Protesters Disrupt Coal Industry-Funded “Science” Symposium

16 Apr

Cross Posted from

Today two protesters disrupted the first symposium held by the Appalachian Research Initiative in Environmental Science (ARIES), a coal industry funded research consortium.

Joe Solomon and David Baghdadi marched into the opening session of the “Environmental Considerations in Energy Production” Symposium, locked themselves together, and started chanting “Coal kills, science lies.”  They also played recordings of the late Judy Bonds and Larry Gibson, long-time leaders in the fight against strip-mining.  The plenary panel included the top state mining regulators from West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky, including WV Dept. of Environmental Protection.

Joe and David said they would unlocked if even one West Virginia citizen was allowed to speak on the panel.  Symposium organizers chose instead to clear the room, call the Charleston Police and have the two arrested.  More protesters outside the symposium sought to highlight the questionable nature of research produced with coal industry money.

4 people holding a banner reading "Clean Coal Dirty Lie!" outside the ARIES conference at the Marriot in Charleston

Protesters outside the ARIES conference confronting industry funded science at the Charleston Marriott

“This is just another example of the coal industry cynically trying to muddy the waters, distort the science and delay the inevitable,” said Junior Walk of Boone Co., WV who attended the protest, “Truly independent scientists and Appalachian citizen’s daily experiences both have proven strip mining damages community health, local economies and local watersheds.  It’s time for action.”

The protesters today were acting in solidarity with Appalachian residentsthat are at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Regions 3 and 4 in Philadelphia and Atlanta today to demand the EPA issue a “conductivity rule”.

Over three years the EPA has released independently reviewed science clearly linking higher conductivity from strip mines with damage to overall stream health.  Citizens’ groups across Appalachia have been calling on the EPA to translate this science into an enforceable, numeric limit.

ARIES is a multi-university effort “to engage in detailed studies of the environmental impacts of the mining, gas and energy sectors in Appalachia, focusing on both upstream (mining, drilling, and processing) and downstream (water, land and air) issues” funded by 15 million dollars from corporate sponsors including Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, Natural Resource Partners, TECO Coal, Patriot Coal, Cliffs Natural Resources, Mepco, Norfolk Southern and CSX.  The project is directed by Virginia Tech’s Center for Coal and Energy.  The Center director Dr. Michael Karmis made the true purpose of the ARIES project clear at a September 2011 meeting of the Society of Mining Professors.

“”The coal industry needs help,” said Karmis, citing the industry as “under a major attack” from “unreasonable regulations” based on “questionable science,” “false assertions” and “self-serving interests.”

The very first “Technical Bulletin” published by ARIES promoted a study of a single stream in the Virginia coalfields that purported to refute volumes of data linking conductivity and impaired streams.

“This country has seen these same dirty tricks before from the lead, tobacco, and asbestos industries.  The industry funds scientists to create just enough doubt to delay strong government action.  We won’t be fooled again and we won’t let the coal industry get away with it,” said Joe Solomon.

Read more about ARIES in this excellent article by Ken Ward Jr.


I Refuse to Be Silent

By Joe Solomon

Today a friend and I interrupted a coal conference – one where industry funded scientists are trying to cast doubt on the clear evidence of the ravages of coal. These scientists are worse than a disgrace: their lies and willful misdirection condone the war the coal industry is waging on West Virginia and the people of Appalachia.

There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that coal–and mountaintop removal in particular–is poisoning the people of Appalachia. Just one of dozens of recent peer-reviewed studies tell us that the rate of children born with birth defects is 42% higher in mountaintop removal communities.  The evidence is likewise clear that the coal carbon bomb locked underneath Appalachia’s mountains make up one of the biggest American accelerators of climate change. NASA’s former lead climate scientist tells us “coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet.”

I refuse to be silent, to sit back, when the US treats its own beloved state of West Virginia as a colony for King Coal. We can do better. And we must.

I am a current resident of the southern coalfields of WV. Though I hail from Vermont. We share the same ridge-line. We are all connected. My actions here pale in comparison to what happens when the Green Mountain State stands up strong for what’s becoming the Mountaintop Removal State. I invite my fellow Vermonters to join us in solidarity this Summer and beyond.

WV has a bright, clean energy future, if we seize it. Last month, 100% of the new US electricity generated was solar power. We share the same sun as the rest of the country; let’s tap into it. We are ranked as the 49th state when it comes to energy efficiency. It’s time to fight to be #1: creating thousands of jobs that save neighbors money, without the risk of black lung.

King Coal and the fossil fuel and extreme energy corporations are digging in with all they’ve got to reap the last profits from wrecking our planet. It’s time for us to dig in too. With resolve, solidarity, and love.

Rumor has it we are in store for quite a fearless Summer of resistance. I like to think that Summer’s spirit may be already here.

One Response to “Protesters Disrupt Coal Industry-Funded “Science” Symposium”


  1. A Call For More Meeting Disruptions! | Earth First! Newswire - June 11, 2013

    […] lies!” The activists had to be removed by police, and successfully delayed the meeting. You can read the full story […]

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