ROCK CREEK — Massey Energy has filed a politically motivated civil suit, also known as a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit, against 14 activists arrested last year in relation to a protest on a mountaintop removal mining site.
Since the spring of 2008, Massey has filed at least four SLAPP suits against activists in West Virginia working to end mountaintop removal, none of which have yet been resolved, said Hildes. Commonly used to exhaust critics by burdening them with the cost of a massive legal defense, SLAPP suits have been banned by at least 26 states and one territory has protections against SLAPP suits. West Virginia does not have a ban, but its courts have adopted some protections against them (1).
"Massey Energy is already publicly notorious because of their history of safety violations and damage to local communities. In April 2010, Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine suffered a preventable disaster that took the lives of 29 miners and was widely covered by the press. Thousands more safety violations have been reported in Massey mines throughout West Virginia and Kentucky since the Upper Big Branch disaster. Massey also continues to be one of the leading proponents of controversial mountaintop removal mining practices. Above ground, over 500 mountains, 2,000 miles of rivers and streams and over a million acres of forest have been decimated by mountaintop mining operations. Finally, Appalachian communities near Massey mountaintop removal operations are harmed through coal dust, regular blasting, dirty water and coal waste."
Rock Creek resident Charles Suggs, agrees with Hildes:
On June 18, 2009, in Twilight, the 14 activists named in the lawsuit risked their safety to stop massive, 20-story earth-destroying piece of mining equipment known as a dragline. The protesters claims their action was intended to protect the families whose lives are harmed every day by this destructive mining practice. Massey now seeks $350,000 in damages for loss of coal production on that day. All 14 activists had their criminal charges resolved in a West Virginia court in September, 2009.