Mile-High Protest

For three environmentalists, ground zero is sixty feet up in the air

Three environmentalists have climbed trees at Massey Energy's Beetree Surface Mine in southern West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal coal mining. 

Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice identified them Thursday as David A. Smith, 23, Amber Nitchman, 19, and Eric Blevins, 28.

The groups say they're sitting on platforms about 60 feet above the ground.  Organizers say the protesters want a federal ban on mountaintop removal mining to preserve sites such as nearby Coal River Mountain, among other things. 

Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater says protesters are endangering themselves and miners and will waste taxpayer money if police get involved. Gillenwater says Coal River Mountain has been extensively mined, but the current operation doesn't use mountaintop techniques.

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