Press Release: Appalachian Leaders Invite U.S. Interior Secretary Jewell to Tour Mountaintop Removal Impacted Communities

A coalition of groups has invited the Secretary to tour communities impacted by mountaintop removal

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Numerous citizen groups, including the regional coalition The Alliance for Appalachia, have recently sent invitations for U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to visit Appalachia and see mountaintop removal from the perspective of those living near the destructive mining practice. In addition, groups wish to showcase initiatives working towards healing the land, communities and economies that have been impacted by over a century of mining activity.

“It is vital for Secretary Jewell to hear from citizens from each state where mountaintop removal is happening. Our hope is that she can visit more than one site, and hear from more than just a few impacted residents,” said Mary Love, the Land Reform Committee co-chair for Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC).

Earlier this month, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Joe Pizarchik, Director of the Federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, visited West Virginia to meet with state agencies and coal company officials. While in Appalachia, Secretary Jewell mentioned an interest in returning to hear the concerns of citizens who are living near mountaintop removal mines, if those groups invited her to the region.

“We were curious when Secretary Jewell mentioned she would like to be invited by citizen groups, since we have invited the Secretary multiple times. I invited her personally during a meeting in 2014, shortly after she took her position,” said Ann League, executive director of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), who was forced to leave her home after a nearby mountaintop removal mine ruined her well water.

The Alliance for Appalachia has invited Secretary Jewell to tour the region on several occasions, most recently during a meeting with the agency this past March.  In an open letter to the Secretary last week, The Alliance for Appalachia mentioned a need to engage in creative dialogue around key issues, including lack of oversight over current mining operations and the need to protect public health and strengthen the regional economy.

“We’re pleased to once again invite Secretary Jewell to visit our communities and see these issues from the perspective of people who have lost their health and their community to mountaintop removal coal mining. We want her to see that there is a sustainable future in Appalachia beyond this devastating practice, and explore the ways her agency can be a part of building that future,” said Jane Branham, chair of The Alliance for Appalachia and a board member of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.

The Alliance for Appalachia is a coalition of groups across the Central Appalachian region working to end mountaintop removal and other destructive coal technologies, as well as to create a just and sustainable future for Appalachia. Members include Appalachian Voices, Coal River Mountain Watch, Gainesville Loves Mountains, Hands off Appalachia, Heartwood Forest Council, Highlander Research and Education Center, Keepers of the Mountains Foundation, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Sierra Club Environmental Justice, The Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, SouthWings and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
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Open Invitation to Secretary Jewell to Visit Appalachia

The Honorable Sally Jewell
Secretary
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Jewell:

On behalf of our 15 grassroots groups throughout Central Appalachia, the Alliance for Appalachia invites you to visit Appalachia to meet with community-based organizations and impacted citizens that face the direct consequences of mountaintop removal coal mining.

We understand that you recently met with coal industry representatives in West Virginia. They  represent only one perspective on the communities where they operate. They fail to acknowledge the broad and harmful impacts mountaintop removal has on the communities near mines and on the region as a whole. We invite you to visit Appalachia to see firsthand the ongoing challenges caused by mountaintop removal mining operations and allow us to showcase concrete examples of initiatives that could benefit Appalachian communities now and build a more resilient future.

Communities across much of Central Appalachia have for decades been under persistent and increasing threat from adverse impacts to our health, our environment, and our economic opportunity as a direct result of mountaintop removal and related coal industry practices. It is critical that you understand the personal toll that lax regulations and poor enforcement have placed upon many members of communities across the Appalachian region.

The Alliance for Appalachia can be a catalyst to help your agency develop sensible solutions that will protect public health and promote and strengthen the regional economy. We want to facilitate a constructive dialogue to address the impacts of mountaintop removal in a manner that closes serious gaps in oversight and works toward more effective policymaking. We look forward to working with you to solidify a date for this visit, specific locations, and determining any resources you need to make your trip as productive as possible.  Please let us know how we might move forward with assisting you with the execution of this visit with citizens of the region.

Sincerely,

Jane Branham,
Coordinating Committee Chair

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth ● West Virginia Highlands Conservancy ● Ohio Valley Environmental Council ● Coal River Mountain Watch ● Appalachian Voices ● Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards ● Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment ● Keepers of the Mountains ●  The STAY Project ● Heartwood ● Sierra Club Environmental Justice ● Southwings ● Highlander Educations and Research Center ● Gainesville Loves Mountains ● Hands Off Appalachia

 

Spring Updates

We’re hiring!

We’re so grateful for our funders large and small who’ve allowed us to expand our staff! We’re excited to announce that we’re hiring an economic transition coordinator to continue the work of our amazing AppFellow Kendall Bilbrey.

Applications are due June 29th. Please share this job description with your networks and be sure to share it to your Facebook page!

Abandoned Mine Lands Discussion Continues

Our Economic Transition team has been busy with a tour to discuss our plans to work with the AML fund and to learn from our local leaders about what’s needed. Our whitepaper on the AML fund, co-written by our AppFellow Kendall Bilbrey and Eric Dixon with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, along with other leaders in our AML Policy Priorities group, is coming out later this summer. The release has been delayed a bit as the whitepaper has grown to a comprehensive guide to the complicated fund – the current draft is over 140 pages long! We’re excited to reveal this important new resource to the community.

In addition, the AML Policy Priorities Group hosted an educational tour across the region to share the information gathered through a participatory research process about the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund. The tour included a variety of presentations and discussions with community members, conference presentations, organizational presentations, and an in-person summit, totaling to ten presentations across the region both in-person and virtually.

The number of attendees varied from a large in-person summit to a handful of community leaders at other stops. Through our tour we were able to reach well over 150 people, and put tools and resources in their hands to learn more about Abandoned Mine Lands issues in their communities and beyond.

Updates from the Movement: 

Two Hearings in DC
Appalachian advocates traveled to DC twice last month to discuss the need to end mountaintop removal. Dustin White (pictured below with Thom Kay behind him on CSpan) testified at a hearing on the hotly anticipated Stream Protection Rule (SPR)  we expect to see from the Obama administration later this month.

Dustin explained the need for federal action to protect Appalachia:

“Most of the Appalachian states with mountaintop removal have their own regulatory agencies that are supposed to be the first line of defense for communities when coal companies violate the law.  These agencies exist in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. In West Virginia we know them as the DEP or Department of Environmental Protection. But many in WV say DEP stands for something else… ‘Don’t Expect Protection’ as citizens often find themselves doing the job of the DEP to monitor the impacts of mining.”

And our friend Michael Hendryx testified at another hearing also regarding the SPR – and a bill called “The Stream Act” that would block the Obama administration from writing the Stream Protection Rule, and thus take away one of the administration’s avenues for limiting mountaintop removal. Dr. Hendryx was frank, at one point telling The Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee:

“The Stream Act in my view is an unnecessary delay and a threat to human health. Instead, I call for the complete enforcement of existing stream buffer rules, or stronger rules that the [Office of Surface Mining] may put forth, to prevent the dumping of mining waste into streams.”

Read more about the hearings here.

Victory! Mining Operations Halted Near Kanawha State Forest
Our friends at the Kanawha State Forest (KSF) Coalition have been working hard the past few years to stop a mountaintop removal mine from destroying this beautiful forest near Charleston, WV. The mine has had more than 20 violations in the last years, putting the area community at risk.


In great news, the WV Department of Environmental Protection finally took action, ordering the mine to cease operations until the company can show the DEP that they fully abate the violations and eventually reclaim the site. Quoted in this Charleston Gazette article, local resident Chad Caldwell pointed out, “If [the] DEP had listened to our concerns, they never would have issued this permit in the first place. We sent a petition to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin with 5,000 signatures. He ignored it.”

We’re certain this victory is due to the constant vigilance and fearless organizing of KSF members. Congratulations!


Outlaw Coal Baron Billionaire Sets His Sights on WV Governor’s Mansion
Jim Justice – target of the regional Justice to Justice campaign, recently expressed interest in becoming governor, much to the dismay of the thousands who have been cheated out of wages by Justice bad business practice, or had their communities damaged by outlaw mines he owns.

As Tom Torres, an activist with the Justice to Justice campaign and the group Hands Off Appalachia, says in this Grist article, “He has this public persona as a down-home charitable member of the community, and at the same time he owes millions of dollars to unpaid contractors and all these state and federal agencies for labor violations and environmental violations and safety violations.”

Sign this petition against Jim Justice‘s bad actions here to join the campaigning for him to clean up his mess and pay off his debts.

Frasure Creek Continues to Pollute Kentucky Communities
Under the Clean Water Act, polluting industries monitor their own water pollution and submit quarterly reports to the state environmental agency.

Five years ago, KFTC, Appalachian Voices and other groups found evidence that many large coal companies – including Frasure Creek – had submitted thousands of false water pollution records.

Five years later, they are still at it – a look at Frasure Creek’s recent reports shows that 25% of the reports submitted by The company appear to contain false data, hiding actual findings of water pollution violations.  Read more about this ongoing problem and the work activists are doing to stop this reckless behavior in this article.

Appalachian Regional Commission Hosts Listening Sessions On Economic Transition
Last week, citizens from across Appalachia attended a listening session hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission in Morehead, KY.

Organizers are still curious to see what the outcome of these listening sessions will be, given the checkered history of the ARC’s work in the region, but are showing up to join the conversation. The focus of member groups of The Alliance for Appalachia and our allies include the inclusion of youth and grassroots wisdom, as well as a frank discussion about the economic future of our region as coal reserves dwindle. As Sierra Club Beyond Coal Organizer Gabby Gillespie says in this article:

“We have seen a lot of progress on this front in Central Appalachia over the past five years. It seems that more and more citizens every day are willing to let the “coal is our future” rhetoric fall to the wayside and are far more open to talk about new economic opportunities in the region. Many folks in the groups I engaged in at the event wanted to see more spaces for sharing intergenerational knowledge and skills, as well as seeing much more youth engagement.”To learn more about these listening sessions, visit the ARC website.

We’re Hiring!

 

Job Title: Economic Transition Coordinator

Hours: 30 Hours per week
Salary: Commensurate with Experience
Location: Appalachia

Background:

The Alliance for Appalachia is a regional grassroots coalition with the goals of ending mountaintop removal coal mining, putting a halt to destructive coal technologies and supporting a just and sustainable transition in Appalachia. The Alliance for Appalachia began in 2006 and consists of 15 organizations across four states, as well as regional organizations and allied groups.

The Alliance for Appalachia is governed by a Steering Committee made up of one representative and an alternate from each of the member organizations. We have Coordinating Committee and Work Teams on federal strategy, and economic transition, as well as other ad-hoc teams working on special projects.

Duration:

The position is 30 hours a week

Reports to:    

The Economic Transition Coordinator reports to the Economic Transition Team of The Alliance for Appalachia, with direct oversight by the Coordinating Committee.

Scope:

The Economic Transition Coordinator will be responsible for the facilitation of participant lead groups focusing on federal programs that support a sustainable economic transition in Appalachia. This position will also be required to research federal policies, share information, organize meetings and events, and serve as an educator.

  1. Facilitating Appalachian participation in Power+ advocacy
    1. role of this group focusing on federal and supporting state based strategy
  2. Facilitating Appalachian participation in national Abandoned Mine Land (AML) reauthorization campaign
  3. Conducting and sharing/distributing findings of research on Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfield redevelopment opportunities
  4. Organizing and facilitating Alliance/stakeholder events and meetings, including:
    1. Alliance and Economic Transition Team meetings
    2. Engaging with federal, state and local leaders and government bodies
    3. Stakeholder meetings with ARC, EPA, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), US Department of Labor (DOL), state AML offices, and other appropriate state and federal agencies
  5. Serving as an educational resource for Alliance partners and other stakeholders
    1. strategy within focus areas
    2. educational outreach as base building

Qualifications:

  • Have an understanding of the Appalachian region and communities impacted by lack of  economic diversification issues
  • Dedicated to a sustainable and just transition in Appalachia
  • Experience working with multiple stakeholders in a fast-moving and collaborative environment
  • Organizing and facilitation of large group events (e.g. lobby days, stakeholder meetings, etc)
  • Ability to support working in a team environment
  • Experience in research methodology
  • Exceptional analytic and writing skills
  • Ability to break down and communicate complicated public policy
  • Reliable and self starter
  • Flexibility to travel frequently

Compensation:

Compensation is commensurate with experience. A pro-rated benefits package, meaning that a half-time employee will receive half of a standard benefits package, is available. We provide annual cost of living adjustments and annual salary bumps to credit experience. Staff will earn vacation days, holidays, sick days and personal days. We also have a compensation time policy.

Location:

This Coordinator must be located in the Central or Southern Appalachian area, specifically near the coalfield areas of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, or West Virginia

Please submit a cover letter, resume, a short writing sample and three references with emphasis on research and organizing/facilitation-related experience to A4Ahiring@gmail.com with Economic Transition Coordinator in the subject line.  

For a description of The Alliance for Appalachia member groups go to: TheAllianceForAppalachia.org.

The Alliance for Appalachia is an equal opportunity employer. Women and people of color are strongly encouraged to apply.

New Feature Released

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. The tool, shown below, allows you to explore a map of the region.

communities at risk map tool

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!

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.

March Updates

The Alliance On Tour – Are We Coming Near You? 

The AML Policy Priorities Group is launching a spring AML Educational Tour to share their research with communities across Appalachia. The goal of our research is to recommend policy change through our AML Whitepaper, and share the paper with communities and organizations so they can learn more about how the fund works, and what policy changes are necessary for leveraging these funds into our communities.

The AML Policy Priorities Group is a multi-stakeholder group initially formed to inform the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund research project of two Appalachian Transition Fellows and their host organizations: Kendall Bilbrey, The Alliance for Appalachia and Eric Dixon, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.

Other recent work from this program includes an Ask the Director Meeting with the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) in Washington, DC. During the meeting, Director Joe Pizarchik and his staff answered questions from citizens about the agency’s work. Several Alliance for Appalachia members joined coalfields citizens across the country in person and by phone. This meeting was coordinated by Citizens’ Coal Council.

If you’re interested in getting more involved in this work, you might join us for the AML In-Person Meeting, April 2nd at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn. Join us for our second in-person meeting in Benham, Kentucky as we discuss our work, present our paper, strategize for the future of the group, and have a collaborative space to learn and build networks.

Other opportunities to engage with this program include:

  • KFTC Land Reform Committee, Prestonsburg KY (Postponed from Weather, TBA)

  • Society for Applied Anthropology Conference, Pittsburgh PA– March 24th

  • Appalachian Studies Association Conference, Johnson City TN– March 27th-29th

  • AML Policy Priorities Group In-Person Meeting, Benham KY– April 2nd

  • SOCM Chapter Tour, East TN — April 6th-9th

  • Clearfork Community Institute, Eagan TN — April 9th

  • Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Hazard KY– May 8th

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!

Back to DC: A Meeting with 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.On Wednesday, March 11th 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.We’re excited to continue to plan out our 2015 strategy at our upcoming Spring Steering Meeting March 31st-April 1st; it is an opportunity for our member groups to gather to share work updates, set strategy and build our regional work. For more information, contact Samantha@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

Updates from the Movement: 

Great news! Quakers win a major victory in the fight against MTR!
After five years of action by Earth Quaker Action Team, PNC announced Monday a shift in its policy that will effectively cease its financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.

Together we have shifted the policy of the seventh largest U.S. bank! This marks a major turnaround for PNC, who for years refused to budge on this issue. After more than 125 actions, their desire to continue business as usual proved no match for EQAT and our allies. Bowing to pressure from Quaker environmentalists, PNC Bank announced that it will be restricting financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. The shift outlined in its 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report means PNC Bank will effectively cease its investment in this controversial practice.

In 2012 PNC Bank financed Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, CONSOL Energy, and Patriot Coal, which together were responsible for nearly half (44.97%) of Appalachian mountaintop removal production. PNC’s total investment was $687.5 million for that year.

The grassroots group leading the charge for PNC’s new policy, Earth Quaker Action Team, hails the change as a major shift by the seventh largest US bank. “When we initiated our campaign in 2010, PNC attempted to placate us with a hollow policy. It’s good to see that PNC Bank is now taking meaningful steps,” says Matthew Armstead, staff coordinator for EQAT. “Since this shift happened because of external pressure, it should be a wake-up call for everyone that the power of change lies with regular citizen activists.”

Read more about this victory on EQAT’s website.

Apply to be an AppFellow!
The deadline for fellow applications for the next cycle of the Appalachian Transition Fellowship is less than a month away! If you are committed to building a just and sustainable Appalachia, you can join a select group of emerging leaders from across the region in the Appalachian Transition Fellowship. The fellowship is a community partnership of innovative regional organizations, institutions, and other emerging leaders. Go here to apply, or send this along to an inspiring young person in your life.

Folks of all ages can apply to attend Wild & Wacky Witty and Wonderful Workshop Week at Highlander, an inspiring week of fun, education and service at the historic Highlander Center.


Putting Their Foot Down: Hundreds Rally at WVDEP

Several hundred people gathered in Charleston, WV on Monday, March 16th for the People’s Foot rally at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The event was hosted by a coalition of West Virginia groups demanding an end to mountaintop removal and working to highlight the devastating effects of mountaintop removal on the health of local residents. MTR and health issues.

Victory!: WV Officials Agree to Examine Health Issues Connected to MTR
In an exciting update, the day after the People’s Foot rally, state officials agreed to examine the science on the links between MTR and health issues. According to this Charleston Gazette article, Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Rahul Gupta said, “The analysis is something that is needed going forward. The bottom line here is to let science speak for itself. It’s time that we attempt to do that.”

West Virginia Groups Sue the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement
On March 17th, seven local, regional and national groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Office of Surface Mining for failing to intervene on West Virginia’s lax oversight of mountaintop-removal and other destructive surface coal mining — a state program that has, for decades, allowed the coal industry to ravage the environment, putting people at risk and destroying local communities.

The state’s chronically poor oversight has included a persistent failure to conduct inspections meant to protect people and the environment from coal companies that operate outside the law. Out-of-control mountaintop-removal coal mining is linked to epidemics of cancer, cardiovascular disease and birth defects in affected communities. West Virginia has also failed to undertake required assessments to ensure lakes, rivers and drinking-water wells aren’t harmed by mountaintop-removal mining and other destructive surface coal-mining practices.

Learn more about this important case at Coal River Mountain Watch’s website.

Coal Industry Scheme to Increase Mountaintop Removal in Tennessee
For years, coal companies have successfully pressured state regulators in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia to ease enforcement of environmental protections, and now they hope to do the same in Tennessee. Those states have what is called “primacy” under federal surface mining law, and with state primacy, mountaintop removal has proliferated.

If Tennessee were to gain primacy, it would not only lead to more pollution, it would be a nightmare for our state’s taxpayers. An effective coal mining regulatory program would cost as much as $4 million annually, and Tennessee only produces around .1 percent of coal mined in the U.S. each year. Instead of allowing the federal government continue to fund the Office of Surface Mining’s field office in Knoxville, Tennessee taxpayers would pick up the tab.

Activists are working hard to stop this push in Tennessee and to protect their mountains from further mountaintop removal mining.

Support Our Work!
Donate to The Alliance for Appalachia

Series of Landslides and Mine Blowouts Show On-going Dangers from Coal’s Legacy in Appalachia:

Congress Should Support Obama to clean up dangerous areas says this editorial by the Lexington Herald Leader.

The History of Spills and Other Disasters in Appalachia are examined by Inside Appalachia, including a look at the anniversary of the Buffalo Creek Disaster.

Hughes Creek Mine Blowout Threatens Local Community 
The West Virginia mine is reported to store toxic coal slurry and has been leaking for days. In the picture below from the Charleston Gazette, green dye is being used to track the water discharge.

Mingo County Mudslide forces evacuation.

Clean up Continues After Mine Blow Out Covers Lynch, KY The highway is clear, but residents still dealing with aftermath; officials are seeking AML funding to cover costs of clean up.

Landslide Near Yeager Airport Destroys Church; Forces Evacuation The airport in Charleston, WV was built on a former mountaintop removal site. The landslide continues to threaten area communities.

More News Updates:

STAY Project Appalachian Love Stories Highlighted  more stories at this link as well. This series showcases Appalachian Pride by members of the STAY Project. Art by Katie Hanna

WV DEP Head Acknowledges Connections Between MTR and Health Impacts; says a “closer look” might be in order.

NYTimes article about our allies’ strategic work to de-fund mountaintop removal companies reflects on the successful campaigns.

Coal Ash Stories Highlighted in Upcoming Film and Discussion SOCM and partners will host a free open community discussion on the continuing impact of Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal ash landfill, the recent lawsuit filed by the state against TVA, and what it means for the future of the Gallatin community.

Kentuckians Advocate for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in this fascinating, detailed look at energy and climate issues in Kentucky.

Summary of Don Blankenship Case by Coal Tattoo for those who are following the complicated tale.

Outrage Around Plans to Rollback Safety Regulations that were passed after the 2014 Chemical Spill in West Virginia.

AML Policy Priorities Tour

The AML Policy Priorities Group is launching a spring AML Educational Tour to share their research with communities across Appalachia. The goal of our research is to recommend policy change through our AML Whitepaper, and share the paper with communities and organizations so they can learn more about how the fund works, and what policy changes are necessary for leveraging these funds into our communities.

The AML Policy Priorities Group is a multi-stakeholder group initially formed to inform the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund research project of two Appalachian Transition Fellows and their host organizations: Kendall Bilbrey, The Alliance for Appalachia and Eric Dixon, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.

Updated AML Educational Tour Schedule

  • KFTC Land Reform Committee, Prestonsburg KY (Postponed from Weather, TBA)
  • AML Policy Priorities Group Conference Call: March 18th 11am
    • 760-569-6000, PIN: 465-754
  • Society for Applied Anthropology Conference, Pittsburgh PA– March 24th
  • Appalachian Studies Association Conference, Johnson City TN– March 27th-29th
  • AML Policy Priorities Group In-Person Meeting, Benham KY– April 2nd
  • SOCM Chapter Tour, East TN — April 6th-9th
  • Clearfork Community Institute, Eagan TN — April 9th
  • Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Hazard KY– May 8th

Questions about the tour? Contact Kendall@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

Upcoming: AML Educational Tour

EducationalTourFlyer

 

The AML Policy Priorities Group is launching a spring AML Educational Tour to share their research with communities across Appalachia. The goal of our research is to recommend policy change through our AML Whitepaper, and share the paper with communities and organizations so they can learn more about how the fund works, and what policy changes are necessary for leveraging these funds into our communities.

The AML Policy Priorities Group is a multi-stakeholder group initially formed to inform the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund research project of two Appalachian Transition Fellows and their host organizations: Kendall Bilbrey, The Alliance for Appalachia and Eric Dixon, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.

Updated AML Educational Tour Schedule

  • KFTC Land Reform Committee, Prestonsburg KY (Postponed from Weather, TBA)
  • AML Policy Priorities Group Conference Call: March 18th 11am
    • 760-569-6000, PIN: 465-754
  • Society for Applied Anthropology Conference, Pittsburgh PA– March 24th
  • Appalachian Studies Association Conference, Johnson City TN– March 27th-29th
  • AML Policy Priorities Group In-Person Meeting, Benham KY– April 2nd
  • SOCM Chapter Tour, East TN — April 6th-9th
  • Clearfork Community Institute, Eagan TN — April 9th
  • Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Hazard KY– May 8th

Questions about the tour? Contact Kendall@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

Quakers Force PNC Bank to End Investment in Mountaintop Removal

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Bowing to pressure from Quaker environmentalists, today PNC Bank announced that it will be restricting financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. The shift outlined in its 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report means PNC Bank will effectively cease its investment in this controversial practice.

In 2012 PNC Bank financed Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, CONSOL Energy, and Patriot Coal, which together were responsible for nearly half (44.97%) of Appalachian mountaintop removal production (1). PNC’s total investment was $687.5 million for that year.

MTR1

The grassroots group leading the charge for PNC’s new policy, Earth Quaker Action Team, hails the change as a major shift by the seventh largest US bank. “When we initiated our campaign in 2010, PNC attempted to placate us with a hollow policy. It’s good to see that PNC Bank is now taking meaningful steps,” says Matthew Armstead, staff coordinator for EQAT. “Since this shift happened because of external pressure, it should be a wake-up call for everyone that the power of change lies with regular citizen activists.”

According to EQAT’s analysis, PNC’s changes in investment will sever ties with the two largest companies (Alpha and Arch). Given Patriot Coal’s bankruptcy and CONSOL Energy’s imminent shifting out of mountaintop removal, PNC Bank will be left without any major investments in mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal has long been criticized for its negative environmental and health impacts. This process of getting coal from a mountain involves blowing up the top of the mountain and dumping the remains into rivers and valleys. The contaminants from the dynamite hang in the air and the sludge and residue from this process poisons water (2). Scientists note the impact of burning dirty coal is speeding up global climate change.

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