THE BLOG
04/20/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

NEWS: Arrests, Actions: Blowing Off Thumbs of Soldiers, Blowing Off Mountaintops, Does JP Morgan Chase Fund Crime?

Racketeering: The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) (18 USC §§ 1961-1968) prohibits (1) acquiring, establishing, or operating an enterprise with illegally derived income, (2) acquiring or maintaining an interest in or control of an enterprise through illegal activity, and (3) using an enterprise to commit illegal acts (Extortion, Blackmail, Etc. , 31A Am Jur 2d).

As fearless nonviolent protestors occupy the corporate office of a life-threatening and violation-ridden mountaintop removal operation in the Coal River Valley, West Virginia this morning, hundreds of thousands of American citizens are jamming the social media networks today, calling on JP Morgan Chase to end their financing of arguably criminal mountaintop removal coal mining operations in Appalachia.

Al Gore may have called mountaintop removal "a crime and ought to be treated as a crime,"
but God bless veteran activists Mike Roselle, Joseph Hamsher, and Tom Smyth and the footslogging Climate Ground Zero nonviolent campaigners who are willing to put their lives on the line to stop mountaintop removal mining.

God bless the Rainforest Action Network and their broad alliance of citizens groups and environmental organizations that are bringing the deadly realities of mountaintop removal--from forced removal of American citizens, devastated communities and economies, poisoned watersheds, and unacceptable levels of blasting and fly rock--to the Wall Street bankers that earn millions of dollars every year from the sacrifice zones in the Appalachian coalfields.

Last year, RAN and other organizations effectively convinced Bank of America to stop lending money to mountaintop removal outlaws.

Daring and effective groups like RAN and Climate Ground Zero deserve as much financial support as possible--write and tell Chase Community Giving to make a huge donation to their work.

In the meantime, these activists and organizations follow a long line of great American patriots willing to stand up to unscrupulous corporate activity.

An old coal miner in eastern Kentucky, who had once been beaten and left for dead by coal company thugs in his attempt to form a union in the 1930s, told me this story many years ago: As a young banker during the Civil War, JP Morgan purchased 5,000 defective rifles (Hall carbines) from an arsenal, and then resold them back to Union forces for a 5-fold increase in profits, despite knowing that the defective rifles often blew off the thumbs of the American soldiers.

Howard Zinn added in his classic, A People's History of the United States, "A congressional committee noted this in the small print of an obscure report, but a federal judge upheld the deal as the fulfillment of a valid legal contract. Morgan had escaped military service in the Civil War by paying $300 to a substitute."

The Appalachian coal miner was proud of the fact that his ancestors, like many mountain communities in the South, had served in the Union forces during the Civil War--that Appalachians, in fact, had been in the forefront of the anti-slavery movement.

Instead of blowing off the thumbs of soldiers, Appalachians patriots are now contending with outside financiers and bankers like JP Morgan Chase bankrolling the criminal and civil violations of absentee coal companies that are blowing off the tops of mountains.

According to RAN:

JP Morgan Chase is the biggest US financier of mountaintop removal coal mining. According to Bloomberg, JP Morgan Chase maintains ongoing financial relationships with 5 of the top 10 corporate producers of mountaintop removal coal. These 5 companies: Massey Energy, International Coal Group, Arch Coal, CONSOL Energy, and TECO Energy were responsible for mountaintop removal mining nearly 38 million tons of coal in 2008 - the most recent year with complete data. Imagine if JP Morgan Chase took this money and invested it in renewable energy alternatives!

Massey Energy, in particular, appears to revel in its violations of laws and regulations. According to an intent to sue legal notice filed last month by various citizens groups:

Between April 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, Massey violated its effluent limits at its various operations at least 971 times, and accrued 12,977 days of violation during that 12-month period. The U.S. government's lawsuit against Massey, which resulted in the $20 million settlement, alleged more than 60,000 days of violations over a six-year period, or about 10,000 days of violations per year.

Massey's violations are both civil and criminal. As I wrote last year on the battle at Coal River Mountain, where the protesters are currently halting blasting:

With 19 Appalachian mining operations valued at $2.6 billion in 2008, parent company Massey had demonstrated a merciless coveting for coal at any expense.

In a haunting parallel to the Tennessee coal ash disaster, a Massey subsidiary in eastern Kentucky had been responsible for the largest coal slurry spill in 2000, leaking over 300 million gallons of toxic sludge into the area's waterways and aquifers. Massey's political connections in the Bush administration, however, resulted in a slap-on-the-wrist fine and the firing of one of the industry's veteran whistle-blowers.

Not that Massey altered its policies. By 2008, it had been forced to pay $20 million in penalties for dumping toxic mine waste into the region's waterways; before the year was out, Massey shelled out a record $4.2 million for civil and criminal fines in the death of two coal miners in West Virginia.

For more information on today's Chase Social Media Day of Action, go to Dirtymoney.org

And to follow the nonviolent protest on Coal River Mountain, go to Climategroundzero.org

Jeff Biggers is the author of the recently released memoir/history, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (Nation/Basic Books).