April Updates

We’re excited to see the roll-out of a powerful new feature at iLoveMountains.org that works to show the ongoing impacts of mountaintop removal.

For years, it was impossible to track the spread of mountaintop removal coal mining in Central Appalachia over the course of time. Appalachian Voices has compiled 30 years of satellite imagery and other data to show how this destructive form of coal mining is gradually getting closer to communities, even as coal production in the region is declining.

Of the thousands of communities at risk, the research identified the top 50 where the adverse effects of mountaintop removal — including water pollution, increased health risks, poverty rates and population loss — is greatest.

Take a moment this week to explore this new powerful feature and learn more about the communities at risk from mountaintop removal!

Springtime Meetings for the Alliance and Our Allies

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. This spring has been busy with meetings as we work to together to make our plans for the future of our work – and of the region! Here is a quick summary of what we’ve been talking about:

Meeting With Allies in DC

In March The Alliance for Appalachia hosted an Allies Strategy meeting in D.C. We convened at the Sierra Club in D.C. and met with a group partner organizations and national allies including RAN, EarthJustice, and Greenpeace. We discussed our policy priorities for the Obama Administration in 2015 and how we can all work together to forward those goals.

While in DC, representatives of Alliance member groups also met with the Department of the Interior with deputy directors of OSMRE and with the Office of Water at the EPA. Both agencies agreed to look into some of our concerns and we hope that we also made some valuable contacts to continue pushing for much needed change from this administration.

Snapshots from our month of meetings! Getting great minds together to create a just and sustainable Appalachia!

Spring Steering Meeting

The Alliance for Appalachia hosts meetings several times a year for our member groups to gather, celebrate and share our work and create new strategy and priorities for our work teams. This April we gathered in beautiful Benham, KY at the historic Schoolhouse Inn.

One focus of our spring meeting was to flesh out our federal strategy plans for the coming months –  especially with regard to the comment periods for the Stream Protection Rule and Selenium Standard. Stay tuned as we roll out a plan to take action on these important policy changes!

AML Policy Priorities Tour and Summit

Leaders from Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky used the knowledge presented at the April AML Policy Priorities Summit meeting combined with their previous expertise and experience with AML issues to discuss the changes to policy needed in order to eliminate hazards to communities, restore our lands, and create diverse economic opportunities along the way.

Ironically, just up the road from our meeting the town of Lynch was experiencing major problems with their water from two mine blowouts in the past few weeks. While they are still determining the root cause, it’s believed to be an AML problem in both instances. The Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands is keeping the people of Lynch waiting while trying to determine if a) It really is an AML problem b) if they have funds to clean up the problem and restore clean water to the residents of Lynch. They are currently unable to drink, cook, or brush their teeth, and this is certainly making an economic impact on Lamplight Coffee House and other businesses, churches and households in Lynch.

It is our hope the the work laid out at the AML meeting can help bring more funds to communities like Lynch to address their problems rather than in times of disaster.

Presence at the Appalachian Studies Association

March 27-29th the annual Appalachian Studies Conference was held at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. The Alliance for Appalachia hosted a session entitled “Our Water, Our Future” that was heavily attended.

Our AppFellow, Kendall Bilbrey, and Eric Dixon of the Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center, served on a roundtable discussion entitled “Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation and how Communities Influence Mine Cleanup, Create Jobs, and Diversify our Economy Through Policy Change” to much acclaim. The Alliance for Appalachia’s table was a must see as many people came by to donate money, pick up bumper stickers and buttons, sign up for the I Love Mountains e-mail list, or just to talk about their experiences and get to know The Alliance for Appalachia. All involved agreed that the conference was a great success and provided us with a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and meet new and interesting people dedicated to celebrating and improving Appalachia.

Updates from the Movement: 

Last month’s newsletter brought the news that PNC Bank had divested from mountaintop removal, and now Barclays bank has chosen to do the right thing!

Barclays PLC, the world’s #1 financial backer of mountaintop removal coal mining last year, just announced it’s ending its support for mountaintop removal. This is huge news for mountains and for communities in Appalachia! Read more at The Guardian: http://a.ran.org/r1f

Our activists and allies at Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards triumphed this month when the permit for a new mountaintop removal site in Wise County, VA was rejected! The Ison Rock Ridge mine would have destroyed 1,300 acres of mountain, buried 14,000 feet of streams, and polluted local water

Crayfish Against Mountaintop Removal

Healthy critters in our streams are an important sign that the water is safe for all life. So it’s key that we keep an eye on the crawdads!

Our friends at Center for Biological Diversity have created a petition and lawsuit that forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose to protect two species of crayfish from Appalachia under the Endangered Species Act. The crayfishes have been lost from more than half of their ranges because of water pollution, primarily from coal mining. The Big Sandy crayfish is known only from the Big Sandy River basin in eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia; the Guyandotte River crayfish is known only from the Guyandotte River basin in southern West Virginia.

This listing proposal means that federal agencies will now have to confer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before funding or permitting any activity that could harm the animals. When the listing is finalized in 12 months, it will be illegal for any person or corporation, including coal companies, to harm the crayfishes or their habitat. The Service will propose critical habitat to protect the crayfishes in the near future.

Mountain Justice Annual Summer Gathering 
Disorganizer’s Gathering! – May 30 – June 2
Organizer’s Gathering! – June 4 – June 7

This year, MJ is branching out from our traditional summer camp model to meet the evolving needs of a network that has built up over MJ’s 10 years of resistance to the destruction of Appalachia. Over the last decade, this time together has become an important place for organizers doing powerful work in Appalachia to share stories, collaborate, build the movement, and just hang out in lovely spots in the mountains. Our spot this year is in the Kanawha State Forest, close to Charleston, WV, and right next to a sprawling strip mine. The location is beautiful and intentionally chosen: not only will we get to hike and bike in these lovely mountains with friends old and new, but host organizers with the Kanawha Forest Coalition will share experience from the campaign to permanently shut down the KD #2 Mine.