Archive for March, 2010

Yesterday, a group of 40 concerned community members members rallied outside the Region 3 EPA building on Arch St in Philadelphia, where they demanded that the Agency stop approving new permits for mountaintop removal (MTR) mining. Philly’s Region 3 office reviews MTR permits in Virginia and West Virginia.

The crowd chanted “Ending MTR, who has the say? Region 3 of the EPA!”, while myself and fellow Rising Tide activist Josh Yoder attempted to enter the building with a letter for senior Region 3 Administrator Shawn Garvin. We were prepared to risk arrest (apparently entering a public government building without an appointment is an arrestable offense in Philadelphia) in order to deliver our message and secure a meeting with Jeffrey Lapp, an administrator who oversees the 404 Group that reviews the permits. We first contacted and met Lapp in November and requested a meeting in January, but had not heard back.

When we attempted to enter the building, we were headed off by multiple security guards, followed quickly by the arrival of several police officers who blockaded the doors so that no one could enter or exit. A security guard assured us that someone would come down and meet with us, but we could not enter. Josh and I gave them five minutes before we would try to enter, which would have likely lead to our immediate arrest.

Lucky for us, the guards were not bluffing, and within minutes we saw Jeff Lapp’s familiar face through the line of cops. He accepted our letter on behalf of Garvin, and promised to set up a meeting with us within one week, by March 8th. Victory!

Robin and Josh speak with EPA Administrator Jeff Lapp

We took this opportunity to ask him questions about his role in ending MTR, as well as about specific sites, such as the Bee Tree site on Coal River Mountain. We requested that we meet with administrators with the authority to meet our demands. While we talked, the crowd of people banged drums and chanted “It’s time to take a stand. Jeff Lapp, lend us a hand!” When we felt we had sufficiently grilled him, we said goodbye and returned to the rest of the rally, where we announced our victory. After some triumphant chants, everyone packed up our gear and shared hot chocolate and cookies.

Simultaneous to our action, activists in Atlanta rallied outside their Region 4 EPA Office, responsible for reviewing MTR sites in Tennessee and Kentucky. Activists were able to meet with a top administrator – Stanley Meiburg, who got off an important call with national EPA head administrator Lisa Jackson to meet with them! Meiburg told them he was aware of our contact with Garvin in Philly, and agreed to set up a meeting in Atlanta too!

Overall, the two actions were a huge success, and a great lead-up to this weekend’s Week in Washington. To see pictures of both actions, check out RAN’s flickr album.

This action was organized by Philly Rising Tide, Philly Against CoalRainforest Action Network and Energy Justice Network.

Thanks to everyone who supported us! We’ll be sure to keep the pressure on when we meet with Jeff.