Spring Updates!

We’ve been very busy the last few months, working towards the preservation of Blair Mountain and a more sustainable future in Blair. We’d like to thank all those who have had a hand in that, either by financially supporting us or jumping in to work with us.

Here are some (but not all) of what we’ve been working on this  spring:

  • In April we participated in an event (as part of our larger campaign targeting banks) organized by Earth Quaker Action Team at the annual Shareholders meeting for PNC Financial, a major funder of MTR operations in the area. Click here to see the full story, but short version – we shut it down!!
  • Also in April, a United Nations delegation visited the area and community members from all over the coalfields, including Blair, attended and told their stories. Read the UN’s statement about Mountaintop Removal mining here.
  • In May, we participated in a Surface Mine Board appeal regarding the Adkins Fork permit. We were successful in getting peer-reviewed science entered into the official record, regarding health impacts of MTR, and faults in modeling flood risk from MTR sites.

This summer we will be hard at work. Our plans include:

    • Expanding our water testing program as part of our larger Clean Water campaign. Working with our friends at Coal River Mountain Watch, we have multiple volunteers for both data collection and data entry. This will help build a database of water quality in the area to aid in taking steps to reduce water pollution and hold polluters accountable.
    • Turning our website for the Blair Museum into a virtual museum. Since we relocated the museum to a smaller location in Blair, we want to give people the opportunity to see our full museum including some of the wonderful stories and artifacts people have contributed to the collection over the years. It will also be a collection point for primary-source information about the battle – Great for researchers!
    • Of course we will continue our on-the-ground efforts to preserve Blair Mountain and halt any destruction of the battlefield!

Building up Blair!

We are also very excited about plans for a couple of projects around the community of Blair, including putting up a long wished for ‘Welcome to Blair’ sign. If you would like to contribute, you can do so by donating money (every little bit counts!) or by contacting us and volunteering for a day of work!

Demystifying the Hidden Hand: Capitalism and the State at Blair Mountain

Here is a draft of a paper on the archaeology and importance of Blair Mountain, discussing some of the larger lessons that we can learn from the battle written by Brandon Nida

Brandon Nida is a doctoral student in archaeology at UC Berkeley writing his dissertation on Blair Mountain.

 

 

Citizens Criticize Financing of Surface Mining At Blair Mountain

Citizens rallied today to call on Morgan Stanley to review their financing of Arch Coal’s Adkins Fork surface mine permit and other operations at the Blair Mountain battlefield in Logan County, WV. The battlefield is the site of the largest labor conflict in US history, and is deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Mountaintop removal mining at Adkins Fork would threaten the history and tourism potential of the area, as well as adversely affect the watershed and the health of the nearby community of Blair.

Brandon Nida, an organizer with the Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance says, “Morgan Stanley has one of the strongest reputations for responsible lending. We are asking that they review their relationship with Arch Coal and ask Arch to drop the Adkins Fork and other permits that would impact the Blair Mountain battlefield.”

“The Adkins Fork permit would destroy an extremely important part of the Blair Mountain battlefield, one of the only portions we know for certain was occupied by the miners,” stated Kenneth King, a local resident and longtime preservation advocate. “If surface mining is allowed at the battlefield, our heritage will be erased along with the potential for long-term tourism around the site.”

The town of Blair has already been depopulated over the last decade and its water supply heavily polluted due to previous surface mine operations.

“The Adkins Fork permit is right over our heads here in Blair,” says Carlos Gore, a resident of Blair. “I’ve seen my community pretty much destroyed, and I don’t want to see any more damage. Constant blasting, dust rolling off the site, machinery at all hours of the night, and people getting sick is what is going to happen if they surface mine around here again.”

According to sworn depositions from Arch Coal employees, Arch’s executives during the 1990s “knew dynamite blasts and huge earth-moving machines…would make life so miserable for many Blair residents that they would want to sell their homes and move.” Once the residents sold, they were required to sign an Option to Purchase document that barred them from living or owning property in a 25 square mile area near the mine at Blair.

The rally corresponds with an investor risk document released by Rainforest Action Network titled Arch Coal, the Blair Mountain Battlefield, and Bank Human Rights Commitments. The report details the investment risk involved in financing companies that engage in surface mining operations such as the Adkins Fork Permit at Blair Mountain. Activists attempted to present the report in person, but were prevented by building security.

According to the report, the Adkins Fork permit and other surface mining in the Blair area violates Morgan Stanley’s Environmental Policy Statement, their Statement on Human Rights, and the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“We want to show how putting your money in risky operations such as the Adkins Fork permit is not just morally wrong, but is a good way to lose your money. With Arch’s stocks plummeting to historic lows and their credit score near where Patriot Coal’s was before their bankruptcy, we think banks and investors have much smarter places to put their money,” says Brandon Nida.

March 5 – Rally to Stop MTR and Save Blair Mountain

Rally to Stop MTR and Save Blair Mountain

Join us March 5th to put pressure on the banks funding Mountaintop Removal operations like the Adkins Fork permit at the historically recognized site of Blair Mountain.

Meet up at the Riverfront Park at Kanawha Blvd East and Summers St in Charleston, WV at High Noon!! We will march a half-mile to Morgan Stanley’s Charleston branch, where we will have a rally to stop MTR and the destruction of Blair Mountain!!

Watch our video explaining why the Adkins Fork is so harmful.

Without financing from banks like Morgan Stanley, companies such as Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources would not be able to engage in the destructive and harmful practice of Mountaintop Removal mining.

It is time to demand that these financial institutions be held accountable for the human rights violations they are engaged in. We will be rallying at Morgan Stanley’s branch in Charleston in order to demand that they live up to their promise to ‘do the right thing‘.

Funding the destruction of communities, mountains, heritage, and health is not the ‘right thing’!!

Wear your red bandanas! Bring your signs!

For more information:

On our larger campaign focused on the Adkins Fork permit: http://blairmountain.org/233/

On the practice of MTR:
http://www.ohvec.org/issues/mountaintop_removal/articles/mtr_fact_sheet.pdf

On the health impacts of MTR:
http://acheact.org/

On the banks that are funding MTR:
http://ran.org/coal-finance-reportcard-2012

On Morgan Stanley’s Code of Ethics
http://www.morganstanley.com/about/company/governance/ethics.html

Join a Working Group!!

Hello all!

Over the last few months, many of you have asked how you can be more involved. Well, now we have many ways for people to actively participate in the campaign to preserve Blair Mountain. Whether you live far or near, have a lot of time or very little time, there are ways you can help out.

If you’d like, read over our program outline below, and if you feel like you’d like to be part of one of the working groups, email us at blairheritage@gmail.com

Mission Statement

The primary goals of the Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance are to preserve and raise awareness about the Blair Mountain battlefield and to work toward a sustainable and prosperous future in Blair and the larger central Appalachian region. Our overall work encompasses researching and addressing issues such as environmental concerns, labor, history, education, equality, health, and economic development.

Structure

The BMHA functions as a grassroots organization that seeks to incorporate and serve the interests of the community. Our organization has multiple ways in which community members, volunteers, and core organizers pursue the goals stated in the mission statement.

Community Advisory Group: This is composed of members of the Blair community that advise and provide guidance for the steering committee.

Steering Committee/Core Organizers: This group is composed of core organizers with long-term experience working in the community of Blair, both in regards toward the preservation of the battlefield and community issues.

Working Groups

The groups are composed of volunteers who are able to participate with varying levels of engagement. Groups are bottom-lined by core organizers, and overall strategy is developed with the steering committee. The working groups are as follows:

- Permit Group: tasks are to track and monitor permits and to notify the larger group when important dates or milestones are coming up.

- Events/Outreach: this group is a broad one, working to put together events that raise awareness and help educate about the battlefield. From rallies, letter writing campaigns, artistic projects, historical research, this group has it all!

- Media Group: this group works to issue news releases through both traditional media and social media. If you do not have experience, some training is part of the experience!

- Fundraising: the is the group that keeps things moving! Help host fundraisers and events, or look through grants and help secure foundational monies. This is an important working group for sure!

- Clean Water Group: this group works to make sure safe water is available to the community of Blair and that water testing is being undertaken in order to ensure that pollution is not impairing the health and welfare of the community and environment.

 

 

Take Action Today – Sign the Petition Telling Banks to Quit Financing the Destruction of Blair Mountain

        Many people have not heard of the Battle of Blair Mountain, let alone a place called Adkins Fork in Logan County, West Virginia. But in 1921, the Adkins Fork area was the scene of an intense battle between miners attempting to organize a union and a private coal industry army trying to stop them. It is part of the larger Blair Mountain battlefield that stretches 14-miles along Spruce Fork Ridge, site of the largest labor battle in US history.

Sign the petition to Arch Coal, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and PNC

Ask them to quit financing the destruction of Appalachia

        Ten thousand miners fought for five days against the private army entrenched on the ridgeline, with both sides having high-powered rifles and machine guns. Three regiments of federal troops sent by President Harding were finally able to halt the conflict. The Battle of Blair Mountain was a struggle for workers rights and played a critical role in the history of labor unions in America. This site has national significance and must be preserved for future generations.

         Currently Adkins Fork and the larger Blair Mountain battlefield is threatened by an extremely destructive form of coal mining called mountaintop removal (MTR). This is a process where mountains are blasted and the leftover material is pushed into valleys, filling them up and creating a flat moonscape where rolling hills and hardwood forest once existed. MTR is a process that in recent years has increasingly been tied to health problems such as rare forms of cancer, respiratory illnesses, and birth defects.

Watch our video explaining why this permit is important to stop:

          At the foot of Blair Mountain is the town of Blair, where we live and work. In the late 1990s Blair was a community of about 700 people, currently there are only about 70 residents left. Aggressive buyouts preceded plans to MTR mine around the town and led to the systematic depopulation of the area. The people who have remained have had to live with constant blasting behind the town, carcinogenic dust rolling off the site, and the contamination of drinking water with heavy metals. But people from Blair were some of the first coalfield residents to speak out against MTR, something that is hard to do in central Appalachia where the coal industry dominates the social and political landscape.

        Currently we are fending off six different permits that would impact the battlefield and the communities around it. Our biggest struggle is with the Adkins Fork permit, which is situated in the heart of the battlefield and right above the headwaters of the town of Blair. The Adkins Fork permit is currently up for renewal, and we have mounted a major campaign to block this permit. This campaign will be a tough one and will continue over the next few months and even years.

         The Adkins Fork permit, which is being sought by Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI), is symbolic of the increasing risk that investors and banks are taking by investing in companies like Arch Coal that have MTR operations. It is a permit that has multiple deficiencies, and is being contested by a wide range of concerned citizens, including community members, retired coal miners, archaeologists, labor groups, environmentalists, and regular people across central Appalachia and the rest of the nation.

         If Arch Coal is able to proceed with the Adkins Fork permit, they would destroy one of the only areas we know for certain was occupied by the miners during the Battle. Along with this permit, there are currently an estimated 17,000 acres permitted or under review for the Spruce Fork watershed. The area is comprised of geological strata high in selenium. Selenium is a bio-accumulative compound that is highly detrimental to the nervous system of animals and humans, and is extremely expensive to contain or remove from the ecosystems once it is released. This small compound is one of the reasons Patriot Coal, a major operator of MTR mining in Central Appalachia, was forced to publicly halt all MTR operations just last month. Streams in the Spruce Fork watershed have already been shown to have higher amounts of selenium than regulation allows.

         In addition to Arch Coal seeking a permit that has a wide coalition of people opposing it and which has high levels of selenium, the Adkins Fork has many other deficiencies . For example, the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office refuses to sign off on this permit due to the destruction of major archaeological resources. Valley fills, of which the Adkins Fork permit has three, have been coming under increasing scrutiny by federal regulators. With the stripping of thousands of acres of vegetation and topsoil, the risk of flooding becomes more prevalent.  As more peer-reviewed science shows the link between MTR and severe health problems, companies such as Arch are finding it harder to externalize these risks onto communities such as the town of Blair

         For these reasons and more, those who continue to invest in companies like Arch Coal that conduct strip mining operations such as the Adkins Fork permit take on increasing risk. Right now, Arch Coal’s stock is down to around seven dollars per share from a high of around 73 per share in 2008. Arch Coal’s credit rating is Ba3 sub-prime, just one level above where Patriot Coal (NYSE: PCX) was before going bankrupt.

        The Adkins Fork permit is just one permit by Arch Coal that would impact the town of Blair and the Blair Mountain battlefield. Companies such as Arch are attempting to destroy not just the environment, but whole communities, heritage, and people’s health. Citizen groups and environmental organizations have become more proficient in being able to challenge and block these permits. In fact, one of the only operations to have been halted in mid-operation was in Blair – the Daltex surface mine operated by Arch Coal. In addition, the Spruce No. 1 surface mine, which is the largest MTR mine ever permitted in central Appalachia and which sits on another ridge above Blair, has been the subject of intense litigation for over a decade.

          For those of you who would like to take part in stopping companies like Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) from destroying the Blair Mountain battlefield and other mountains in central Appalachia, there are definite ways you can help and join in our efforts. Even if you live far away, we need you to take a stand and join in our Adkins Fork campaign and the larger efforts to preserve Blair Mountain and stop MTR.

         The first step in this is working in solidarity with a group of community members, organizers, retired coal miners, archaeologists, historians, environmentalists, and others who will be taking part in a public conference with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection this Thursday. While we attempt to show the WV DEP why this permit renewal should be denied, we need as many people as possible to circulate and sign our petition directed at the banks and investors who enable companies like Arch Coal to engage in these destructive operations.

       This is not just about one permit, or one mountain, or one community, but is symbolic of the larger problem of destructive practices such as MTR, and the increasingly reckless investment and financing of these types of operations.

        Take a stand today, and join the team. Tell banks and investors to stop financing the destruction of our homes and health. Stand with us and stay connected as we move through this national campaign. Only together can we stop destructive extractive processes such as MTR.

Sign the petition to Arch Coal, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and PNC

Ask them to quit financing the destruction of Appalachia

Update: Photos from Blair Mountain

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As part of our preservation campaign, we systematically monitor surface mine permits in the Blair area. We maintain and update our permit database with data from on-the-ground monitoring and through research on permit applications. Part of our mission is to provide various stakeholders with the most current information about what is happening with each permit we are challenging.

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Click HERE to see these pictures more closely

These photos are part of this effort, and were taken today. They show the Camp Branch permit (which is an Alpha operation) and the Left Fork permit (Arch operation). The Camp Branch is winding down operations, and we have successfully held them 1000ft away from the battlefield boundary. The Left Fork permit is a complex one, with some mining in the late 80s and early 90s, but with areas near the battlefield just being opened up.

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Both permits are important!! Stay tuned as we provide updates and challenge these operations from moving forward.

 

Eco Watch Reports on Adkins Fork: Your Voice Needed Now to Save Blair Mountain

Your Voice Needed Now to Save Blair Mountain from Mountaintop Removal Mining
11-21-2012

Jeff Biggers

St. Louis-based Arch Coal obviously didn’t get the memo last week.

As fellow absentee coal company Patriot announced its intentions to phase out large scale strip mining operations in central Appalachia, and a renewed effort was launched in Washington, DC to get Congress and the White House to deal with the mounting health and humanitarian crisis and pass the ACHE Act—Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act—moratorium on all mountaintop removal, Arch displayed its Big Coal hubris by moving forth with a permit application to strip mine the historic confines of Blair Mountain in West Virginia.

Another Blair Mountain Thanksgiving, another outlandish, toxic and unnecessary strip mining permit to fight in an area that virtually every historian and archaeologist and coal miner considers to be one of the most important and sacred sites for labor history—the site of largest armed insurrection for labor rights in the country.

In June 2011, hundreds of miners, activists, students, academics, environmentalists and others marched to West Virginia’s historic Blair Mountain in an effort to save it from mountaintop removal.

Residents in the Blair Mountain region need you to speak now against the destruction of their history—and their health and livelihood.

Here’s a link to the writing letter campaign to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on the proposed permit, which is due at the end of this week.

“The Adkins Fork permit would destroy one of the most important areas of the battlefield,” said Brandon Nida, an archaeologist from UC Berkeley and organizer with the Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance located in Blair. “From archaeological surveys, this is the one of the only areas we positively know was occupied by the miners. We’ve found ammunition from the miners, we know where they fought and died. This is some of the most hallowed ground in labor history.”

Earlier this spring, West Virginia-raised Nida gave an overview of Blair Mountain and its historical significance and the latest battle against Arch Coal.

“This permit adds to the cumulative impacts for the Spruce Fork watershed which has an estimated 17,000 acres permitted or with current operations,” said Kenneth King, a local resident who has worked to preserve Blair Mountain for the last twenty years. “And it’s not just the environment, I’m also really concerned about how this is going to affect people’s health.”

King cited numerous peer-reviewed health studies linking mountaintop removal mining to health hazards and risks, including rare forms of cancer, respiratory issues, and birth defects.

Here’s a video overview of the campaign, featuring local resident King:

King added: “We need everyone to write in, but that is just the first step. This is going to be a tough campaign against one of the largest coal companies in the world. We need people to stay involved as we take this campaign to the national level.”

http://ecowatch.org/2012/save-blair-mountain-mtr/