Moving Forward Together: February Newsletter from The Alliance for Appalachia

Abandoned Mine Land Project Moving Forward

A few weeks ago, President Obama announced the POWER+ Plan for the FY 2016 budget that prioritizes opportunities for economic diversification and development in coalfield communities, creating a large buzz (see News Updates below). This budget proposal is a step toward recognition for the potential for new and just economies to thrive in Central Appalachia, but it is far from the beginning of the conversation. Workers, state officials, community groups, political heads–people across Central Appalachia have been asking for years: “What’s next for our region as the coal economy declines?”

That question will be explored in an upcoming whitepaper from our Economic Transition team that looks at the Abandoned Mine Lands fund’s potential to help revitalize local economies while mitigating dangerous environmental conditions left behind from old coal mines.

This timely project is a culmination of research led by Eric Dixon and Kendall Bilbrey, AppFellows working with The Alliance for Appalachia’s Economic Transition team, Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center and the Highlander Center.

On April 2nd, The Alliance for Appalachia and Appalachian Citizens Law Center will co-host an Abandoned Mine Lands Summit and training–to work with community leaders from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia to learn about the Fund, the findings of the whitepaper, and to explore how we as a region can begin to advocate for these important changes.

To support this important work, or to help us provide scholarships to community members who wish to attend the spring summit to learn more about these issues, donate here!

Upcoming Strategy Meetings 

Now is the time for us to work together to push the Obama administration for urgent action to protect mountain communities from the impacts of mountaintop removal and to begin planning for a sustainable future for Appalachia.

In the next month, The Alliance will be hosting several strategy meetings as we map out the course of our year. On March 11th, we’ll be hosting a national strategy meeting in Washington, DC. We invite representatives from our member groups, other regional stakeholders and national allies to join us in aligning our efforts.

March 31st-April 1st will be our Spring Steering Meeting; it is an opportunity for our member groups to gather to share work updates, set strategy and build our regional work. For more information about any of these upcoming meetings, contact Samantha@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

Updates from the Movement: 

Appalachian Leaders Travel to Extreme Energy Extraction Summit

Leaders working to end mountaintop removal attended the Extreme Energy Extraction Summit, an opportunity to network and learn from environmental justice leaders from across the US and across many issues.  Daile Boulis, a volunteer with OVEC and the Kanawha Forest coalition who took the photo above, has written up the event here, if you’d like to learn more about the powerful toxic tour participants took that showed the continuing devastation of the BP OIl Disaster and other severe environmental justice issues experienced in the Gulf South – as well as the inspiring local leaders who are working to stop these poisonous industries.

Upcoming Mountain Justice Camps
Mark your calendars for these engaging camps which provide information on mountaintop removal and a variety of ways to take action against it.

March 7-14th will be Mountain Justice Spring Break, at Natural Tunnel State Park in Southwest Virginia hosted by the RRENEW Collective and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.

The 2015 Mountain Justice Summer Convergence will be held in beautiful Kanawha State Forest, just south of Charleston WV, from Saturday May 30 through Sunday, June 7.  The Convergence is held in conjunction with the Kanawha Forest Coalition, a citizens’ group which is opposing a mining permit for a new mine adjacent to Kanawha State Forest.
The Mountain Justice Summer Convergence will have a variety of workshops, site tours and hikes during the day, based on an “Unconference” model, which will allow the camp to be flexible and more spontaneous.  The camp will evolve throughout the week based on the input and feedback of the camp participants.   Evening activities will include speakers, a panel discussion with members of the Kanawha Forest Coalition, live music and dancing.  Tent camping is available and all meals will be cooked on site by a kitchen collective.The event is low-cost and accessible to most budgets.  The 2015 Mountain Justice Summer Convergence is intended to be meeting of minds, broad-based, a regional gathering open to everyone in the coal, climate and energy movement. For more information and to register, go to  www.mountainjustice.org

Kentucky Celebrates Ten Years of I Love Mountains Day!
Hundreds braved the frigid weather for an inspiring day in Frankfort, KY.  The day focused on building New Power in the region for a just transition. As Teri Blanton said during the event, “We understand that there can’t be a climate movement over here, a racial justice movement over there, and a just economy movement somewhere else. We get the connections. We live in those intersections. We know that we are all in this together.” Read more on the KFTC Blog! 

ACHE Act Introduced into US House of Representatives
Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25) reintroduced the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act, legislation that would require the first comprehensive federal study of the health dangers of mountaintop removal coal mining. The ACHE Act, H.R. 912, would place a moratorium on all new mountaintop removal mining permits while federal officials examine health consequences to surrounding communities.  Learn more about the bill and the campaign here.

SOCM Members Fight a Coal Ash Landfill
SOCM Members rallied against dangerous proposed changes to the TVA Kingston Coal Ash landfill. This area is still experiencing toxic after effects of the 2008 coal ash disaster. The ground beneath the proposed Kingston coal ash landfill features sinkholes, cavernous bedrock, and rapid groundwater flow. All the groundwater beneath the landfill eventually flows into the Clinch River, according to a geologic study of the proposal! Learn more about the community’s work on SOCM’s blog and in thisnews article. One community event was the documentary showing pictured below.

Support Our Work!
Donate to The Alliance for Appalachia

News Updates:

Inside Appalachia Covers Reactions to the POWER+ Plan Across the Region – and interviews Betsy Taylor, a member of our Economic Transition Team. Details of the plan are covered here 

Federal Court Finds Fola Violated the Clean Water Act Thanks to a lawsuit led by citizen groups West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Sierra Club and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition represented byPublic Justice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Fola’s water violations have been noted, despite the lack of enforcement from state agencies.

Citizens Fight WV Legislature Efforts to Rollback Water Regulations
Despite the 2014 Water Crisis, when a coal chemical spill crippled the Charleston economy and left 300,000 people without access to clean water, the WV Legislature is looking to reduce water protections.

Decision allows Kentucky to use flawed “General Permit” to shield polluters from responsibility
The Sixth Circuit Court declined to hold ICG Hazard’s Thunder Ridge Surface Mine in Leslie County, KY accountable for dangerous selenium pollution, though it did recognize that the mine is damaging area streams, and noted that state regulators had chosen not to limit the pollution.

W.Va. state school board moves back toward original climate change standards 
After massive criticism for trying to remove the science from science curriculum, a new version of the standards has been released.

Dirty Bakken Oil Train Derailment Causes Massive Explosion in West Virginia
This terrifying explosion is yet another example of the dangers our region faces from an out of control, unregulated fossil fuel industry.

Appalachian Regional Coalition Evaluates Progress. 
After 50 years of work in the region, this comprehensive report examines ongoing poverty and health issues.

Renewable Energy Bill Ended in West Virginia
The already weak renewable standard has been repealed by the new state legislature.

Appalachian Love Story Focuses on young people working to stay in the region. This series is part of the STAY Project.

Bid to pull permit at Kanawha State Forest Surface Mine Denied Groups will continue to fight the dangerous mine.

Take Action: Protect Our Streams!

Visit our partner site iLoveMountains to take action on this important issue!

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.

It�s time to seal the deal. Tell EPA to protect our water and our future!

Obama Offers POWER+ Plan to Expand Funds to Coalfields, Incentivize Community Led Economic Development

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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 kendall@theallianceforappalachia.org