In the wake of a devastating chemical spill in West Virginia and decades of damaged water from mountaintop removal mining and other coal industry abuses, citizens have won a huge victory for our water and our future.
A federal appeals court stated that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are authorized to do their jobs and protect Appalachian communities from mountaintop removal.
This decision gives EPA the opening they need to create a federal rule that supersedes the corruption of state politicians and that has enough teeth to make a real difference in Appalachian communities.
Chatter about economic transition in the coalfields is growing, and Obama’s POWER+ Plan for FY16 has joined the conversation. The Alliance for Appalachia is excited to see a proposal in the administration’s budget for solid investment, reclamation and job creation in Central Appalachia. Coal mining communities have contributed so much to America’s prosperity, and today are continually faced with mounting health, environmental and economic costs.
The president’s plan calls for economic diversification, disbursement of additional funds, and incentives to pair reclamation with community wishes for economic development. This new plan begins to address many of the concerns that Appalachian communities have been advocating for years. Community leaders have been predicting the decline of coal for decades , and have been coming up with common sense solutions like many outlined in the POWER+ plan.
The Alliance for Appalachia is ,however, disappointed to see focus on carbon capture technology in the POWER+ Plan, which the Alliance and many leading scientists feel is a dead-end technology. Instead, the Alliance would like to see more investments in energy efficiency and renewable technologies that have real potential to transition our energy system while immediately benefiting low income families struggling to meet rising energy costs.
Appalachian communities must do their part to make sure that our congressional leaders side with the interests and needs of their constituents at this critical turning point in our region’s future, including supporting future legislative measures to make sure these funds enter our communities.
The AML Policy Priorities Group is a citizens’ group which originated from the efforts of Appalachian Transition Fellows working for The Alliance for Appalachia and the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. Through the Highlander Center’s Appalachian Transition Fellowship program, these organizations have been collaborating to create a whitepaper regarding AML fund opportunities and policy recommendations in Central Appalachia and to bring together leaders and community members throughout the region who are working on the issue.
“The AML money needs to come back to where it came from, and where the healing is needed,” said Jane Branham of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Wise County, VA. “We have all these people out of work from mine closures, and we can put people back to work healing the land – it’s not just good for the land, it’s good for the people, and would be a project our community could really take pride in.”
The Alliance for Appalachia is a coalition of groups across the Central Appalachian region working to end mountaintop removal and other destructive extraction methods, as well as to create a just and sustainable future for Appalachia.
Questions? Contact the Alliance’s Appalachian Transition Fellow Kendall Bilbrey at email@example.com