Actions Speak Louder than Words as 20 Occupy Gov’s Office in Kentucky Coal Mining Fight

Sit-in in the governor's officeSit-In at Ky. Governor’s Office Demanding an End to Mountaintop Removal; Participants include Acclaimed Author Wendell Berry, retired coal miner Stanley Sturgill, activists Teri Blanton, Bev May and Mickey McCoy

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Actions spoke louder than words in the capitol of the Bluegrass State this morning as 20 Kentucky writers, grassroots activists and coalfield residents staged a sit-in at Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear’s office. The group of local residents, grassroots activists and noted writers demanded an end to mountaintop removal and protection for their land, water and health. Kentucky residents have long lobbied their state government to act in their best interests, yet been consistently ignored by an administration in the pocket of King Coal.

This sit-in is another escalating action in a multi-state campaign that has spanned West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Washington D.C., North Carolina and many other places for the past several years calling for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining.

Among those risking arrest are acclaimed author Wendell Berry, 76, who has decried mining abuses for 50 years, as well as several grassroots activists, mountaintop residents and Kentucky writers.

The office of the governor must be held accountable,” they citizens explained in a joint statement. “We are once again asking Gov. Beshear for help.

Direct actions against mountaintop removal coal mining and coal-fired power plants are certain to increase this year as it becomes more and more apparent that challenging King Coal legally, legislatively and in the regulatory process only go so far and that a radical effective direct action strategy must be utilized as well. In other words, look for more groups of concerned people taking actions like this, not less.

Press Release: Group of Kentuckians Demand End to Mountaintop Removal Mining in Governor’s Office Sit-In

11 February 2011

Contact: Silas House/Jason Howard 606.224.1208

FRANKFORT – A group of twenty Kentuckians has gathered at the state Capitol in an attempt to meet with Gov. Steve Beshear to discuss the issue of mountaintop removal mining. They plan to remain in his office until the governor agrees to stop the poisoning of Kentucky’s land, water, and people by mountaintop removal; or until he chooses to have the citizens physically removed.

Among the group are Wendell Berry, 76, the acclaimed writer who has decried mining abuses for the past fifty years; Beverly May, 52, a nurse practitioner from Floyd County; Erik Reece, 43, who has written extensively about the coal industry; Patty Wallace, 80, a grandmother and long-time activist from Louisa; Mickey McCoy, 55, former educator and mayor of Inez; Teri Blanton, 54, a grassroots activist from Harlan County; Stanley Sturgill, 65, a former underground coal miner of Harlan County; Rick Handshoe, 50, a retired Kentucky State Police radio technician of Floyd County; John Hennen, 59, a history professor at Morehead State University; and Martin Mudd, 28, an environmental activist.

While these Kentuckians realize they are risking arrest by refusing to leave the governor’s office, they say they have repeatedly petitioned Gov. Beshear for help, yet their pleas have been ignored. This action is a last resort to seek protections for their health, land, and water.

In a letter to Gov. Beshear, the citizens expressed their desire to communicate “respectfully and effectively” with the governor about the urgent need to stop the destruction of mountaintop removal mining. Among their requests were the following:

§  Accept a long-standing invitation to view the devastation in eastern Kentucky caused by mountaintop removal mining

§  Foster a sincere, public discussion about the urgent need for a sustainable economic transition for coal workers and mountain communities

§  Withdraw from the October 2010 lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, in which the Beshear administration partnered with the coal industry to oppose the EPA’s efforts to protect the health and water of coalfield residents

“The office of the governor must be held accountable,” they citizens explained in a joint statement. “We are once again asking Gov. Beshear for help.”

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