Two climate activists perched in trees next to a strip mine atop Coal River Mountain in West Virginia have shut down operations for nearly two weeks now. Sunday marked the 12th day that protesters Becks Kolins and Catherine-Ann MacDougal have been camping in trees 80 feet above the ground on the Bee Tree permit, Alpha Natural Resources’ only active strip mining permit on Coal River Mountain. The tree sit is the longest one in West Virginia history, according to the RAMPS campaign, and “has successfully halted blasting on portions of the site, aside from a small blast last Friday afternoon.” Kolins and MacDougal are part of a nationwide movement of people willing to engage in civil disobedience to stop the immoral destruction of their future by the fossil fuel industry, the campaign — an affiliate of Peaceful Uprising — says:
The sitters expressed solidarity with Tim DeChristopher, a West Virginia native who was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison for peacefully disrupting an illegitimate oil and gas auction and saving tens of thousands of acres of public land from oil and gas exploitation.Prior to his sentencing, DeChristopher expressed his strong support for the tree sitters. From the trees, Becks wrote, “Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years. Please support him and all those who suffer to bring justice to us all.”
“Until this past Wednesday, trucks were still hauling coal that had previously been extracted and stockpiled; now, even this work has ceased,” the campaign reports. Local resident Junior Walk was arrested for supporting the tree sitters along with Elias Schewel on the first day of the protest. Both were released on bail that evening.
Citizen activism may be the only protection the mountains have against the mountaintop removal mining, which is giving local communities cancer and birth defects. West Virginia’s politicians are working with Tea Party Republicans to overturn Environmental Protection Agency efforts to enforce Clean Water Act rules against the pollution caused by blowing up mountains.
On Aug. 20, several weeks of protest will begin in front of the White House to challenge President Obama to prevent the construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
“We thank the multitude of people across the country that have expressed their unwavering support for the tree sitters,” the RAMPS campaign wrote in an email update on Saturday. “Please be assured that these words of encouragement are being passed on to the young people in the trees, and will be ever more necessary with each passing day they spend sitting and sweating in the muggy West Virginia heat.”
The RAMPS campaign, reporting on the tree sit on Twitter at @RAMPSWV, is seeking contributions and comments that oppose the renewal of the Bee Tree mining permit, acquired by Alpha when they took over Massey Energy.