Feb. 13, 2011
FRANKFORT – Fourteen protesters remain in the Governor’s Office of the Kentucky State Capitol on the third night of a sit-in that began Friday morning.
The group, known as Kentucky Rising, is there to demand that Gov. Steve Beshear (D) end his support of mountaintop removal, a destructive form of surface mining that has buried over 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams. They also insist that he withdraw from a lawsuit he filed against the Environmental Protection Agency in an alliance with the Kentucky Coal Association.
Beshear is up for reelection in November.
In a joint statement, the citizens said that they find it unacceptable for an elected official to sue a federal agency with taxpayer dollars on behalf of a multi-billion dollar industry that is responsible for poisoning the land, water, and people of Appalachia.
“It’s disappointing that Gov. Beshear is choosing to play election-year politics with the lives and livelihoods of eastern Kentuckians,” the group said in a joint statement. “Political courage is rare nowadays, and sadly appears to be absent from our Governor’s Mansion. We continue to call on him to engage in a sincere, public dialogue about ending mountaintop removal and beginning a program of economic renewal for our miners and mountain communities.”
The protesters have been staying in the office since talks between them and the governor came to a stalemate on Friday afternoon, when Gov. Beshear finally agreed to meet with them after initially refusing to do so that morning. After repeated requests from group members, he pledged to travel to eastern Kentucky and inspect damage caused by mountaintop removal mining. Despite this, Gov. Beshear continued to express his steadfast support for both mountaintop removal and the coal industry.
The citizens found his position unacceptable, and refused to vacate his office. When they declined to leave, the governor instructed his security team to inform the protesters that they were welcome to stay “as long as they wanted.”
One of the protesters is internationally acclaimed author Wendell Berry. Others include a retired coal miner, a nurse practitioner who treats miners, community organizers, a graduate student, and others.
The citizens say they have treated the governor’s office with the utmost respect and have been overwhelmed with support, gifts, and well wishes from around the world.
A large anti-mountaintop removal rally, with an expected attendance of at least a thousand people, is planned for Monday at noon on the Capitol steps.
Jason Howard (Media Liaison) 606.224.1208
Silas House (Media Liaison) 606.344.0662
Lora Smith (Media Liaison) 606.524.4074
Lisa Abbott (Inside the Governor’s Office) 859.200.5159
Chad Berry (Inside the Governor’s Office) 859.779.1594