March Updates from The Alliance for Appalachia

This March We’re in Like a Lion, Out Like a Lion 

Contrary to the old phrase, March weather was in like a lamb, out like a lamb this year; it’s been a strangely warm winter and an early spring.

But at The Alliance for Appalachia, we’re in full on mountain lion mode all month long.

Welcome Lyndsay! 

We’re so excited to welcome our new Economic Transition Coordinator,  Lyndsay Tarus.

Lyndsay Tarus, based out of Huntington, WV, has a master’s degree in Public Administration from Marshall University, with a focus on governance in nonprofit organizations and public agencies. She was an active member of our member group SOCM during her time in Tennessee and is currently a volunteer and board member of our member group OVEC in West Virginia, working on advocacy projects including mountaintop removal, fracking, and safe drinking water. She has held positions with the WV State Legislature and Department of Commerce, giving her insight into both the grassroots and government process for change-making in our region. Her undergraduate degree from Middle Tennessee State University focused on local, regional, and global connections between peoples, places, and events from cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Lyndsay was born on Florida beaches, but raised in the lakes and streams of East Tennessee. Her connection to water, along with a deep appreciation of the natural world drives her interest in environmental preservation and cultural adaptation to changing ecosystems. She advocates for social, economic, and environmental justice as an avenue to peace and coexistence.

She will be conducting research into opportunities for community led reclamation project that can help heal the toxic legacy of coal in our region. She will also be coordinating our economic transition work. You can reach her at Lyndsay@TheAllianceForAppalachia.org

Traveling to Washington DC

We sent a team of ten people to Washington DC last week to meet with the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, to talk about the Stream Protection Rule and the need to reclaim our abandoned mine lands.

We met with the EPA, to ask them for strong water protections and to take bold action during Obama’s final year in office.  The group also met with White House representatives to request strong investment in our abandoned mine lands and our miners to ensure a brighter future for our region.  In addition, we met with Congress to share information about the RECLAIM Act and the need to clean up dangerous former coal mines, and touched base with national allies to strengthen our relationships and share the important work happening locally in our region.

It was a busy week! Thanks to our mountain heroes who made this tiring but important journey once again! We’re already planning a bigger lobby week in June. Speaking of:

Save the Date! June 4-8th  

Ready to go roaring to DC yourself? Mark your calendars for June 4-8th.  We’re excited to announce we’re bringing a larger group of mountain residents and allies to DC to advocate to end mountaintop removal and invest in a brighter future for our region. More details (including registration) should be out next month.

Click here to share our post on your Facebook page to help spread the word!

Grassroots Policy Training: Register Today, Space is Limited!

You are invited! Registration is open till March 25th! But don’t wait till then to register – space is limited!

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.

Research into Bonding Launching Next Month

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.

The Alliance for Appalachia has initiated new research into the troubled state of coal industry bonding in our region. Our results and recommendations for policy changes will be released in April 2016.

Presenting at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference

Last weekend our Economic Transition Team presented on their work at the Appalachian Studies Conference in Shepherdstown, WV.

The roundtable discussion, titled “The Power+ Plan and Citizen’s Movement for Just Transition in Appalachia and Beyond,” reflected on the remarkably successful mobilization for just transition policy in Appalachia in the past year, including dozens of county governments across Central Appalachia passing resolutions in support of the POWER+ Plan.  The roundtable will lead to an article for the Journal of Appalachian Studies; panelists will be gathering the ideas from the session to inform the article and our work in the region.

Updates from the Movement: 

STAY Project Updates: 
The STAY Project (Stay Together Appalachian Youth) is celebrating the creation of a new full-time staff position in the region. This decision to move from part-time to full-time will expand STAY’s capacity to coordinate trainings, leadership development opportunities, and resources to build community for Appalachia’s amazing youth.  Just in time to support a busy year of programming – including the STAY Summer Institute:

KFTC Offers Kentuckians “A Seat at the Table” to Empower Kentucky
Kentuckians will have the opportunity this spring to help shape a new Empower Kentucky Plan to map out an energy future for Kentucky that grows jobs, benefits health and addresses racial and economic inequality while doing our part to reduce the risks of climate change.

The Empower Kentucky Plan will be informed by diverse public input, including ideas generated at a series of “A Seat at the Table” community conversations hosted by Kentuckians For The Commonwealth in April and May.

Learn more here. 

POWER Initiative Announces $65.8 Million in Funding for Appalachian Economy
During the funds initial year in 2016, $6 Million was distributed through the fund, including to Alliance for Appalachia members and partners

This year, there are new opportunities for community groups, local governments and non-profits to gain funds to invest in our new economy, learn more about the initiative here.

Winner of Goldman Prize Assassinated

We’re heartbroken to hear of the murder of Honduras Indigenous leader for the environment, Berta Caceres, and the stories of continued violence and murder of another activist in her community. 

Caceres won the prize for her work against a series of four hydroelectric dams that would destroy a sacred river and cut off food and medicine access to local communities.  Mountain leaders Maria Gunnoe and the late Judy Bonds also received this prestigious prize for their work against mountaintop removal coal mining.

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.

December Updates From The Alliance for Appalachia

Welcome New Staff!

We’re so excited to welcome new staff! This month, we’ll introduce you to our new coordinator, Alannah Tomich.

Alannah Tomich comes to the Alliance from Western North Carolina, where she was a Center for Disease Control (CDC) fellow working on diabetes, depression and substance abuse with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. She has particular experience with strategic planning, grant funding and health data. For the last four years she has worked within government health agencies on disparities in access to services. Alannah has long been interested in community organizing to influence public policy.

Alannah holds a degree in public health from UC Berkeley, where she was part of a successful campaign for university policy to ensure access in developing countries to medicines that were developed by campus research, as well as promoting local, organic food in the student dining program. She now lives in Kingston, TN where she enjoys waterfalls, woodstoves and yoga.

From Alannah: “The biodiversity and cultural heritage of the Appalachian region are truly special. I grew up literally all over the world–sometimes not sure where to call home—and in these mountains I see a place where communities are deeply tied to a sense of place.  I believe that preserving the natural world is one of the highest callings.

I look forward to working with you!”

We’re so excited to welcome Alannah to our team!

Thank You for Speaking Up for Clean Water

The Lorax spoke for the trees – but who is going to speak for water?

Over the past few months, over 90,000 people have! We’re so grateful to people like you who responded to our calls for comments for a strong Stream Protection Rule, for defense against selenium pollution, and to protect a little endangered fish called the Kentucky Arrow Darter whose habitat is at risk from mountaintop removal.

Despite intimidation from the coal industry, hundreds of people traveled long distances to show up and speak up for a strong Stream Protection Rule in Lexington, KY, Big Stone Gap, VA, Charleston, WV and other cities nationwide.

Time and again we heard from our contacts at federal agencies how important our comments were – and how thoughtful and in depth the comments from our members are. Small acts like this build up to create a powerful wave of support!

We are planning to make sure that the Obama Administration leaves a legacy of enforcing the law and protecting Appalachian water. Stay tuned for how you can join us in the next stages of this work.

POWER+ Webinar and Summit

Communities throughout Appalachia have been showing their support for the POWER+ campaign by passing resolutions in favor of the proposal from the Obama administration. So far resolutions have been passed in 26 communities throughout the region!

The POWER+ plan would bring money for abandoned mine land reclamation, work-force development and to protect mine worker pension and benefits to coal-affected communities across the nation.
To support these efforts, and to help expand these resolution beyond Central Appalachia, members of The Alliance for Appalachia recently hosted two webinars on “How to Pass a Resolution.” You can view a recording of the webinar here.

The Alliance for Appalachia also had the opportunity to host a strategy session for those working on the POWER+ plan, to explore opportunities to promote this plan and other avenues for economic transition in 2016. It was a productive meeting, and we are bursting with ideas and energy to push this work forward. if you are interested in getting involved in these conversations, there are many ways to join us! Contact info@Theallianceforappalachia.org to learn more!

The Alliance for Appalachia December Strategy Meeting

The Alliance for Appalachia just wrapped up our last strategy summit of the year – a productive three day meeting hosted by the Hindman Settlement School in beautiful Hindman, KY.

We were surrounded by beautiful quilts and mountain morning mist as we mapped out our workplans for 2016. Highlights we can’t wait to bring to you include discussions about what we want to see from the Obama administration in the next year, what’s next for our region, and an upcoming Policy 101 training in April. Stay tuned!

End of Year Fundraising – Don’t Delete Those Emails!

It’s that time of year again – members of The Alliance for Appalachia – and other non-profits across the country – are busy not only making plans for a strategic and powerful 2016 – but also working hard to fundraise so they can carry out their important work.

Giving to grassroots groups allows them to prepare for the work that they know most needs done – as important as large donations and grants are to our functioning, it’s the small donations that keep our doors open.

Giving $25, $50 or $100 to a smaller group means that your giving dollars are stretched farther and you know that you are making a real, immediate difference on the ground.  It’s a real way to make a difference – so open those emails, be inspired by the amazing work happening in our region, and then donate what you can to keep the work going in the new year!

Updates from the Movement: 


Major Victory in Tennessee!
Have you heard the good news? The Office of Surface Mining is moving toward approval of Tennessee’s petition to have 67,000 acres protected from surface mining! SOCM began this fight years ago – we’re so excited to see this important protection move forward!

However, there’s still a lot of work to do. We know the mining industry won’t let this happen without a fight. That’s why we’ll need  to work together to support our Tennessee friends as they work hard to organize robust public participation in the comment period.

It’s time to take a stand for the mountains, wildlife, and people of Tennessee! Want to get more involved? Fill out this form to learn more about what you can do – including attend a hearing and submit a comment.

An End to Frasure Creek’s Water Violations in Kentucky!
Another reason to celebrate!

Appalachian Voices recently finalized a historic settlement in a case against Frasure Creek Mining. The settlement follows a five-year-long legal battle to protect eastern Kentucky’s waterways and bring a coal company notorious for violating environmental laws to justice.

The agreement is notable not only for the large penalty imposed, but also because it effectively bars Frasure Creek from further mining in Kentucky. Of course, money can never replace the permanent damage done to our water and our communities, but we need to celebrate the hard work and good people who have stopped Frasure Creek from causing any more harm to Kentucky communities. Learn more about this important – and hard fought – victory here.

 

Press Release: Appalachians Look to Branch Out from Coal-Based Economy

Two dozen local government entities in the heart of Central Appalachia’s coalfields have passed resolutions calling for major federal investment to revive the region’s economy, which is struggling in the midst of the coal industry decline. Most have referred specifically to the White House budget proposal called the “POWER+ Plan.” All passed unopposed.

Starting in July with the community of Norton, Va. —the first to pass such a resolution—a groundswell of support has spread across the region for the plan, a $10 billion proposal to help coal-impacted communities across the country, including more than $1 billion for a range of economic initiatives in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. President Obama announced the plan in February as part of his proposed 2016 budget, but congressional representatives from the coal region have been slow to warm up to the plan.

The resolutions, and a variety of other public and private efforts in recent years, show the huge disconnect between what local citizens see as a necessary way forward to bolster the region’s economy and the politically motivated “war on coal” rhetoric of industry leaders and their allies.

“The benefits of the POWER+ Plan to the people of Eastern Kentucky, both in the short-term creation of jobs and business opportunities, as well as the long-term economic development of the region, are essential to overcome the devastating effects of our current economic difficulties as we transition to a post-coal economy,” wrote Pike County Executive William Deskins in a letter to Rep. Hal Rogers, on September 28, which he included with a copy of the resolution passed by the Pike County Fiscal Court.

The POWER+ Plan would provide $1 billion over five years to coal states and tribal lands to clean up abandoned mines that continue to pollute waterways and pose health and safety hazards, including almost $68 million for the four states of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. It would also provide $25 million to the Appalachian Regional Commission to support local food systems, health care, energy efficiency and other sectors in the agency’s 13-state region. Additionally, the plan earmarks $128 million to support worker retraining and other economic development initiatives in coal-impacted communities, and would ensure the solvency of the United Mine Workers of America’s health care and pension plans.

“The POWER+ Plan will provide funding to put local people to work building the broadband and municipal water and sewer infrastructure that is urgently needed in our mountain communities. We urge our West Virginia congressional delegation to support this funding proposal,” says Carey Jo Grace,  a member of the Alliance for Appalachia from Charleston.

At the August meeting of the Wise County Board of Supervisors in southwest Virginia, citizens told officials the plan would help develop the region’s tourism assets, retrain laid-off miners, and support health and pension plans for retired miners. In response, board member Ron Shortt said: “We’re behind you 100 percent on this. We realize how important it is to Southwest Virginia and Wise County.”

“There’s a strong sense of excitement and energy these days about the potential for the region, for expanding the opportunities for jobs and more sustainable businesses that are good for workers, communities and the environment,” says Adam Wells, in the Wise County office of Appalachian Voices. This fall, Wells led a project to host eight forums around southwest Virginia to get input from ordinary citizens about their vision for the future. More than 130 people attended, including many younger people who planned to stay involved, he said.

Andrianah Kilgore, 25, was one of them. “I want to see Wise County reach its full potential and I want to work for a better tomorrow, not only to benefit us now, but to benefit the future generations that love Wise and plan to reside here, just as I have chosen to do,” she says.

 

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October Updates

Last Chance to Comment for a Strong SPR

We know approximately 30,000 comments have been written for a strong Stream Protection Rule (SPR) – can we get to 50,000? Comments are due October 25th – click here to comment today!This is one of the best and last chances for the Obama Administration to protect Appalachia from the worst of mountaintop removal.

The Stream Protection Rule is intended to limit the dumping of toxic mountaintop removal waste into our endangered streams. We’ve been demanding these protections for almost eight years and, after a series of delay tactics from the coal industry, we are glad the Obama administration is finally taking action. But we need it to be strengthened, and we have only a few days left to make our voices heard.

Please comment and share with your networks on Facebook!

Rallying for Clean Water at SPR Hearings

Last month, members of The Alliance for Appalachia were busy organizing members and allies to attend in-person hearings to speak up in favor of water protections.

Despite intimidation from the coal industry, hundreds of people traveled long distances to show up and speak up for a strong Stream Protection Rule in Lexington, KY, Big Stone Gap, VA, Charleston, WV and other cities nationwide.

Speaking up in the face of intimidation – including heckling and physical threats – takes true courage, and we’re so proud to work alongside these every day heroes who are fighting to protect their communities and families from water pollution

If you missed your chance to comment in person, you can always comment on-line using our convenient form!

Meeting with Interior Secretary Jewell

Last month. members of The Alliance met with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. This was the first cabinet-level meeting our coalition of groups has secured. We discussed the Stream Protection Rule and the ongoing impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining.

The secretary was open to our comments on revisions that would strengthen the final rule, and clearly understands its importance to protecting the environment and fostering a positive, sustainable economic future for Appalachia.

Selenium Comments Submitted

One of our key policy asks from the Obama administration for 2015 was for a strong selenium ruling that would limit the pollution from this toxic chemical and allow citizens to have a role in monitoring streams.

Selenium, a chemical commonly found in wastewater from mountaintop removal coal mines and in coal ash ponds, is toxic to fish and other wildlife at very low levels, and it is toxic to humans at high levels. Once it is released into waterways, selenium enters the food chain and accumulates in fish, causing reproductive failure and deformities.

The comment period has now closed, and we’re hoping that the administration listens to the many who contributed comments on this important issue.

POWER+ Resolutions Continue to Pop Up Across the Region

Communities throughout Appalachia have been showing their support for the POWER+ campaign by passing resolutions in favor of the proposal from the Obama administration. So far resolutions have been passed in 23 communities throughout the region!

These actions are in stark contrast to the reactions of our state and federal leaders to the plan, which could bring could bring $1 billion in federal funding to the region to reclaim abandoned mine lands sites in ways that will create long term economic development.

The Alliance for Appalachia is working with our members and allies to support these community resolutions and other grassroots efforts to bring the benefits of the POWER+ Plan to our communities.

The Alliance for Appalachia Hosts a Productive Fall Meeting

The Alliance for Appalachia hosted our fall meeting at Breaks Interstate Park; it was a chance for our member groups and allies to get updates on work happening in the region and begin to plan what’s next for the region. Our final meeting for 2015 will be in December 2015.

Thanks to all who contributed to the meeting for making it another productive success – and thanks to Joanne Golden Hill for taking the pictures below!

Updates from the Movement: 

Economic Development Community Forums Held in Southwestern Virginia:
Appalachian Voices has recently partnered with Virginia Organizing to convene eight visioning forums across Virginia’s coalfield counties. The purpose of these forums is to gather community-level input about the future of our economy. These forums are open to the public, and people of all beliefs and backgrounds have been attending and contributing fresh new ideas for the future of their communities.

Input gathered during the forums will be synthesized into a “Citizens’ Roadmap for a New Economy” report that will engage local governments and planning districts on economic development priorities. Learn more about this exciting project at their website!

White House POWER Initiative Grants Awarded
The White House has announced $14.5 million in grant awards for organizations and local governments across 12 states that are building a better economic future for their communities. A majority of the 36 awards, and most of the grant dollars, are going to plan or implement projects in Central Appalachia.

We are especially excited for our friends at Appalshop who received funding to build a one-year IT workforce certificate program targeted to communities affected by the reduction in coal employment. Learn more about the grant recipients here.
Clean Power Plan to Empower Kentucky
Empower Kentucky is an ambitious project to re-shape Kentucky’s energy future based on a vision “that works for everybody” announced recently by KFTC.

As explained in the webinar that launched the program: “Over the next year KFTC will invite thousands of people from all walks of life to share their vision and ideas for transforming Kentucky’s energy system,” said Sean Hardy of Louisville. “Then, together, we will write our own energy plan, one that works for everybody, all of us.”

September Newsletter

Stream Protection Rule Hearings in Full Swing

It’s been a busy summer! We are active across the region working to support local communities to turn out for the Stream Protection Rule comment period.

In July, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) released the long-awaited draft of the Stream Protection Rule regarding restrictions on surface coal mining near waterways. OSMRE will be holding six public hearings across the nation that will give people a chance to provide feedback on the rule.

Three of these meetings are being held near impacted coalfield residents in Appalachia. We need to get as many people to these hearings as we can to let OSMRE know know that we support clean water and a healthy environment in central Appalachia.

The hearing in Lexington went great – with a lot of speakers from our side, and a positive response from the OSMRE on the informed comments given by many speakers in favor of stronger water protections. This article and this article give some interesting coverage – with great quotes from some of our friends!

There are two more hearing next week – can you be there? You can RSVP by following the links below:

Big Stone Gap, Va.
Tues. Sept. 15, 2015
5-9 p.m.
Charleston, W.Va.
Thurs. Sept. 17, 2015
5-9 p.m.
Can’t make it to a hearing? Click here to learn how you can comment on-line!

Power+ Resolutions Pop Up Across the Region

Communities throughout Appalachia have been showing their support for the POWER+ campaign by passing resolutions in favor of the proposal from the Obama administration. So far resolutions have been passed by Harlan and Letcher counties, Whitesburg and Benham in Kentucky; Wise County and Norton in Virginia and Campbell County, Tenn – with more in the works.

These actions are in stark contrast to the reactions of our state and federal leaders to the plan, which could bring could bring $1 billion in federal funding to the region to reclaim abandoned mine lands sites in ways that will create long term economic development.

As this article states, the POWER+ plan would support the reclamation of abandoned mines, with the goal of tying the reclamation work to projects that would provide a longer-term economic boost. However, the plan requires congressional approval.

That could include reclaiming sites for uses such as agriculture, tourism and forestry, and it could creation more than 700 jobs according to the AML Whitepaper published by The Alliance for Appalachia this past July.

The Alliance for Appalachia is working with our members and allies to support these community resolutions and other grassroots efforts to bring the benefits of the POWER+ Plan to our communities.

Staff Updates from The Alliance for Appalachia

We’re so grateful for all the wonderful work of our former coordinator Samantha Wallace, who stepped down from her position at the end of August. She has moved on to new adventures, and we wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.

We are pleased to be working with Dana Kuhnline as an interim coordinator. Dana was our first coordinator in 2007, and has remained an active supporter of The Alliance for Appalachia ever since. Contact her with any questions at Dana@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org.

We’ll be opening up a hiring process soon – so keep an eye out to share our job description.

Updates from the Movement: 

SAMS Hosts a Victory Fish Fry
Beautiful Ison Rock Ridge in Wise County, VA has been protected from mountaintop removal through years of hard work from SAMS and allies. Last week they hosted a victory party to gather friends and celebrate the milestone. People traveled from across the region for music, food and dancing.

Congratulations to the communities surrounding Ison Rock Ridge on preserving your beautiful mountain for future generations!

After the West Virginia Water Crisis: Advocates for a Safe Water System Launch Campaign for Public Takeover of Water Company

An advocacy group formed after the January 2014 Elk River Chemical spill will launch a campaign aimed to create a publicly-owned water system in the Kanawha Valley. Learn more in this informative article, or support this group ontheir Facebook page. 
Grassroots Groups Show Support for the Clean Power Plan
Not to be confused with the POWER+ plan, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would limit carbon pollution from existing power plants.

While many states are responding by suing the EPA, at the grassroots level, communities realize that it is an opportunity to support the health communities impacted by toxic coal fired power plants as well as transition to clean energy. Many have responded with powerful testimony in favor of the plan, including this Kentucky lawmaker.

IG2BYITM a Powerful Success

It’s Good to be Young in the Mountains recently hosted its first conference celebrating youth who are committed to Appalachia. Learn more about this great project at their website or through this beautiful video. Check out this blog about the inaugural IG2BYITM. This powerful event  celebrating the best parts of being young in the mountains, was created by the STAY Project and supported by a wide coalition supporters.

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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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.

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.