acid mine drainage, valley fills, and mountaintop removal sites. Someone even had the audacity to put up these signs along Buffalo Creek Road, which takes the same path as the 20 foot tide of sludge that killed 125 people when a slurry impoundment busted on a dank February morning in 1972. Today, the predominant traffic on Buffalo Creek Road are coal trucks hauling loads from the strip-mines which now completely surround the hollow. One must wonder if it ever strikes mountaintop removal workers as ironic that they can be fined $25,000 for throwing a Wendy’s cup into the same stream, that just a few miles up the road, they are paid to dump a million tons of mine waste.
For thorough information regarding the all of the protests, including video, more pictures, and updates, visit www.climategroundzero.com.