Here are a series of emails that I recieved over the weekend.
Press Release: Group of Kentuckians Demand End to Mountaintop Removal Mining in Governor’s Office Sit-InEmail #2:
11 February 2011
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 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.”
Press Release: Fourteen Kentuckians Will Remain in Governor’s Office Over the Weekend in Protest of Mountaintop Removal MiningEmail #3:
11 February 2011
FRANKFORT – At least fourteen Kentuckians have decided to remain in Gov. Steve Beshear’s office over the weekend at the invitation of the governor himself.
Among those remaining in the governor’s office include 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; 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.
“We have resolved to stay while Gov. Beshear reconsiders his position on mountaintop removal mining,” the group said in a joint statement. “As we are just steps away from the Governor’s Mansion, we invite the governor to join us at the Capitol—the People’s House—for more conversations over the weekend.”
The group is staying in the governor’s office in anticipation of I Love Mountains Day on Monday, an annual rally held to draw attention to mountaintop removal and the Stream Saver Bill, which has languished for six years in the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Gooch (D-Providence), a longtime supporter of the coal industry.
“We invite our fellow Kentuckians to join us in solidarity on the steps of the Capitol on Monday,” said the group. A march to the Capitol from the Kentucky River Bridge will commence at 11:30 a.m. The rally at the Capitol will begin at 12:15 p.m.
They expressed disappointment in today’s meeting with Gov. Beshear. “There are times when our elected officials must choose between being a leader and being a politician. This is one of those times. We call upon Gov. Beshear to lead by ending mountaintop removal, by beginning a sincere public dialogue about creating sustainable jobs for our hard-working miners, by putting the vital interests of ordinary Kentuckians above the special interests of an abusive industry.”
FRANKFORT – Fourteen protestors remain in the office of the Kentucky state governor this weekend in an unprecedented and historic effort to bring attention to mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Gov. Steve Beshear invited the protesters to stay after they said they would not leave his office until they were either physically removed or until he reconsidered his position on MTR.Email 4:
The group are now extending an invitation to the Governor and the First Lady to join them and continue the conversation.
All of the protesters are from Kentucky. Those remaining in the governor’s office include Wendell Berry, 76, the acclaimed writer who has been a leader in environmental issues for the past fifty years; Beverly May, 52, a nurse practitioner who was the subject of Deep Down, a documentary about MTR that was shown on PBS; Mickey McCoy, 55, former educator and mayor from Martin County, where more than 300 million gallons of toxic sludge were released into the water supply in 2001; and Stanley Sturgill, 65, a former underground coal miner and former MSHA inspector.
Also in the office are Lisa Abbott, 40, a community organizer and mother of two; Chad Berry, 47, a writer and historian; Teri Blanton, 54, a grandmother of three; Doug Doerrfeld, 60, Kevin Pentz, 38, a community organizer; Herb E. Smith, 58, a documentary filmmaker; Rick Handshoe, 50, a retired Kentucky State Police employee; John Hennen, 59, a history professor at Morehead State University; and Martin Mudd, 28, a grad student at the University of Kentucky, and Tanya Turner, 24, a community organizer.
Two of the protesters, writers Silas House and Jason Howard, who had been acting as media liaisons, left the capitol late last night when it became too difficult to communicate with media from within the office.
“We call upon Gov. Beshear to lead by ending mountaintop removal, by beginning a sincere public dialogue about creating sustainable jobs for our hard-working miners, by putting the vital interests of ordinary Kentuckians above the special interests of an abusive industry,” the group said in a joint statement.
All of those remaining spent the night sleeping on the floor. A donation of pillows managed to get into the Capitol before the doors were locked at 4:30 on Friday afternoon.
This is the first sit-in of its kind in the state’s history.
People across the nation have been sending support to the group via the Internet. A couple from Florida sent the group six pizzas, which the Kentucky State Police guarding the capitol allowed to be delivered. Gifts—including artwork and coffee—have also begun to arrive at the capitol. The group shared their pizza with Kentucky State Police officers and the late-night custodial staff.
MTR is a controversial form of coal mining that has gained more attention over the last several years. The EPA has recently started to crack down on permits for MTR, which led Kentucky Gov. Beshear to recently tell the EPA to “get off our backs” in his State of the Commonwealth address earlier this month. Beshear has filed a lawsuit against the EPA.
The group has been incorrectly identified as being “anti-coal” but say they are there to protest MTR. The group is an independent coalition of citizens—most of them from the coalfields—and do not represent any particular organization.
An unrelated MTR protest that had already been planned is being staged on the capitol steps on Monday at noon. The annual event, I Love Mountains Day, will include a mile-long march and a rally featuring Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-D). Previous speakers at the event include actress Ashley Judd and country music singer Kathy Mattea.
Gov. Beshear met with the group for about twenty minutes and declared that he would continue his lawsuit against the EPA and made no commitments to do anything about MTR. The governor did, however, agree to visit Eastern Kentucky at an undetermined time. The protestors remain committed to holding him to this promise and are extending an invitation to the governor and the first lady to join them in the office.
Statement from Wendell Berry, February 12, 2011, 10:58 a.m.
It is now Feb. 12. By now we expected to be either in jail or bailed out. Instead, by Gov. Beshear’s invitation, we are staying in his reception room in the Capitol. We have had a good night’s sleep and are feeling fine. The governor and his staff, the custodians and security staff of this building, all have treated us with hospitality and perfect kindness. We have spoken much of this and of our gratitude.
A little to our surprise, the Governor spoke with us at some length yesterday, and listened evidently with care as our people bore witness to the abuses they live with every day. He conceded graciously to two of our requests: that he would visit the home places of some of our people to see for himself what they are telling him about. The conversation otherwise was a standoff. We are far from agreement on most of our agenda of grievances. But we feel that the conversation was useful because it made our differences utterly clear. The Governor conceded our right to our opinions, but he believes that our accusations against the coal industry and its allies in state government are matters merely of opinion and personal feeling, without standing in fact, in law, or in principle. He believes, moreover, that surface mining can be, and apparently that it is, carried on without damage to the land, the people, and the water supply.
We, of course, respectfully disagree. We are relieved this morning by an accumulation of evidence that the first goal of our protest has been achieved. State government’s official silence on the grave issues of surface mining has been broken. Those issues have now entered the public conversation as they never have before. Obviously, we are determined to stop the abuses of the coal industry, and to that end we are determined also to keep this conversation going. We look forward to continuing our discussion with the Governor, and with anybody else who may want to talk with us.
We wish to say further—and this is extremely important to us—that our protest is against methods of mining that are abusive. We do not oppose mining per se. Our purpose is to protect our land and water. And we most certainly bear no ill will against those who work in mines.