James Hansen Arrested Protesting Massey Coal Plant

Police in West Virginia arrested about two dozen demonstrators Tuesday, including renowned climate scientist James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah and former West Virginia Congressman Ken Hechler.

The demonstrators were arrested for trespassing on property owned by coal giant Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE) to protest the company’s mountaintop removal coal mining operations. 

According to reports, the demonstrators deliberately entered Massey’s Goals Coal plant to draw attention to the destruction of Appalachian forests, landscapes and communities by mining practices. 

The Goals Coal plant is adjacent to the Marsh Fork Elementary School in Raleigh County and is a site of ongoing protests in the region. 

Hansen is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.

"I am not a politician; I am a scientist and a citizen," Hansen told a crowd of about 350 people gathered at Marsh Fork Elementary. "Politicians may have to advocate for halfway measures if they choose. But it is our responsibility to make sure our representatives feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is politically expedient."

He said that the practice of mountaintop removal, which provides only a small fraction of coal supplies, should be abolished.

The demonstration was timed to draw attention to a Congressional hearing tomorrow on "The Impacts of Mountaintop Removal Mining on Water Quality in Appalachia. The hearing will be held by the Water and Wildlife subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Last week the Obama administration released a new interagency plan to regulate–rather than abolish–the mining practice.

In September of 2008, former Vice President Al Gore urged young people to engage in civil disobedience to halt the construction of new coal-fired power plants. 

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