No Business as Usual at Alpha Headquarters

flagReposted from the RAMPS Campaign

June 20, 2014 — Bristol, VA. Three activists with Mountain Justice and Radical Action for Mountains and People’s Survival (RAMPS) are currently stopping business as usual at Alpha Natural Resources headquarters in Bristol, VA, in protest of Alpha’s devastating practices of mountaintop removal coal mining. Activists were protesting the opening of new mines on Coal River Mountain in southern West Virginia. Two protestors are locked in front of the front doors of the office, while a third is hanging from a flag pole displaying a banner that reads “Save Coal River Mountain”

“That mountain is the mountain I learned to hunt on, it’s the mountain that’s sustained my family for generations. I’ll be a dead man before I see them take what’s left up there,” said
Junior Walk, of West Virginia. Walk lives in the Coal River Valley, directly below Alpha operations on Coal River Mountain. Alpha recently began blasting on the 264 acre Collins Fork mine. Local residents and activists have opposed surface mining on Coal River Mountain since the late 1990s.

2014-06-20 06.25.05-2“I am here today to demand an end to Alpha’s role in the destruction of Appalachia. While coal is exported and profits leave the region, the health effects remain in the communities,” said Camilo Pereira, one of the protestors blocking the office. Two of the protesters in a lockbox at the front door of Alpha’s headquarters and blocked the entrance.

While coal production has decreased nationwide in the past years, coal exports are at an all-time high. The overwhelming majority of coal extracted from Coal River Mountain is metallurgical coal used primarily to produce steel and is likely bound for export markets. Adam Hall, of Glen Daniel, WV, said, “As a country, we have made great strides against the dangers of coal fired power plants. However, new emission regulations will not stop Alpha from blowing up Coal River Mountain and endangering my home and family.”

More than 20 peer-reviewed studies demonstrate a connection between mountaintop removal coal mining operations and increased cases of lung and heart diseases, as well as increased birth defects, early mortality, and depression.

The RAMPS Campaign’s ongoing work against Alpha Natural Resources demands an end to Alpha’s mountaintop removal practices in Appalachia. Furthermore, RAMPS urges the company to re-employ miners for effective and thorough reclamation of retired and abandoned mine sites.

Photos of today’s protest can be found here when available.

Mountain Justice is a regional and national network that has worked for 10 years to support community based, grassroots efforts to end Mountaintop Removal and build a brighter future in Appalachia.

Protesters Hold UBS Accountable for Funding Mountaintop Removal in Series of Protests

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

11/25/13
Contact: Mathew Louis-Rosenberg
Phone: 304-860-5041
Email: snollygaster@gmail.com

Protesters Hold UBS Accountable for Funding Mountaintop Removal in Series
of Protests

Stamford, CT – Early this morning, three activists hung a huge banner reading “UBS. Stop Funding Mountaintop Removal” off of a crane constructing the 66 Summers St building in downtown Stamford.   Later in the day two activists entered the UBS headquarters in Stamford, locking themselves to a bannister and hanging a banner reading “UBS. Divest from Mountaintop Removal”, while others locked themselves to the outside doors of the building.   The protests are a part of the Hands Off Appalachia, a sustained campaign to get UBS to end all financing of companies conducting mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.

“Over the last two years, I have visited UBS’s offices over 30 times pleading with them to stop the destruction of Appalachian communities. Today, I’m not asking anymore.  I’m demanding an end to UBS’s financing of mountaintop removal.” said Ricki Draper of Knoxville, TN who is locked inside the UBS headquarters.

Mountaintop removal is an extreme form of strip-mining in which coal companies blast up to a thousand feet off the top of a mountain to extract thin seams of coal.  The resulting rubble is often placed in the valley below burying headwater streams.  Over 1 million acres of forest in Central Appalachia have been destroyed and over 2,000 miles of streams have been buried by this practice.  Recent research has linked mountaintop removal to increased rates of cancer, birth defects and cardiovascular disease in communities near these mining operations.  UBS is a top funder of companies that conduct mountaintop removal such as Alpha Natural Resources, Patriot Coal, and Arch Coal.  On Friday, organizers with Hands Off Appalachia met with UBS executives at their office in Stamford to discuss UBS’s existing policy on mountaintop removal.

“[At the meeting] I was ‘reassured’ [by UBS executives] that UBS’s policy on mountaintop removal was sufficient enough to protect my people.  I wholeheartedly disagree.  The reality is that their ‘policy’ is nothing more than an excuse to remove themselves from the truth that as UBS profits, my people suffer,” said Adam Hall of Glen Daniel, W.Va. who blocked the entrance to UBS’s headquarters today.

UBS’s existing policy claims to “recognize the potential environmental, social, and human rights impacts of this industry sector” and take into consideration “concerns of stakeholder groups”, but UBS officials have never traveled to Appalachia to witness the impacts or met with impacted community members until last Friday.  The policy also claims to take into account regulatory compliance, but UBS financed Massey Energy and oversaw their merger with Alpha Natural Resources even after Massey was fined $20 million by the EPA for over 4,600 violations of the Clean Water Act.

Started in Knoxville, TN, the Hands Off Appalachia Campaign has spent two years engaging with UBS about their funding of the destruction of Appalachian through this extreme form of strip mining. HOA has organized dozens of actions and protests at local UBS offices all over Appalachia and the Southeast.

This summer, HOA escalated their campaign against UBS when three organizers blocked the entrance to the Knoxville UBS branch, the point of inception for the campaign. This action was the thirty-third time in sixteen months that campaign organizers had visited that office. On the heels of that action followed a blockade at UBS’ North American Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. There, four organizers with Hands Off Appalachia and Capitalism vs. the Climate, a climate justice direct action group based in Connecticut, took a stand against UBS in solidarity with communities in Appalachia. This action launched the northeast leg of our campaign against UBS. Yesterday, activists with the campaign picketed UBS’s Parade Spectacular in Stamford, handing out leaflets and displaying a large banner
reading “UBS Stop Funding Mountaintop Removal.”

###

RTNA Analysis: The Climate Movement’s Pipeline Preoccupation

Originally posted in Earth Island Journal

The Climate Movement’s Pipeline Preoccupation

Yes, Keystone XL is horrible – but so are plenty of other fossil fuel infrastructure plans

By Arielle Klagsbrun, David Osborn, Kirby Spangler and Maryam Adrangi

Architecturally, a keystone is the wedge-shaped piece at the crown of an arch that locks the other pieces in place. Without the keystone, the building blocks of an archway will tumble and fall, with no support system for the weight of the arch. Much of the United States climate movement right now is structured like an archway, with all of its blocks resting on a keystone – President Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

This is a dangerous place to be. Once Barack Obama makes his decision on the pipeline, be it approval or rejection, the keystone will disappear. Without this piece, we could see the weight of the arch tumble down, potentially losing throngs of newly inspired climate activists. As members of Rising Tide North America, a continental network of grassroots groups taking direct action and finding community-based solutions to the root causes of the climate crisis, we believe that to build the climate justice movement we need, we can have no keystone – no singular solution, campaign, project, or decision maker.

The Keystone XL fight was constructed around picking one proposed project to focus on with a clear elected decider, who had campaigned on addressing climate change. The strategy of DC-focused green groups has been to pressure President Obama to say “no” to Keystone by raising as many controversies as possible about the pipeline and by bringing increased scrutiny to Keystone XL through arrestable demonstrations. Similarly, in Canada, the fight over Enbridge’s Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline has unfolded in much the same way, with green groups appealing to politicians to reject Northern Gateway.

However, the mainstream Keystone XL and Northern Gateway campaigns operate on a flawed assumption that the climate movement can compel our elected leaders to respond to the climate crisis with nothing more than an effective communications strategy. Mainstream political parties in both the US and Canada are tied to and dependent on the fossil fuel industry and corporate capitalism. As seen in similar campaigns in 2009 to pass a climate bill in the United States and to ratify an international climate treaty in Copenhagen, the system is rigged against us. Putting Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the keystone of the archway creates a flawed narrative that if we, as grassroots groups, work hard enough to stack the building blocks correctly to support them, then elected officials will do what we want. Social change happens when local communities lead, and only then will politicians follow. While we must name and acknowledge power holders like Obama, our movement must empower local communities to make decisions and take action on the causes of the climate crisis in their backyards.

Because of the assumption that the climate movement can trust even “sympathetic” politicians like Obama, these campaigns rely on lifting up one project above all else. Certain language used has made it seem like Keystone XL is an extreme project, with unusual fraud and other injustices associated with it. Indeed the Keystone XL project is extreme and unjust, as is every fossil fuel project and every piece of the extraction economy. While, for example, the conflict of interests between the State Department, TransCanada and Environmental Resources Management in the United States, and Enbridge and federal politicians in Canada, must be publicized, it should be clear that this government/industry relationship is the norm, not the exception.

The “game over for climate” narrative is also problematic.  With both the Keystone and Northern Gateway campaigns, it automatically sets up a hierarchy of projects and extractive types that will inevitably pit communities against each other. Our movement can never question if Keystone XL is worse than Flanagan South (an Enbridge pipeline running from Illinois to Oklahoma), or whether tar sands, fracking or mountaintop removal coal mining is worse. We must reject all these forms of extreme energy for their effects on the climate and the injustices they bring to the people at every stage of the extraction process. Our work must be broad so as to connect fights across the continent into a movement that truly addresses the root causes of social, economic, and climate injustice. We must call for what we really need – the end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure and extraction. The pipeline placed yesterday in British Columbia, the most recent drag lines added in Wyoming, and the fracking wells built in Pennsylvania need to be the last ones ever built. And we should say that.

This narrative has additionally set up a make-or-break attitude about these pipeline fights that risks that the movement will contract and lose people regardless of the decision on them. The Keystone XL and Northern Gateway fights have engaged hundreds of thousands of people, with many embracing direct action and civil disobedience tactics for the first time. This escalation and level of engagement is inspiring. But the absolutist “game over” language chances to lose many of them. If Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline, what’s to stop many from thinking that this is in fact “game over” for the climate? And if Obama rejects Keystone XL, what’s to stop many from thinking that the climate crisis is therefore solved? We need those using the “game over” rhetoric to lay out the climate crisis’ root causes – because just as one project is not the end of humanity, stopping one project will not stop runaway climate change.

The fights over Keystone XL and Northern Gateway have been undoubtedly inspiring. We are seeing the beginnings of the escalation necessary to end extreme energy extraction, stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis, and make a just transition to equitable societies. Grassroots groups engaging in and training for direct action such as the Tar Sands Blockade, Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, the Unist’ot’en Camp, and Moccasins on the Ground have shown us how direct action can empower local communities and push establishment green groups to embrace bolder tactics. Our movement is indeed growing, and people are willing to put their bodies on the line; an April poll by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found one in eight Americans would engage in civil disobedience around global warming.

However, before the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway mainstream campaigns come to an end, we all must recognize the dangers of having an archway approach to movement building. It is the danger of relying on political power-holders, cutting too narrow campaigns, excluding a systemic analysis of root causes, and, ultimately, failing to create a broad-based movement. We must begin to discuss and develop our steps on how we should shift our strategy, realign priorities, escalate direct action, support local groups and campaigns, and keep as many new activists involved as possible.

We are up against the world’s largest corporations, who are attempting to extract, transport and burn fossil fuels at an unprecedented rate, all as the climate crisis spins out of control. The climate justice movement should have no keystone because we must match them everywhere they are – and they are everywhere. To match them, we need a movement of communities all across the continent and the world taking direct action to stop the extraction industry, finding community-based solutions, and addressing the root causes of the climate crisis.

Arielle Klagsbrun is an organizer with Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment and Rising Tide North America, and is a 2013 Brower Youth Award winner. David Osborn is climate organizer with Portland Rising Tide and Rising Tide North America. He is also a faculty member at Portland State University. Maryam Adrangi is a campaigner with the Council of Canadians and an organizer with Rising Tide Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. Kirby Spangler works with the Castle Mountain Coalition and Alaska Rising Ride.

Activists Disrupt Arch Coal Corporate HQ In St. Louis

arch prayCREVE COEUR, MO —  Seven affiliated with the RAMPS campaign (Radical Action for Mountain Peoples’ Survival), MORE (Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment) and Mountain Justice are locked down to a 500-pound small potted tree in Arch Coal’s third-floor headquarters while a larger group is in the lobby performing a song and dance.  Additionally, a helium balloon banner with the message “John Eaves Your Coal Company Kills”, directed at the Arch Coal CEO was released in at the Arch Coal headquarters.

Seven protesters locked down outside the corporate office of Arch Coal.

“We’re here to halt Arch’s operations for as long as we can. These coal corporations do not answer to communities, they only consume them.  We’re here to resist their unchecked power,” explained Margaret Fetzer, one of the protestors.

Arch Coal, the second largest coal company in the U.S., operates strip mines in Appalachia and in other U.S. coal basins. Strip mining is an acutely destructive and toxic method of mining coal, and resource extraction disproportionately impacts marginalized communities.

“From the Battle of Blair Mountain to the current fight with the Patriot pensions, the people of central Appalachia have been fighting against the coal companies for the past 125 years. The struggle continues today as we take action to hold Arch Coal and other coal companies accountable for the damage that they do to people and communities in Appalachia and around the world. Coal mining disproportionately impacts indigenous peoples, and we stand in solidarity with disenfranchised people everywhere,”  Dustin Steele of Mingo County, W.Va. said.  Steele was one of the people locked in Arch’s office.

Mingo County is representative of the public health crisis faced by communities overburdened by strip mining.  A recent study of life expectancies placed Mingo County in the bottom 1 percent out of 3,147 counties nationwide.

Arch’s strip mines not only poison communities, but also seek to erase the legacy of resistance to the coal companies in Appalachia. Arch’s Adkins Fork Surface Mine is blasting threatening to blast away Blair Mountain—the site of the second largest uprising in U.S. history and a milestone in the long-standing struggle between Appalachians and the coal companies. 

The devastation of Arch’s strip mines plague regions beyond Appalachia.  Arch’s operation in the Powder River Basin is the “single largest coal mining complex in the world.”  Producing 15 percent of the U.S. coal supply, Arch is a major culprit of the climate crisis.

NASA scientist James Hansen describes the burning of coal as a leading cause global climate change.  The Midwest region faces serious public health impacts from climate change due to “increased heat wave intensity and frequency, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality” according to recently published data from the National Climate Assessment.