A Report from the Picket on the Greenbrier

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On July 2nd and 3rd, members of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) were joined by about 20 allies from West Virginia and Virginia in a picket and two candlelight vigils outside the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs West Virginia. The Greenbrier is home to an annual PGA golf tournament that brings thousands to the small West Virginia town to watch a tournament, all of it made possible by the profitsimage Jim Justice has extracted from Appalachian communities.

 

On Wednesday night, the event started with a group of about 10 holding a candle light vigil, walking through downtown White Sulphur Springs (WSS), and ending at the Greenbrier entrance. We were met by local police and a representative of the Greenbrier security force. The Deputy Sheriff, Smith, was immediately friendly and encouraged our action, as long as we did not disrupt traffic.

 

On Thursday, we started the picket a little after 10 AM. With signs that read “You got rich, we got sick”, “Employ local people in reclamation”, and “Hey Jim Justice, Be a good greenbrier event 123neighbor to ALL of Appalachia”, we marched a circuit between the WSS public library, the Greenbrier main entrance, and downtown WSS. Along the way we met a local exterminator, a representative of Greenbrier workers and several other local residents who had personals stories to tell of Jim Justice failing to pay his debts, and generally being a bad neighbor in his own home county.

 

We continued the picket in shifts, trading off after a round or two in the July sun. Throughout the afternoon we were greeted by supportive honks, and added names to our petition in support of the Justice to Justice demands.

 

A group of 5 split off and went to nearby Lewisburg, where many of the guests in town for the golf tournament were staying and eating during the event. The team handed out fliers, talked with local business owners and gathered petition signatures.

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The local police were generally supportive, and there seemed to be no local love lost on the hometown billionaire. We talked to many locals who had almost no idea that Justice’s wealth had been built in part on the backs of blasted mountains and abandoned communities.

 

While we did not get the media attention we hoped for, we feel buoyed by this action, and by the reception we received in White Sulphur Springs. We know that Justice’s corrosive business practices are felt beyond our coalfield communities, and we hope to build relationships and solidarity with those who seek justice from Jim Justice, no matter which resource he is extracting from hard working people.

 

From White Sulphur Springs we march on. Over the next 4 – 6 weeks, we wil be working to connect with communites impacted by Justice’s mining operations across the region, and bringing extra scrutiny and attention to on going violations on Justice affiliated operations. We are also continuing to gather petition signatures, and will plan on another delivery action in the near future.

 

 

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SAMS Strategic Planning Meeting.

SAMS members, Please attend the first SAMS strategic planning meeting, this Saturday July 12th . Meeting will begin at 10 AM at the Inman Community Center near Inman Village.

The second meeting will be held on July 19th, at 10 AM in Andover at the Andover Community Center.
Click Here for More info

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Community group leads picket on Greenbrier

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Contacts:
Gabby Gillespie, Campaign Coordinator: 304-438-1339 emilyggillespie@gmail.com
Marley Greeen, Community Organizer: 276-639-6169 green.marley@gmail.com
Community group leads picket on Greenbrier
VA coalfields group sheds light on true cost of Billionaire Coal Baron’s wealth
White Sulphur Springs, WV – Citizens from across the region have joined the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) for a picket being held outside of the Greenbrier Classic PGA Tournament. Billionaire Coal Baron, Jim Justice owns the Greenbrier and operates mountaintop removal mines across Appalachia. The picket is a next step in the Justice to Justice campaign launched by SAMS in Wise County, VA where communities are concerned about water pollution, blasting, air quality and the potential health impacts of Justice’s coal mines.

In Wise County, Virginia, several of Justice’s subsidiaries’ surface mine operations have been threatened with forfeiture of their bonds, due to inadequate reclamation on those operations. For years SAMS has worked to stop the destruction of Ison Rock Ridge, a mountain that sits above the homes of at least 2000 people in the town of Appalachia Virginia. They are asking Jim Justice to abandon the proposed Ison Rock Ridge mountaintop removal mine, and to focus on proper reclamation of existing permits in Virginia.

Citizens of Southwest Virginia are not the only ones with concerns about Jim Justice operations. Justice has been the target of multiple lawsuits and legal actions from community groups, workers and government agencies. Justice is worth an estimated $1.6 billion dollars, however he owes unpaid debts to workers in multiple states and has over $3 million in unpaid fines for safety violations through MSHA. Last week two groups filed a lawsuit against a Justice company in Tennessee for unlawful mining pollution and filed a notice that they intend to file additional lawsuits against other Justice companies in Tennessee for failing to submit water pollution reports for fourteen mines in the state.
“Jim Justice is acting like a deadbeat billionaire, not paying his contractors, not paying regulatory fines, and leaving us with the long term costs of sloppy reclamation on blasted mountains,” said Jane Branham, Vice President of SAMS. “We’re calling on him to remember the communities who’ve given him so much wealth, and to commit to cleaning up his act”.

Over the past several month SAMS members have sent multiple letters to Jim Justice asking for a meeting, including visiting his offices several times and hand delivering over three hundred petitions. A meeting has still not been granted and now SAMS is bringing demands to the Greenbrier to draw attention to Justice’s legacy of leaving devastated communities to pay the price of his irresponsible and destructive business practices. Supporters will hold a candlelight vigil on Thursday at 8:00p.m at White Sulphur Springs to shine a light on Justice’s dirty practices and to stand in solidarity with communities impacted by Justice’s mountaintop removal operations. Learn more about the Justice to Justice campaign at http://www.justicetojustice.com/.
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Federal Highway Administration Requires Full Study of Proposal that Would Rely on Mountaintop Removal

EXPRESSWAY PROJECT TO RECEIVE THOROUGH REVIEW
Federal Highway Administration Requires Full Study of Proposal that Would Rely on Mountaintop Removal

Appalachia, VA — The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will be required to conduct a full environmental review for a controversial 26-mile section of the Coalfields Expressway that would run through Wise, Dickenson, and Buchanan counties in southwest Virginia. Community groups in southwest Virginia and conservation organizations applaud the decision.

VDOT fundamentally changed the route and the nature of this section of the Coalfields Expressway when it partnered with coal companies to allow mountaintop removal mining as part of the project and failed to prepare a comprehensive analysis of its impacts on the community. The environmental study that FHWA is requiring must evaluate the public health and environmental harms of the proposal and examine a full suite of alternatives.

More than 85,000 citizens sent comments to VDOT and FHWA expressing their concerns about the harm that mountaintop removal mining associated with this project would have on drinking water, community health, and quality of life. Local citizens are also worried that the altered route would eliminate the economic benefits promised to the community because it would bypass local businesses, and the associated impacts from mining would detract from a growing tourism industry.

Three federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also urged FHWA and VDOT to prepare a comprehensive analysis that considers alternatives and evaluates the social, economic and environmental impacts of the mountaintop removal mining which is integral to the project.

“This decision is good news for the people of southwestern Virginia,” said Jane Branham, Vice President of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “We are pleased that FHWA and VDOT will take a hard look at the irresponsible and destructive mining practices that have already hurt our communities and that would be part of this ill-conceived strip mine/highway proposal.”

“We look forward to seeing a thorough review of the environmental consequences of this project, including an analysis of a range of highway alternatives that do not depend on mountaintop removal coal mining,” said Deborah Murray, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The decision-makers must keep in mind the original purpose and need of the project –serving the local communities.”

“VDOT now has the opportunity to take a fresh, honest look at this project,” said Marley Green, a Wise County resident and Sierra Club organizer in Virginia. “We have the chance to figure out the best ways to improve transportation access and diversify our struggling mountain economy.”

“The decision made by Federal Highways is a critical one. Mountaintop removal coal mining has had a devastating impact on communities in southwest Virginia, and now the state will be required to examine this road fully before spending our tax dollars on a deal that only helps coal companies rather than the community,” said Kate Rooth, campaign director with Appalachian Voices. “Now, local business owners, landowners, and citizens whose clean drinking water would be impacted can help VDOT design a project to truly benefit Central Appalachia.”

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