Support the RECLAIM Act

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These are challenging days. But we are ready for action, and to begin the work to rebuilding our region’s economy. If you are looking to spread a little hope today, we encourage you to read this letter about the RECLAIM Act and sign this petition to help move this important bill forward. Then pass the petition along to a friend.

Dear friend,

My name is Katie Dollarhide and I was born and raised here in the Appalachian mountains of east Kentucky. I’m writing to ask you to do one simple thing to help support communities in Kentucky that are struggling with the decline of the coal industry: sign a short statement of support that I will share with my Senator Mitch McConnell and other members of Congress.

Click here to show your support.

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Congress has the opportunity right now to bring $1 billion back to impacted states across the country to reclaim abandoned mines and create jobs and economic opportunities by passing the RECLAIM Act. But time is running short in this Congress.

When you sign this statement of support, your name will be joining thousands of others across the state and country who support a bright future for coal mining communities.

I care deeply about this place and the loved ones that make it home. But right now folks in the region can’t pull ahead no matter how hard we try, and many of us feel like our communities have been abandoned. We refuse to give up on these mountains, but we need some tools in order to construct our dreams for this place.

The RECLAIM Act isn’t just a five year project, it could be the beginning of our new future. It represents a seed that, with a little nurturing, will help my community and many others blossom and bloom. It would help us grow hope in a place where it’s been extracted.

You can learn more about why I care about this issue and why I think it’s important for us all to care by clicking the link here.

The time is now for Congress to get behind struggling coal communities and pass the RECLAIM Act by the end of the 2016 congressional session. Let’s bring our voices and hundreds more to the table.

Thank you for all you do,

Katie Dollarhide

Letcher County, KY

July-August Newsletter

News from The Alliance

July Steering Meeting and Team Summits

July was a busy month around The Alliance while we geared up to host a Steering Meeting, two team summit convenings, and a 10-year anniversary celebration in Hindman, KY at the beautiful Hindman Settlement School.  

At the Steering Meeting, our member organization representatives came together to share collective space, recall early Alliance history at our 10-year juncture, and strategize our next 6-months work and beyond.  The Steering Committee approved a new standing team– the Leadership Development Team. This team’s work plan already includes a six-month facilitation mentorship program and plans for an anti-oppression/collective liberation training.

Takeaways from the Federal Strategy team summit include a renewed commitment to work on bonding-related research and ideas around how to navigate the presidential election and first 100 days of a new administration.  The Economic Transition Team’s summit focused on AML priorities, including continued work on the POWER Plus Plan and related legislation, and discussion around how this team is going to effectively share our collective knowledge with ours and other communities working towards a just future.

New Alliance Member Organization- Welcome CCJ!

In other Steering news, this summer we welcomed the Center for Coalfield Justice as a new member organization of The Alliance.  CCJ was formed as the “Tri-State Citizens Mining Network” in 1994 by a coalition of grassroots groups and individuals concerned about the effects coal mining had on communities and the environment. The people involved recognized the need to work together to build a strong voice in the coalfield community. Tri-State was re-organized into Center for Coalfield Justice in 2007 and has since expanded to work on fossil fuel extraction issues generally.

CCJ, based in Southwest Pennsylvania, has worked with The Alliance and its members for years. There are no MTR sites in Pennsylvania.  However, citizens there are dealing with other harmful coal practices, like long-wall mining and legacy mining issues.  Our shared experiences lead to collective learning and collective action, for the betterment of our region; we’re excited to be working together towards a healthy Appalachia.  Learn more About CCJ.

Celebrating 10 Years

We capped off our meetings with another 10th Anniversary Celebration, where we came together with food, music and memories. Check out our good-times reel…

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Thank you Joanne Golden Hill Photography for the photos!

& Congratulations to Bill Price– the lucky winner of the Appalachian activist quilt!

 

News from our partners

Environmental Groups Secure Settlement from Coal Mine Owner to Restore Mining Sites Across West Virginia- news from OVEC

When the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund (VCLF) purchased coal mines from Patriot Coal during the company’s bankruptcy last year, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates, succeeded in making sure that mine reclamation obligations were not foregone. The $6 million settlement will fund pilot reforestation and stream restoration projects on mine scarred land in West Virginia.

 

Movement Momentum– let’s keep it up!

OSMRE commissions health study on the effects of MTR

At the request of the State of WV, OSMRE will fund an independent examination of existing research concerning the potential correlation between increased human health risks and living near surface coal mine sites in Central Appalachia. Our communities don’t need another health stud to prove what we already know, but to OSMRE address the issues is better late than never.  See the press release here.

Victory: Appeals Court Upholds EPA Veto of MTR Permit

U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. affirms district court; finds U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reasonably and lawfully decided that huge mountaintop removal mine in WV would cause unacceptable environmental harm. Learn more from EarthJustice

Mark your calendars for the Central Appalachia Brownfields Conference

The inaugural Central Appalachia Brownfields conference will take place at the Marriott Town Center September 7-8 in Charleston, West Virginia.  The event will include sessions covering all aspects of brownfields redevelopment, interactive workshops, specialty training on remediation, and two networking receptions for community leaders, development specialists, entrepreneurs and project planners. For more information: http://wvbrownfields.org/2016-conference/  

Psst– Alliance representatives are also part of the presenter line-up! Get excited by checking out the Draft Agenda, then Register Here.

OSMRE to look at new rules to change self-bonding

Director of the Federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), Joe Pizarchik: saying the agency will start making a new rule to end the failing policy of “self-bonding”, which lets companies neglect the cost of mine reclamation, and push the burden to our tax-paying communities. See the announcement here. & Read the Press Release here.

powerplusplan.org

Click here to sign the petition!

The POWER+ (Plus) Plan is a $10 billion initiative to assist communities struggling with the decline of the coal industry in growing and diversifying their economies.

The Plan, which reflects a number of policy ideas that originated in coal country, was proposed by the White House and currently sits before Congress. The POWER (Partnerships for Opportunities in Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Plus Plan consists of four pillars:

Creating new jobs and development opportunities by reclaiming abandoned coal mines

Ensuring the health and retirement of coal miners and their families

Supporting economic diversification and job creation, &

Deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies

The Alliance has been working hard to move the POWER + Plan forward by passing local resolutions of support, tracking legislation and sharing what we learn with our community members so that they can talk with their Congressional representatives.  We’ve seen the detrimental effects of coal on our communities. Now, we’re working to support a sustainable and just transition for our region; we think that POWER+ legislation could provide the supplemental bolster that our region needs to strengthen our communities and diversify our economy.

Our friends and allies at the Power+ for the People website have created a statement of support that you can sign on to! Adding your name shows that you support passage of the POWER+ Plan and encourage representatives in Congress to seek passage of this Plan through the federal legislative process.

April News Wrap-Up

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Save the Date to celebrate with us!

The Alliance for Appalachia is hosting an event in honor of the organization’s diamond anniversary. We are excited to celebrate 10 years of grassroots coalition building in Central Appalachia, 10 years of pursuing our mission by working together to fight the abuses of mountaintop removal and other harmful coal technologies, and 10 years of envisioning a healthy, sustainable Appalachia.

We hope you’ll join us for food, drinks, music, and story sharing among friends and allies in the movement!

This invitation is for our 10 year anniversary party that we will be hosting in DC during our June lobby trip. We will have another anniversary celebration in Hindman, KY on July 13th!

Protect Our Water, Reclaim Our Future

We have finalized the details for our big trip to Washington, DC this year! It’s time to recruit for the “Protect Our Water, Reclaim Our Future” trip to Washington DC, Sunday, June 5-Wednesday, June 8th.

This year we have two main areas of work: We’ll be having a series of smaller meetings with federal agencies (OSMRE, EPA, etc) to discuss strengthening water protection and ending mountaintop removal.

We also will be lobbying in Congress on the RECLAIM Act. We’ll have training on the issues when we arrive in DC, we’re hoping to bring around 30 new and experienced leaders from the region.

Any questions? Want to see about how to attend? Contact Alannah@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

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Strategizing for a Powerful Year

The Alliance for Appalachia hosts movement roundtables several times a year, when key leaders gather to set our strategy for the coming months. Representatives from Alliance member organizations traveled from around the region to the historic Highlander Center in New Market, TN for our Spring Steering Meeting The steering committee gave direction on the June Lobby trip, the bonding research project and approved a proposal for a new permanent Leadership Development Team.

We also welcomed our new Economic Transition staff member Lyndsay Tarus, and began a new tradition of spotlighting the member organizations from the area–in this case Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) and Highlander Center.

Successful Grassroots Policy Training

The Alliance hosted a Grassroots Policy Training in early April that was a huge success with nearly 40 participants! The goal of this training was to educate our members and allies across the region on how to participate in regional and national politics, and especially how and why citizen involvement is so important in shaping policy. The training was designed to collaborate around four issue areas:

-Laws, policies and rules: different kinds of government regulations,

-Agencies that influence environmental policy in Appalachia: Who are they and what are their responsibilities

-Review of specific policies including SMCRA, Stream Protection Rule, POWER+ and others; and

-How to advocate for your issues, including building strategy and moving forward campaigns

Nestled in the hills of East Tennessee, the Highlander Center provided a special space for workshops and idea sharing among those who attended.  The panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains served as a constant reminder of why we gather to collaborate– to protect, serve, and advocate on behalf of the mountain communities that make up the Appalachian region, our home.  Our hope is that the training participants apply what they learned as they advocate for issues important to them.

RECLAIM Webinar Shares Important Updates on New Legislation

We work hard to be your go-to source for all things POWER+. The Alliance teams are busy tracking the development of the POWER Plus Plan and accompanying legislation.  One major piece of the overall vision is a call to reclaim abandoned mine lands by accelerating existing AML funds that have been sitting in Washington, DC to coal impacted communities as they transition from mining dependence.

The RECLAIM Act, or HB 4456, represents the reclamation and economic development legislation of the POWER+ Plan. Essentially, the bill aims to reclaim abandoned mine lands in preparation for long term development opportunities on the cleaned up sites. In April, the Economic Transition Team hosted a webinar to share what we know about RECLAIM and its potential impact on Central Appalachia and other regions.

In case you missed the live launch or if you want to view the webinar again, follow this link to the recording.The webinar details how the Alliance uses grassroots tactics, based on a strategic approach, to show Congressional representatives that we are paying attention, and that we aim to be proactive in the policy process.

Updates from the Movement: 


A Seat At the Table Series Hosts Successful Event in Hindman, KY

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is hosting a series of events to give people a say in what Kentucky’s energy future looks like and to discuss the ways we generate and use energy. These community dinner conversations are about the opportunities and challenges we face as we work together to plan and build a clean energy economy here in Kentucky. Each event also features fun and interactive presentations, cultural performances and informational displays.

The series has been extremely successful, with packed tables and lots of great conversation! Learn more about these events here.

Advocates for a Safe Water System Campaign Moves Forward
In January 2014 there was a huge chemical spill near Charleston, WV – do you remember? If you’ve been following the organizing that has happened since this water disaster, you’ll know that since the water company compromised the water of over 300,000 people they have disappointed residents again and again with lack of action and attempts at rate hikes! Community members have been organizing for a better water system, and a few weeks ago, the Kanawha County Commission agreed to their ask: to convene a meeting with those Mayors and Commissioners who are also concerned about the troubled water system.

Tracking Water Issues at Pine Creek
In March, there was a disastrous mine blow out on Pine Creek in Kentucky.
Appalachian Water Watch team was contacted by a concerned citizen who lives on Pine Creek, and they were able to document the spill as it occurred in real-time.

See more in this very informative article that goes over the process our every day community heroes take when they are fighting for clean water in the mountains. This article shows you the steps that were taken after the Pine Creek mine blowout, explains how negligence lead to the disaster, and shows you what to do if you detect water issues in streams near you.

Winter Newsletter

You are invited! Registration is open!

The Alliance for Appalachia is hosting a Grassroots Policy Training for our members and allies across the Appalachian region. The training will be hosted at the Highlander Center in New Market, TN on Saturday and Sunday April 9-10th and is designed to help people participate in regional and national policy setting.

Pictured above: Ison Rock Ridge, which was protected by mountaintop removal by the hard work and expert advocacy of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.

Bi-Partisan RECLAIM Act Introduced

Alliance members recently celebrated the introduction of the RECLAIM Act to support economic development in areas impacted by coal’s decline. The legislation has grown from strong grassroots movements in Central Appalachia. This piece from Think Progress touches on this important effort and how it fits into our work on the Stream Protection Act.

Carl Shoupe sends Congressman Hal Rogers the resolutions that were passed by local governments asking him to support the POWER+ Plan. Carl is a retired coal miner, member of KFTC, and member of the Benham Power Board, which passed a resolution in August 2015.As highlighted in this photo from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, more than two dozen communities in Central Appalachia passed resolutions in favor of POWER+ Plan in 2015. Carl Shoupe, pictured sending Hal Rogers the resolutions that were passed, is a retired coal miner, member of KFTC, and member of the Benham Power Board, which passed a resolution in August 2015.

As a result of this grassroots pressure,  U.S. Representative Hal Rogers introduced the RECLAIM Act (Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More). The bipartisan bill aims to accelerate the use of $1 billion in funding in the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Fund to help revitalize coal communities hardest hit by the downturn of the coal industry.

The Alliance for Appalachia member groups and allies are active in seeking ways to promote this important piece of legislation.

Stream Protection Rule Defended in the Senate

Last week, Matt Wasson, with Appalachian Voices, traveled to DC to defend proposed Stream Protection Rule before a Senate committee. The rule, expected to be finalized before the end of the Obama administration, is intended to prevent or minimize the impacts of surface coal mining on surface water and groundwater. It has become a flashpoint for the coal industry and its political allies who charge it will harm the industry, but in his testimony, Wasson disputed that charge and highlighted the clear need for a strong rule.

We will continue to fight for this important rule to help ensure that the Obama Administration finalizes a strong rule that will truly protect our communities from harm. To that end, we are planning trips to bring community leaders to Washington, DC in March and in June to advocate for strong protections.  Stay tuned for more information on how you can support this important effort.

New Research into Bonding 

As our country moves beyond coal, bankrupt coal companies are leaving a dirty mess behind and expecting taxpayers to clean it up.  In an effort to stop this trend, this spring, the Alliance for Appalachia is initiating new research into bonding.

The continued decline of the coal industry has drawn our attention increasingly to the flawed practice of bonding in our region. Bonding is the process by which coal companies provide financial assurance that they will reclaim the lands they have damaged by mining. Because of weak and inconsistent laws and regulations surrounding this practice, the public is at risk for having to pick up the tab for the immense destruction of mountaintop removal, while the coal industry keeps the profits.

As this blog from Peter Morgan with the Sierra Club explains, coal companies are playing a dangerous game with the public’s money while many companies mine coal at a loss. Both Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal are engaged in this complicated financial gambling which puts our region at risk of multibillion-dollar liabilities if coal companies end up in bankruptcy, as noted by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in this recent article.

Updates from the Movement: 


New Website on POWER+ Plan Brings the Power to the People

Are you excited to get more money for reclaiming abandoned mine sites? Want to help turn these sites into new economic opportunities in your community? Check out this new website built by Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center in conjunction with The Alliance for Appalachia and other regional partners.  It has important updates on the progress of the POWER+ Plan, and apetition to ask your Representatives to support a just economic transition.


New Study Details Devastating Impacts of Mountaintop Removal

A recent study has shown, once again, that mountaintop removal has an incredibly destructive and long-lasting impact on our mountains.

Researchers at Duke University examined topographic data before and after mining. They found that the landscape is 60% flatter in some areas, with 10% of the region overall impacted by mountaintop removal.

The above image by researcher Matthew Ross shows the impact in the Mud River watershed in West Virginia.


West Virginia Groups Impacted by Chemical Spill Release Statement of Solidarity with Flint, MI Water Crisis
Dozens of WV groups signed a statement of solidarity to the community of Flint, and gathered at a press conference and rallyto announce the need for safe drinking water everywhere.

These community groups are working to hold companies accountable for the 2014 coal chemical spill that poisoned the water for over 300,000 people near Charleston, WV, as well as to initiate a community owned water system for the area, you can follow the Advocates for a Safe Water System work here.

Save the Date: Grassroots Policy Training

Pictured: Ison Rock Ridge, which was protected from mountaintop removal mining by people organizing their community and engaging in the regulatory and permitting process. 

The Alliance for Appalachia is hosting a Grassroots Policy Training for our members and allies across the Appalachian region. The training will be hosted at the Highlander Center in New Market, TN on Saturday and Sunday April 9-10th and is designed to help people participate in regional and national policy setting.

Registration is open! Register here.

Do you want a seat at the table shaping the policies and legislation that affect your everyday life? Do you want to learn “how the sausage gets made” and how to make better sausage?

From the POWER+ Plan to the Clean Power Plan, federal and state level policy conversations are shaping our lives and our communities. The Alliance for Appalachia envisions a world in which we, residents of mountain communities, are able to determine the futures of our communities; where political discourse is public, is welcomed, is impactful, and is free of corporate interests.  We believe that Appalachian people are experts of their own lives and that all people should have a seat at the table in determining the future of their communities.

Scholarships to cover travel are available, childcare can be available upon request. Registration is coming soon. Contact Alannah@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org for more information.

“Knowing about policy helped me to feel confident when talking to members of Congress and Federal agencies about the issues we care about:  ending MTR and building sustainable Appalachian communities. When you know your stuff, you are the expert and can get the folks in decision-making positions to listen.” – Laura Miller, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards

When we are thinking about justice, liberation, and a new economy–there are a lot of obstacles that we have no control of or input to. Learning about public policy and how it works gives us a leg up, a way to provide our input and make change in our cities, counties, states, and nation.” – Kendall Bilbrey, Stay Together Appalachian Youth

Join us at our Grassroots Policy Training to learn or hone the skills that will help you shape the future of our region.

Join Our POWER+ Webinars!

What is the POWER+ Plan?

What’s in it for your community? And how do you access it? How can you work to pass a resolution in favor of the POWER+ Plan? This is your chance to learn from other communities working to promote this new opportunity for economic diversification in Appalachia.

Join our Webinar:

The Alliance for Appalachia will be hosting webinars focused on building local support for the POWER+ plan, a proposal from the White House that would send billions of dollars to communities struggling from the decline in the coal economy for economic development and diversification.

The goal of the webinars is to give groups across the country the tools and information they need to pass resolutions of support for POWER+ in their local government boards and councils.

Two webinars will be held, one daytime and one evening: Tuesday, December 1st at 2pm & Thursday December 3rd at 6pm.

Since it was introduced in February, groups from WV, VA, TN and KY have had success in passing resolutions of support for the POWER+ plan in their local government boards and councils. Over 2 dozen resolutions have been passed at this time! This groundswell of local support has helped to elevate the issue on the federal level and has pressured reluctant lawmakers to work with the White House to advance the proposal. With that foundation of support laid, it is now critical that we expand community support of POWER+ beyond these initial four states to the other states that would benefit from the plan.
Join our webinars to learn more about the plan and how you can work to support it!
Contact Adam Wells, Economic Diversification Program Coordinator for Appalachian Voices at Adam@appvoices.org for more information.

Register for Tuesday, December 1st at 2pm

Register for Thursday December 3rd at 6pm

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.

January 2015 Newsletter

Welcome Samantha! 

This month, our long-time Coordinator Katey Lauer will be stepping into a mentoring role, and we’re so excited to welcome Samantha to our team as the new Coordinator!

Samantha is a Knoxville, TN native who has experience working with a number of advocacy organizations including Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, The Tennessee Heath Care Campaign and The Amputee Coalition of America. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her two dogs, Fred and Chuck, knitting and traveling.

Says Samantha: “I don’t think the world faces a more important or pressing issue than protecting our people and our planet. That’s why I’m so honored and excited to be working with the wonderful folks of The Alliance for Appalachia who work hard everyday to support Appalachian people and stem the tide of environmental calamity throughout the great and beautiful Appalachian mountains.”‘

Welcome to the team, Samantha!

Anniversary of the #WVWaterCrisis

It has been one year since the terrible coal-chemical leak near Charleston, WV poisoned the water for over 300,000 people in the area. Below is a reminder of that time: just a bit of the many truckloads of the bottled water collected by volunteers with the West Virginia Water Hub and the many other organizations that joined together to deliver water.


Now, a year later, many people still don’t trust their taps, with recent revelations that the company knew there were problems at  Freedom Industries long before the spill and that federal officials ignored important issues like the air quality concerns caused by breathing in the powerfully smelling chemical MCHM.

This month there are a series of events focusing on the anniversary, the issues created by the spill, and the powerful organizing communities have been doing to hold the industry and the state government accountable. Mark January 17th on your calendar to attend the Charleston, WV leadership training, march and rally, and check out the rest of the events here.

Updates from the Movement: 

Anticipated Changes to the Stream Buffer Zone Rule Move Forward

Last February, a Bush-era change to the Stream Buffer Zone rule was overturned due to citizen-led litigation, and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is now reverting to the original 1983 Stream Buffer Zone rule. This rule aims to protect streams by creating a buffer zone around streams that coal companies can not dump waste into. Those living near mountaintop removal can tell you that this law was rarely enforced to fully protect streams, but the Bush era changes made it even weaker.

This spring, the OSM plans to initiate a process to create a new, potentially stronger rule that could go farther to protect our people and our water. A draft rule and an accompanying draft environmental impact statement are slated to be released sometime in the spring of 2015 – stay tuned, we’ll be actively participating in the comment period around this important rulemaking. Read more here.

New Tool Shows Mountaintop Removal is Still Happening
Using Google Maps, experts at Appalachian Voices tracked instances of mountaintop removal mines expanding since 2007. This tool is an important reminder of the urgency for the Obama administration to take action to end mountaintop removal. Check out the site to see some of the heartwrenching “before” and “after” images of the damage caused by mountaintop removal in just the past few years. Then followthis link to tell President Obama to take action today!

Tenth Annual I Love Mountains Day in Kentucky
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) will be hosting the tenth annual I Love Mountains Day on February 12th in Frankfort, KY. There will be a rally and lobby day at the capitol building. For more details, check out the KFTC website! The picture below, courtesy of KFTC, is from the powerful 2014 rally.

SOCM Gets a New Executive Director
Ann League – BBQ expert, long time supporter of SOCM, Appalachian Voices and an invaluable part of The Alliance for Appalachia since our foundation – has been named the new Executive Director of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment. We’re so excited for this new era for SOCM and for Ann! Read more in the SOCM newsletter.

Regional groups file suit for federal takeover of coal oversight agencies.
A coalition of groups have filed lawsuits in federal court in Kentucky and West Virginia asking for a federal takeover from the EPA of state agencies currently responsible for enforcing federal clean water laws. Citizens have long dealt with lack of enforcement of federal laws that puts our health, our environment and our economy at serious risk. Unable to get protection from state government agencies, they are hoping for a court order that gives oversight to the federal EPA.  Read more about it in this article.

News and Updates:

Op Ed from ACLC Attorney Calls for AML Investment in the Mountains
Noting that the Appalachian coalfields helped build American into the country it is today, Evan Smith calls for reinvestment into the communities that are facing economic and environmental difficulties due the legacy of coal in the region.

SAMS leader Jane Branham call for Abandoned Mine Land funds to be used to employ out of work miners
“AML funds should be allocated to cleaning up abandoned mine lands and not used for political gain or profit. We have coal miners unemployed due to mine closures. What if we could put them back to work reclaiming these lands?”

This NYTIMES oped by Robert Kennedy highlights the impacts of coal operating as an outlaw industry and calls for taking coal money out of politics.

Blankenship Trial Postponed to April  
Five years ago, in April 2010, a tragic explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh county killed 29 miners. According to the article, former Massey CEO Don Blankenship “faces a four-count indictment that alleges he conspired to violate mine safety rules, hamper federal safety enforcement and lie to securities regulators and investors.” The trial has been set to begin in April 2015.

West Virginia Board of Education Approves Inaccurate and Misleading Climate Change Science be Taught
In December, the board changed the science standards to eliminate references to human causes of climate change, ignoring the content created by science experts and educators. You can sign a petition against this ridiculous move here and learn more in this article.

This Op Ed in the Kentucky Herald Leader highlights the dangerous and hypocritical discrepancies of federal agencies regarding the Broad Form Deed, which should protect property owners from mining on their property without consent.

Kanawha State Forest and Area Community Still Under Threat from the mining operations. The Kanawha Forest Coalition continues to fight this permit that puts the popular forest and area community members at risk. The mine has already been cited for numerous violations.

What Comes Next? Communities Gather to Discuss Abandoned Mine Lands


Abandoned Mine Lands Meeting a Success!

At the end of October, our Economic Transition Committee, in conjunction with our AppFellow Kendall Bilbrey and Eric Dixon, AppFellow with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, hosted a summit for folks across Central Appalachia to discuss and learn about the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund and other potential strategies for cleaning up some of the toxic legacy left behind by the coal industry.

A diverse group of stakeholders, including impacted community members, non-profit organizations, scholars, policy experts, lobbyists and scientists gathered for a packed day at Breaks Interstate Park at the border of Virginia and Kentucky to discuss the looming issue of Abandoned Mine Lands.

Our hope is to create pathways for communities to influence mine cleanup, create jobs, and diversify our economy. What are the problems we are facing with the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund? What successes have communities had working with this fund? We’re excited to get these conversations moving in the region! Learn more in our press release or in the PowerPoint introduction to the project.

“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 and chair of The Alliance for Appalachia Coordinating Committee. “We have all these people out of work from mine closures. 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 communities could really take pride in.”

Next steps are for an informative whitepaper to be released in early winter, highlighting the findings of this summit, research by AppFellows Kendall and Eric, and recommendations for the AML fund–all to be followed by campaign and project conversations.