James Hansen, NASA's chief climate scientist, was arrested Tuesday while protesting against mountaintop coal mining in West Virginia.

Hansen was taking part in a demonstration organized by the Rainforest Action Network and that included actress Daryl Hannah, 94-year-old former Representative Ken Hechler (D-WV), and noted environmentalist Judy Bonds.  He was one of 31 people cited and released for blocking traffic and obstructing an officer on a road near Massey Energy Company's Goals Coal plant, the Associated Press reported.

Coal miners were apparently miffed by the demonstration, preventing the protesters from trespassing as they had planned, and shouting for them to "Go home."

Hansen has criticized President Barack Obama for not tightening restrictions on the mining practice.  "I am not a politician; I am a scientist and a citizen," Hansen said in a statement.  "Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, should be abolished."

The 68-year-old physicist is profiled in this week's issue of The New Yorker as a crusader who believes that if the world's coal plants are not shut down in the next twenty years, the planet is headed towards climate disaster.  Thirty years ago, Hansen developed one of the world's first climate models, nicknamed Model Zero, and became one of the most outspoken critics of the George W. Bush White House for distorting and suppressing climate science. Notably, he is also opposed to the cap-and-trade system currently before Congress, because it will allow the construction of new coal plants.

Today, a Senate subcommittee is holding a hearing on the impact of mountaintop removal on water quality in Appalachia.

Image of James Hansen being arrested courtesy Rainforest Action Network