GJEP Joined the group opposing this new prison –the largest in the region–proposed for construction on former coal mining sites in eastern Kentucky.
31 March 2015–Organizations and individuals from across the country have joined the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) in filing a comment opposing a plan by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to build a new federal correctional facility in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky. The comment, filed on Monday pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), addresses multiple issues related to a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that analyses two potential locations for constructing the largest federal prison in the region—both on former coal mining sites.
The public comment, which can be read in its entirety here, follows several years of controversy surrounding this project in a rural region where the prison industry has made many unfulfilled promises of economic prosperity to local communities.
The comment provides a thorough analysis of the impact of the proposed facility siting and addresses social, economic and ecological concerns, including:
Ø Health impacts on the surrounding community from prison sewage and industrial waste;
Ø Health concerns for prisoners who will be forced to use highly contaminated water;
Ø Impacts to forest, farmland and regional waterways;
Ø Impacts to over 50 threatened species, including the rare and federally-endangered Indiana Bat;
Ø And finally, whether the prison is actually needed and what alternatives exist to our nation’s longstanding policy of mass incarceration.
The proposed prison siting cannot proceed unless the BOP complies with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. Based on HRDC’s findings set forth in the comment, the EIS fails in numerous respects to adequately identify environmental impacts and describe legally-required mitigation efforts.
“For 40 years the federal government has been building prisons on abandoned mines, toxic waste sites and polluted military bases, endangering the prisoners, staff and communities that house these facilities,” stated HRDC Executive Director Paul Wright.
“The time has come to end the prison building binge, reduce prison populations and house prisoners in the communities that they come from and will return to in safe conditions that protect prisoners, staff, the environment and public safety.”
HRDC has been advocating on behalf of the human rights of people held in U.S. prisons, jails and other detention facilities for the past 25 years. As an advocate for incarcerated people, HRDC is concerned about the environmental impacts of prisons—both the impacts felt by prisoners themselves as well as impacts on the “external” social and ecological environment.
HRDC also publishes Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine on prison- and criminal justice-related issues nationwide. For more information, please visit: www.prisonlegalnew.org and www.humanrightsdefensecenter.
Along with these two groups, HRDC’s comment was signed by 9 other organizations and 8 individuals, including the Center for Biological Diversity, a group that has litigated on behalf of the Indiana Bat; the Abolitionist Law Center, which is representing prisoners who have reported serious health issues at SCI Fayette in Pennsylvania related to surrounding coal operations; the Global Justice Ecology Project; and three professors at Eastern Kentucky University.
UPDATE: Since the filing of the comment, HRDC has received confirmation that at least 5 additional organizations in Kentucky have signed on in support of the comment and the BOP is considering a request to extend the comment period to allow for additional public input.
Urgent: Please take action before March 26, when Timoteo’s trial resumes
The Guatemala Solidarity Project urgently calls for solidarity with political prisoner Timoteo Chen Tun and the indigenous and peasant movement in Guatemala after last week’s disturbing “trial.” Timoteo Chen is a community leader and health worker who should be honored for his longstanding commitment to others. Instead Timoteo is in prison for organizing nonviolent action against the theft of indigenous lands by the company Hidro Santa Rita.
Timoteo has been in prison for nearly a year. The public prosecutor’s office has no evidence against him and has repeatedly suspended hearings and invented new charges in order to keep him in prison. Representatives of Hidro Santa Rita have visited him in prison to threaten him and pressure him to sign documents in their favor. They have also visited and threatened his family.
Timoteo was arrested while leading a health workshop at a nearby community and the impact on the area has been devastating. He is one of the few health workers in the area and has been tirelessly doing this work for over 10 years. His family has fallen into extreme poverty and Timoteo doesn’t even have shoes to protect his feet from the cold cement floor of the mountain prison he is unjustly being held in.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
On March 11, 2015, the notoriously corrupt public prosecutor’s office of Coban, Guatemala again showed its criminality and audacity by accusing Timoteo Chen Tun of the murders of 11 year-old David Estuardo Pacay and 13 year-old Ageo Isaac Guitz. Numerous people witnessed the murders and there has never been any doubt about who did it. David and Ageo were murdered on August 23, 2013 by Guillermo Bol. Bol was an employee of Hidro Santa Rita, a company that is trying to steal land from Timoteo’s home community of Monte Olivo as well as numerous surrounding communities.
On that day fellow Monte Olivo community leader and environmentalist David Chen was meeting with Inter-American Court of Human Rights investigators about the repression against area communities. The armed Hidro Santa Rita employee went to David Chen’s house, threatened to kill him, and instead shot his two nephews David and Ageo who were nearby.
Police refused to arrest Bol or investigate the murder of the children. After continued protest and refusal of the police to take action, Bol himself was murdered. It is possible that Bol was murdered by people looking for vengeance for the murder from the children and to prevent him from killing others.
Timoteo Chen was arrested in April 2014 while leading a health workshop at nearby community Cubilguitz. The district attorney has invented numerous charges against Timoteo. Because there is no evidence against him, the prosecutor has repeatedly requested a delay in hearings. Timoteo remains in prison without having the right to a fair trial. After a judge ruled against various charges for lack of evidence, the prosecutor recently invented the story that Timoteo killed the young children.
Timoteo’s incarceration is part of a series of acts of repression against his community Monte Olivo and dozens of nearby indigenous q’eqchi’ communities. The purpose is to steal their land for cattle grazing and the construction of a hydroelectric plant to sell electricity abroad.
In 2008, the government issued Hidro Santa Rita a license to build the electric dam without consulting area communities. In 2010 over 20 communities held official assemblies to demonstrate their opposition to the project. On March 22, 2012, soldiers invaded Monte Olivo and created a military base there. After significant nonviolent protest, the military withdrew in April of 2012.
In January of 2013 arrest warrants were ordered against Monte Olivo community leaders on false charges. On August 14 community leader David Chen survived an assassination attempt, and on August 23 his nephews were murdered. On November 8, 2013, neighboring community Xalaja Canguinic is attacked by paramilitaries. Dozens of houses are burned to the ground and community leader Carlos Guitz is shot in the back and paralyzed.
In August 2014 over 1,000 soldiers attack Monte Olivo and surrounding communities. Three leaders are assassinated, dozens are injured and homes are burned down. Peasant leader Thomas Chen is beaten unconscious and arrested.
Hundreds of q’eqchi’ leaders have arrest warrants against them in attempts to terrorize communities and facilitate the theft of their lands. While the Obama administration threatens Venezuela allegedly because of concerns about human rights abuses, the US continues to collaborate closely with the Guatemalan military and security apparatus. Guatemalan soldiers continue to be trained at the US Army School of the Americas. US Marines and Special Forces participate directly in training and missions inside Guatemala. Before the recent wave of repression, US officials attended the opening of a new “model police station” in which it was announced that the police would work to “reconstruct the social fabric of the area.”
Written by Marina Sitrin, 2 March, 2015 UpsideDown World
What began with a few neighbors meeting to find out what it would mean if Monsanto located in their town, turned into hundreds, thousands and, within weeks tens of thousands of residents and supporters organizing regular demonstrations and creating an ongoing blockade of a construction site. Not just any construction site, the location of what would have been – if not for people’s power – the largest genetically modified seed processing plant in the world. The town of Malvinas stopped Monsanto. Their story and inspiration resonate across the globe. As Vanessa and others reflected, if they can stop the giant Monsanto they can change the world.
At 7:00 a.m. a group of over 50 activists blocked vehicle access to Dominion Resources’ Tredegar Campus in Richmond, Virginia to protest the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Traffic quickly formed on Tredegar Street as activists stretched large banners across the road and paraded large puppets around the scene. Two activists remain suspended from a pedestrian bridge with a banner reading “Stop Selling Our Futures” while a larger crowd occupy the access way to the campus below.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would transport natural gas from West Virginia, where there is a boom in hydraulic fracturing, 550 miles, through Virginia, and into North Carolina. “This proposal would be a dangerous investment in fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the scientific consensus is clear that we must invest in renewables, such as wind and solar, to avoid further warming of our planet. ” said Whitney Whiting from Newport News, Virginia.
This action follows several months of grassroots resistance in the region against Dominion. On February 3, an activist scaled a crane at a construction site for Dominion’s proposed Cove Point LNG export facilities in Lusby, Maryland. On February 9, activists with the group Beyond Extreme Energy staged a disruption at a Dominion analyst meeting in New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, also with the message “Stop Selling Our Futures”.
Shantae Taylor from Norfolk, Virginia said, “As a person of color, I am out here because I am disturbed by the climate crisis in the Commonwealth. The Tidewater region is second only to Louisiana for its vulnerability to sea level rise. Now we’re facing the additional threat of offshore oil and gas drilling. I don’t want another Hurricane Katrina or BP oil spill to happen here. It’s time to push back against Dominion’s corrupt political influence and demand an end to fossil fuels.”
“I’ve been born and raised in Virginia, where we have pride in our land”, said Phil Cunningham, from Prince Edward County. “Now Dominion wants to come steal people’s property and sell our futures to the highest bidder. We are here to send the message to Dominion that people matter more than profits. This is our Keystone XL, and we will stop it. ”
A study published by GRAIN.org details the struggles faced by peasants in northern Mozambique as governments and foreign companies dash to accumulate land for large scale agribusiness projects.
“The result is that small farmers and pastoralists from across Africa are under increasing pressure from governments and companies to give up their lands and water resources. According to a 2010 World Bank report, more than 70% of the large scale agricultural land acquisitions that have occurred in the world over the past decade have been in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Ethiopia, Sudan and Mozambique.”
Despite promises to the contrary, a number of foreign companies, some in tandem with local businesses linked to Mozambique’s ruling FRELIMO party, have already amassed large regions of farmland while pushing out thousands of peasant families.