Early morning on Monday, July 10th, seventy-five activists with Earth First! and Rising Tide North America took over the only bridge leading into the American Electric Power (AEP) Clinch River coal fired power plant near Carbo, Virginia. In a daring act of protest, two activists locked themselves to an overloaded coal truck, preventing it from moving forward. A third activist suspended himself from the bridge on a platform, further blocking access to the site.
Emitting millions of pounds of pollutants yearly, the Clinch River coal plant threatens the health and lives of thousands of downwind residents and the surrounding environment. Burning coal is not only a primary factor behind global climate change, but also drives the expansion of large scale strip mining. Large scale surface mining destroys forests, streams and communities as it alters the Appalachian landscape forever.
As activists crowded the bridge, they strung banners that read ‘The beauty of the mountains runs deeper than a coal seam – abolish strip mining’, and ‘Clean energy can never come from coal’, as well as ‘Stop mountain top removal mining’. All coal and other vehicle traffic was blocked to the site for the remainder of the business day. Forming a human roadblock to reinforce the blockade, the assembled activists sang protest songs and engaged in dialogue with police, coal truck drivers, and plant employees.
Earth First! and Rising Tide demanded the following:
1. Shut down the Clinch River facility and all aging, dirty coal burning power plants.
2. An immediate halt to mountaintop removal and other destructive forms of strip mining.
3. A nationwide response to the reality of global climate change marked by a move away from fossil fuels, transition towards cleaner sources of energy and vigorous promotion of electricity conservation.
“The Clinch River facility is a symbol of all that is wrong with King Coal. Dirty air, ravaged landscapes and global climate disruption are the legacies of a corrupt, inefficient and destructive industry that kills with impunity” said Patrick Garnett of Lexington, Kentucky.
“The coal industry and its government puppets are ignoring widespread public concern over large scale strip mining, air pollution and global climate change” said Erin Mckelvy of Blacksburg, Virginia. “Concerned citizens are forced to take direct action to call attention to the devastation caused by the irresponsible mining and burning of coal” she added.
By the end of the day the state police had dispatched more than fifty cars, an armored vehicle, a helicopter, and at least sixty troopers. Having successfully delivered their message to AEP and the wider public, activists negotiated with police to secure the release of people physically locked to the blockade and incurred no arrests.
The Clinch River coal burner releases 4.25 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the air annually, contributing to an unpredictable change in the global climate. Particulate pollution from burning coal has been proven to worsen asthma for residents across the nation. Mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia has destroyed over 800 square miles of the most biologically diverse temperate forest in the world. Over 1200 miles of streams have been buried by valley fills and mining waste.
“I was born here in southwestern Virginia. The mountains here are part of my soul. They are sacred to me, and also to God” said Ernest Wayne Cantrell of Clintwood, Virginia. “I fight back because I can’t continue to watch the world’s oldest mountains be leveled forever” he continued.
Earth First! is an international environmental action movement focusing on protecting wild nature.
Rising Tide North America is part of an international network focusing on the root causes of global climate change.
To view more pictures from this action, visit Mountain Justice Media’s coverage of the event.