For a joyously peaceful week, residents beneath Massey Energy’s Edwight mountaintop-removal site in the Pettry Bottom community in the Coal River Valley of West Virginia have received a reprieve from reckless blasting, fly rock, silica-dust showers, and potential flooding–thanks to tree-sitter Nick Stocks, who voluntarily came down at 10:00 a.m. on Monday. The seventh day into the protest, Stocks and fellow tree-sitter Laura Steepleton endured all-night sleep-deprivation tactics from Massey security guards, including the firing up of chainsaws last night. 

UPDATE, September 1, 10am EST:  According to Climate Ground Zero, both protesters “have been charged with trespassing, obstruction and littering, and their bail has been set at $25,000 each.  For the past five days, they endured psychological torture, verbal assault and threats.”

A direct report from Rock Creek, West Virginia has been filed by Rainforest Action Network:http://understory.ran.org/2009/09/01/where-in-the-world/

UPDATE, Aug. 31, 5:00 p.m. EST: According to Climate Ground Zero, the State Police have confirmed that Laura Steepleton also descended the tree and has been arrested.

Stocks stated, “To this day the DEP [West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection] has acted as a thin, weak delegate for Big Coal in West Virginia. They have circumvented, sidestepped, dismissed, and lied to communities and individuals who look to them for protections that ought to assure healthy children, safe drinking water, and a continued existence in the valley. To this day, they have not done their job to even the slightest degree. When the government fails in its obligation to protect its people and communities are made unsafe and unlivable, it is the responsibility of all concerned people to turn attention to that failure and do all in their capacity to ensure the safety of the community. If the DEP doesn’t do it, we must do it ourselves, and we will go beyond. We will stop the devastation of this mountain and protect the communities below. We will end mountaintop removal.

The security guards’ actions with lights and air horns are making the situation less safe, Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice volunteer Charles Suggs said. “Depriving sleep from people who have to maintain safety systems to prevent a fatal fall endangers their lives.”

Filmmaker Jordan Freeman has released an incredible aerial video of the massive Edwight mountaintop-removal site, the nearby coal-sludge impoundment, and the protesters nuzzled into the lush Appalachian forests.

As part of a growing national campaign to stop mountaintop removal, the protesters have drawn attention to the West Virginia DEP’s lack of enforcement of mining laws, and the deleterious impact of the mountaintop-removal blasting, silica dust, and fly rock on the health of the local residents, their watersheds, and deciduous forests. Just last Friday, fly rock and boulders from a strip-mine site slammed into a home in eastern Kentucky.

For updates on the action or to support the defense fund, visit Climate Ground Zero or Mountain Justice. Also find out more about the West Virginia DEP’s negligence.

Here’s more of Jordan’s film work on the recently released documentary Coal Country: