Members of Asheville Rising Tide traveled to Wise County to support this inspiring action organized by local Wise County residents, Earth First!ers, and anti-coal campaigners. As we listened to events in the Gulf unfold in the wake of Hurricane Ike, it seemed appropriate to be acting in solidarity with community activists at the ground zero of climate change, a new coal-fired power plant fueled by mountain top removal coal blasted out of the surrounding mountains. We hope this escalation will contribute another step toward building a mass movement against coal extraction and burning everywhere…
Monday, September 15th
Wise County, VA-At 6:00am this morning around 30 people from across the country blocked the entrance to the construction site of Dominion Virginia’s new coal-fired power plant in Wise County, VA. Eleven people were arrested after four hours. Protesters locked their bodies to eight large steel drums, two of which had operational solar panels illuminating a banner that read “Renewable jobs to renew Appalachia.” In addition, protesters held a 10’x30′ banner, which said: “we demand a clean energy future.”
“Coal is in our blood but we’re realizing it’s also in our lungs and in our drinking water,” said Hannah Morgan, Wise County landowner and one of those arrested. “We are here because now is the time to take greater action as individuals, a community, and a country to create a sustainable future and stop the destruction of our homeplace.”
“I’m here from Coal River, WV to support my fellow Appalachians in our shared struggle to end coal industry abuses,” said Bo Webb, member of Coal River Mountain Watch who came to support the protest. “We are not going to continue to stand idly by and watch our children be robbed of their right to clean air and clean water. This is no longer an Appalachian problem, it’s an American problem.”
With very few jobs going to local residents for construction or long-term plant operation and without any means to capture its carbon dioxide pollution, the Dominion plant represents a remarkably bad deal for Virginia. “With all the billions of dollars that have rolled out of Appalachia in the last 5 years, it should look like Dubai but instead it looks like Guatemala,” said Jane Branham, Wise County resident and nurse. “My dad was a coal miner. As he says, ‘it’s not the same as it used to be-there’s no profit in coal for the people here anymore, there’s only devastation.'”
This event comes on the heels of Dominion’s groundbreaking ceremony for the plant on August 14 and continues almost two years of opposition to the project. Nearly 45,000 Virginians have signed a petition against the construction of the plant, and three lawsuits were recently filed challenging the state’s approval of the plant as its permits fail to adequately control emissions of hazardous toxins, such as mercury, which can cause severe neurological deficits in developing fetuses and young children.
“Embracing clean energy is not a sacrifice, it is an opportunity,” said Rebecca Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network, a California group that is pressuring Bank of America and Citi, leading financiers of Dominion, to stop funding coal plants and to start investing in clean energy. “This Dominion protest is part of a rapidly growing movement of people across the country who are willing to put their bodies on the line to ensure a clean energy future.”
The plant, if constructed, will process largely mountain top removal coal, creating an even bigger incentive for the destructive practice that decimates historic mountains and contaminates drinking water. Wise County has already had 25% of its historic mountain ranges destroyed forever to mountaintop removal mining.
For more information or for photos and b-roll, please contact Nell Greenberg, 276-337-3198.