NAOMA, W.Va. — Actress Daryl Hannah and NASA scientist James Hansen were among 31 people arrested Tuesday as they protested mountaintop removal mining in southern West Virginia.
State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous said all were released after being cited for impeding traffic and obstructing an officer after they blocked a road near a Massey Energy Co. subsidiary’s coal processing plant.
Another woman, who was among a crowd of mining industry supporters, was charged with misdemeanor battery, Baylous said.
The arrests followed a rally involving several hundred protesters outside an elementary school about 300 feet away from the plant’s coal storage silo. After the rally, protesters marched quietly to the plant and attempted to enter the property, but were blocked by several hundred coal miners shouting, “Go home.”
The protesters, who also included former U.S. Rep. Ken Hechler, sat on the road before surrendering.
Mountaintop mining involves blasting away ridgetops to expose coal seams. While mine operators typically are required to return the mountain to its approximate original shape, excess material is used to fill valleys, burying streams.
“It’s not necessary,” Hannah said before she was arrested. “If you do it wisely, there are ways to use renewables. It’s realistic for everybody.”
Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University, criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for not banning the practice. The administration does plan to tighten regulation of it.
Miners such as Fred Griggs, who works at a Massey surface operation, arrived in droves to apply pressure of their own.
Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings “Defending my job,” he said, leaning on a pro-mining placard. “I’ve got to support my family.”
Massey vice president of surface operations Mike Snelling said the company did not bring miners to protest.
Richmond, Va.-based Massey is the nation’s fourth-largest coal producer by revenue. It operates mines in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.
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