Mountain Valley Pipeline: Yellow Finch Tree-sits Hit 213 Days!

Cross-posted from Appalachians Against Pipelines

The Yellow Finch tree sits have a new resident! Scott Ziemer, a 69-year-old grandfather from Virginia, has relieved one of the sitters and is occupying one of the tree sits to protect some of the last remaining trees in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). This blockade outside of Elliston has been blocking the MVP for 213 days and counting.

Scott says: “I have decided to take action to address the urgent issue of climate change and encourage others to do so as well. By occupying a tree sit in the path of the Mountain Valley pipeline, I am adding my voice to those who are fighting to slow down and stop the burning of fossil fuels, which are the primary cause of climate change.

Scott’s home is close to the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which he has been fighting for many years. He is taking a stand with the communities of southwest Virginia as an act of solidarity with all those being harmed by MVP construction.

We’re so excited that Scott has joined us at the Yellow Finch sits, and that he is harnessing his privilege by putting his body on the line to continue blocking MVP construction. While many tree sitters must remain anonymous to protect themselves, Scott has chosen to use his name, voice and identity to draw attention to the fight against MVP. His action reminds us that we need a diversity of tactics, strategies and individuals to resist ALL pipelines and fight ALL fossil fuel extraction.

This time last year, a banner hanging from a monopod read “The Fire Is Catching”. Today, a banner hanging from Scott’s tree sit reads “No Prisons No Pipelines”. We must work across movements and struggles and support each other’s actions to fan the flames of resistance so that fire will continue to spread.

Donate to support continued resistance to the MVP:

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Coming to Appalachia! Scaling up the Resistance: Strategies and Stories from the German Climate Justice Movement!

Cross-posted from Appalachians Against Pipelines

Join members of the German direct action collective Ende Gelände on their US tour as they share stories and tactics with local groups about successful mass mobilizations for climate justice. Their group, whose name means “Here and No Further” is founded on principles of frontline struggles, mass mobilization, direct action, and cooperation across organizational and tactical differences.

They have managed to pull off mass actions of amazing scale: last fall, 6,000 people collectively blocked coal infrastructure together! Wearing their emblematic white overalls, demonstrators invaded mining pits, danced in front of the diggers, slept on the railways, and provoked pictures that have raised attention globally and made the connections between climate chaos and capitalism.

Come hear about the growing, diverse and radical climate justice movement in Germany, and hear ways we can link our resistance locally to this international uprising.

There are multiple events in Appalachia to choose from!

(See the whole tour line-up here.)


Oil Train Derailment in WV


(Article Cross Posted from Al Jazeera America)

Residents of a West Virginia county started picking up the pieces Tuesday after an oil tanker train derailment and fire forced more than a hundred people from their homes and threatened water supplies for thousands, raising new alarm among environmental activists over the rail transport of crude oil through their state.

By Tuesday evening, power crews were restoring electricity, water treatment plants were going back online, and most of the local residents were back home. Many people had taken shelter in local schools or hotels near the town of Boomer. Others continued to rely on free bottled water from the water utility. CSX, the rail company involved, issued a statement saying it is working with the Red Cross to provide shelter for some 125 people amid frigid temperatures and a fresh foot of snow.

With fears of oil seeping into the adjacent Kanawha River, water authorities shut off an intake plant near the derailment, disrupting the lives of everyone on the water system near the smoky crash site. After testing on Tuesday found no detectable trace of oil in the river, public health officials and the utility, West Virginia American Water (WVAW), started turning the intake plant back on — but it will be several days before water service returns to normal. 

The crash sent one person to a hospital with breathing trouble, but the blaze resulted in no deaths despite sending a massive fireball over the Kanawha River at about 1:30 p.m. EST, around 30 miles southeast of the state capital, Charleston. 

At least 20 tankers were “involved” in fires, CSX said Tuesday, and state environmental officials and the rail company decided to let the fires burn themselves out. “At this point there are still small fires burning, so responders can’t go down to there,” said Kelley Gillenwater, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “We can’t get to the actual derailment to assess the immediate impact.”

Gillenwater said the DEP remains dedicated to preventing the pollution of water supplies, pointing to its proposal for strong chemical storage safety laws. Her department, however, has nothing to do with overseeing what travels through the state via rail, she said.

According to CSX, the 109-car train was carrying Bakken shale crude oil from North Dakota to Yorktown, Virginia. 

“We don’t have the jurisdiction to regulate that transportation,” Gillenwater said, adding that the DEP will be conducting further tests of the river’s water and watching out for a telltale “sheen” of oil. 

Gillenwater wasn’t certain of who is responsible for environmental safety on the state’s railroads, but pointed to the Department of Transportation as the likely authority. The West Virginia DOT web site says it controls the State Rail Authority, which oversees freight rail. The DOT was not available for comment Tuesday night. 

After the fire burns out, DEP officials will examine how much oil has spilled onto the soil and remove contaminated dirt that could pollute groundwater, Gillenwater said. 

West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Montgomery, the site of the water plant shutoff yesterday, canceled classes until Monday, Feb. 23. Students living on campus will be able to stay at the nearby Beckley branch of WVU, the school said Tuesday, adding that it doesn’t expect to regain water service at its Montgomery campus for another 72 hours. 

WVAW and the DEP said tests Tuesday showed no detectable levels of oil in the water near intake valves downstream from the spill. But the company had already shut off the system Monday as a precaution. The WVAW has advised residents to boil their water before drinking it after the taps are turned back on. The water restrictions affect about 2,000 people in six different towns, local news channel WVNS reports.

The accident conjures memories of another spill in West Virginia just over a year ago, when 10,000 gallons of a coal processing chemical spilled from a tank along the Elk River, making its way to the waterway — the supply for 300,000 people in and around Charleston. For weeks, emergency management authorities in the state distributed free water to thousands across the region.

Even now, many people in that area report being afraid to drink the water.

“It’s just one thing after another,” said Maria Gunnoe, an environmental activist with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, who cited the Jan. 2014 chemical spill as an example.

Accidents with coal or gas are so common, Gunnoe said, that people don’t notice them much anymore. She blamed what she sees as a complacent and complicit state legislature.

“Everyone will forget this in three months, and our state leaders will continue to facilitate the oil and gas industry and not protect the people,” Gunnoe said.

“I don’t have all the answers. It’s a massive problem,” she added, saying the freight shipments of oil aren’t handled safely. “They go extremely fast and they’re extremely reckless, and all of our state leaders turn a blind eye until something like this happens.”

T. Paige, 66, a musician, photographer and part-time environmental activist who lives near Monday’s derailment, said Tuesday morning that he could still see smoke coming from the accident site. He said the crash made him feel “very, very, very angry.”

“These trains are not regulated enough,” he said. “They should not have been going through here in the snow storm. It’s dangerous. They’re not taking adequate precautions.”

He blamed what he called a close relationship between industry and elected leaders for what he sees as a dangerous attitude toward regulation.

“Democracy is being derailed and this is one of the symptoms.”

Stand with Poisoned Inmates

Graphic by Adam Peck via Think Progress.

This is climate injustice.

In January, thousands of gallons of the toxic coal cleaning chemicals contaminated the drinking supply for 300,000 people and hundreds of inmates at the South Central Regional Jail (SCRJ) in Charleston, WV, were deprived of access to enough safe water.

Many inmates suffered from illness and injury from dehydration or chemical exposure. Some even faced violence and legal repercussions for seeking medical help and for asking for clean water to drink. You can hold SCRJ accountable and ensure the basic human rights for inmates if you speak out right now!

Click here to demand basic human rights and safe water access for inmates at West Virginia’s South Central Regional Jail.

Our allies with West Virginia Water Hub and Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival (RAMPS) met and corresponded with more than 50 inmates, and based on their stories, it’s clear that this failed crisis response is just the latest example in a larger pattern of abuse, violence, and negligence by the jail’s staff and administration.

WV Water Hub and RAMPS are amplifying the voices of inmates and exposing this horrendous abuse in order to force a response from prison authorities.

Add your voice: sign RAMPS’ petition to demand basic human rights for inmates in coal country.

RAMPS has stated that they are acting “in solidarity with broader movements of resistance to the growing prison state and poisonous extractive industries.” Combined, the systems of state repression and fossil fuel industry profit are creating a perpetual crisis. Like RAMPS, our movements must respond in kind and directly confront fossil fuel expansion, challenge the political power of that system, and act in solidarity with those facing the brunt of the crisis.

That is climate justice.