United We Are Stronger

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Friends, family, allies:

On election day, our world changed. We too have been in denial, speechless, angry; and it’s taking time to process the past two weeks amidst a lot of unknowns. But one thing we know, and have always known, is that the people of Appalachia are powerful. We know, and have always known, that our work for social and environmental justice is key to our survival. We know, and we have always known, that in unity there is strength.

A lot of us are hurting over the division in our communities. Many of us are hurting over divisions within our own families and in our own homes. There has been real damage done to our society and to our democracy, and the need to grieve and heal should not be ignored.

At the same time, we need to hold accountable the actions of those in power that would harm our communities further. We have worked tirelessly for meaningful progress towards a sustainable, just Appalachia; now more than ever, we’ll need to band together to protect our progress.

Psychological studies have shown that standing up and taking action actually helps heal people in communities that are grieving or feeling vulnerable and isolated. Today, taking action can be as simple as taking care of yourself and your family – we need you in the long run. Take a walk in our beautiful mountains, sit and listen to the water that brings us life, lean into the joy of our children playing. If you need community, we’re here. If you feel like you’re falling, we’ll catch you.

We’ll be working with our local and national allies to push hard as a united front to protect our communities. Here are some opportunities to take action as we process our healing:

  • Do you have big ideas for our region? Our friends at Rural Support Partners have created this open-source local wiki page to share your thoughts, plans, and visions with each other. Together we can!

Looking forward, there is a lot of work to be done, and we will face it together.We are determined, and no matter what changes around us, our values and our vision are the same. Here are the beliefs our work is founded on:

  • Mountain people are experts of their own lives
  • All people should have a seat at the table in determining the future of their communities
  • Regional collaboration strengthens political power built locally
  • Systemic change is necessary to achieve justice in our region

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 envision a world in which all people have access to clean water, clean air and a healthy land base–and a world in which these resources are owned and shared locally. We envision a world in which successful development is measured by the degree to which local economies are robust and lasting, and in which diversity, collaboration, safe working conditions and self-empowerment are pillars of those economies.

As we walk this path together, let these values guide our steps.

For the mountains and people,

The Alliance for Appalachia

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.

Spring 2014 Newsletter

App Rising

Our Water, Our Future

Planning is getting off the ground for Our Water, Our Future. RSVP for this exciting event, September 8-9th, 2014 in Washington DC. Way back in 2009, the Obama Administration made a promise to take measures to protect the people, waters and mountains of Appalachia from the dangerous impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Five years later the toll of coal on water and people in Central Appalachia is increasing — punctuated by the recent coal ash, slurry, and coal-processing chemical spills across our region. This powerful op-ed outlines some of what citizens go up against when they ask their government to regulate the worst abuses of the coal industry.

Earlier this month, citizens from Appalachia joined with the Citizens Coal Council and leaders from coal-impacted regions across the country for an unprecedented meeting with the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, in Washington, DC.

Community members made the journey because this year, Secretary Jewell will make major decisions that impact the water and future of Central Appalachia. This important meeting is just one step in our work to ensure that Appalachians have a seat at the table during this critical time.

Join us this September in DC to tell the administration that we’re done waiting – it’s time to protect our water and our future.

jewell_meeting

Citizens Coal Council meets with Secretary Jewell at the Department of the Interior.

At the Legislature

March and April have been busy months for The Alliance for Appalachia and our member groups. Many groups have been working hard as state legislature seasons wrap up. On the national level, we worked to fight off a bad bill that would allow coal companies to dump coal waste into our mountain streams with little regard for the impacts on our water and our communities. This terrible bill did pass in the House, but our advocacy inspired threats of a White House veto, impassioned speeches on the House floor about the dangers of mountaintop removal to community health, and a strong assurance that this bill would have no traction in the Senate.

Appalachian Transition Work

We’re so excited to be moving forward with the Appalachian Transition Fellowship program through our partners at the Highlander Center!  This program places emerging community leaders with host communities to provide capacity with the host group and build the skills of the fellow. Fellows will have the opportunity to network, mentor and train with leaders from across Appalachia and across sectors of work. The Alliance for Appalachia’s fellow will work with our Economic Transition team and allies across the region to create a regional plan of action towards building a resilient and healthy Appalachian economy.

 

Allies in Action

The Alliance for Appalachia helps local community groups engage with national campaigns to protect our mountains. Here is a snapshot of some of the exciting work happening right now.

Victory! JP Morgan Chase Drops Mountaintop Removal! Our friends at Rainforest Action Network announced exciting news! JPMorgan Chase updated its environmental policy, revealing that it will be ending financial relationships with Mountaintop Removal coal mining companies. This is the result of a powerful grassroots effort!  JP Morgan Chase joins Wells Fargo and BNP Paribas/Bank of the West who are already moving away from Mountaintop Removal. Tell the rest of the banks to drop Alpha Natural Resources and adopt a policy to phase out MTR financing.

The Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) traveled 900 miles to Tampa, FL for the PNC shareholder meeting for the fourth year in a row to protest the bank’s financing of mountaintop removal.  According to organizers: “If PNC does not adopt a full sector exclusion by June 1, the Earth Quaker Action Team will be back in Pittsburgh in early July with Quakers, allies and supporters from across the country.” To follow or support their exciting actions, visit their facebook.

Thanks to all who donated to the Lone Mountain Book project – over $15,000 was donated to publish this unique children’s book about mountaintop removal.

Dozens of members of Gainesville Loves Mountains spoke out at an important City Commission meeting, demanding a ban of the use of mountaintop removal coal  to power their city.  Commissioners voted to draft a proposed resolution opposing mountaintop removal as well as to draft a policy that would ban local utilities from purchasing coal from mountaintop removal sites. To learn more about this campaign or how you can support this powerful group, visit https://www.facebook.com/GainesvilleLovesMountains
Donate To Support This Work

This year will be one of our hardest financially even as we move forward with a strong workplan, firmly rooted in local leadership from our steering committee and our busy work teams. Please donate to support our work for clean water and a healthy Appalachian future!