Join us for a powerful 2017

We greet this new year with joy and thankfulness – for the wonderful people, our beautiful mountains, and our precious water in Appalachia. We also greet this new year with strength and power – we are ready to fight for our people, our mountains and our water.

The Alliance for Appalachia met in December to reflect over our past work and continue building strategy for 2017. We’ll be busy doing the two things we do best — bringing people together and fighting like hell to protect our water and our future.

If you’re reading this right now, you’re someone who cares about protecting our water and creating a diverse, sustainable future for Appalachia. You might also feel pretty lonely sometimes – like there aren’t many people that agree with you. The Alliance for Appalachia unites thousands of people who feel exactly like you do. Through our work, and our amazing member groups, people like you are uniting to fight the battles that you care about.

Are you ready to work too? We’d love you to join us! You can help by donating to our work, or by joining one of our work teams!

We’ll be sharing out greater details of our projects over the next months, but here’s a quick preview:

Clean water is what ties us all together. Across Appalachia, and across the United States, people are fighting for clean water. In 2017 we’ll join together with allies nationwide and locally to lift up the importance of our water and to defend this precious resource.

We were pleased to see the Stream Protection Rule was released in the last moments of 2016. It isn’t as strong as we’d like it, but we know it will help protect our water from the new threats we are facing from mountaintop removal coal mining. We’ll be fighting off attacks to protect our progress and working with agencies to see that it gets enforced.

We’ll also be keeping our eye on a slew of new mountaintop removal threats. Our member groups are leading the way as the first line of defense when their communities are threatened by new mining. We’ll work to lift up these local threats to the national level.

Our members are excited to dig into the issue of reclamation as a way to both clean up the toxic legacy of coal in our communities as well as bring in much needed economic development. It has been a great opportunity to engage with new partners and a great conversation starter for organizing in our communities.

Our economic transition team will continue to build on the success that the RECLAIM Act had in 2016. We’ll also work to complete:

a “Shovel Ready Toolkit” which will empower communities to take local reclamation issues into their own hands

our report on bonding, an important issue as coal companies continue to go bankrupt and leave the burden of destroyed mountains on already hurting communities

As always, we’ll be working to bring people together to create regional strategy and opportunities for action. In welcoming the new year we now have a new Coordinator, Christa Faulkner, to help to pull it all together. Christa based out of Beckley, WV, has a Masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of Louisville focusing on Expressive Therapies. She more recently attended Western State Colorado University to further graduate studies in Environmental Management, focusing on sustainable and resilient communities.

Christa’s undergraduate degree is in Studio Art from Eastern Kentucky University and she is a self taught web designer, freelancing since 2009 and contributing to social and environmental advocacy through multimedia design. She has contributed design work to the Coal Free Future Project, Art Meets Activism Grant projects in Kentucky, and individuals working on social justice in the region.

Christa joined AmeriCorps VISTA and served two terms after working as a Counselor and children’s advocate for ten years. She recently completed her last VISTA service year as the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement VISTA Leader in the Appalachian Region. She is passionate about the social, economic, and environmental costs of mining and the importance of preserving the rich biodiversity in the region. Born in Kentucky and living in Montana and Colorado influenced her decision to move back to the region and help others make the connection between our ecosystems and wellbeing.

Now more than ever is the time to unite in the face of dangerous policies that would divide our communities and take away our power. To that end we are working with allies to create a Collective Liberation training that examines the root causes of injustice in our region and our nation and is oriented towards concrete action we can take as individuals and organizations to create a more just and inclusive society.

To do this, we’ll need your support! Can you donate your time or money to help our work? To create member led strategy, we need the wisdom and input of our amazing grassroots members across the region. And we need grassroots fundraising from regular people – our members and our allies – in order to keep our work moving during these difficult times.

For the Mountains,

The Alliance for Appalachia

United We Are Stronger

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

Support the RECLAIM Act

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.

reclaim-act-petition

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.

June Newsletter

Protect Our Water, Reclaim Our Future- An Event Recap

Shout out from the Alliance to everyone who helped plan and execute our POWROF 2016 lobby event in Washington, DC, which was a major success.  By the numbers:

  • The Alliance hosted nearly 40 mountain leaders for 3 days of advocacy and empowerment.
  • We attended 35+ hill meetings with Congressional representatives to show our support of the RECLAIM Act, which may have contributed to the gain of 2 additional cosponsors while we were in town– Congressmen Roe (TN) and Polis (CO).  
  • We also had meetings with 8 different federal agencies and executive administration offices that have key roles in protecting our communities from environmental injustice and poor regulation standards.  
  • For at least 12 of our attendees, this was the first time speaking to agency and congressional representatives in DC.

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When asked what the most powerful part of the trip was for them, one of the participants said, “I am always in awe of DC, and feel very fortunate to just experience being near this much power. But actually being inside senate and house buildings and interacting/taking part in processes, leaves me feeling like each citizen has a voice, and we can be heard.”

Todd Waterman is a volunteer with Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, an Alliance member organization based in Tennessee; the following excerpts are from an article that he wrote for the SOCM Sentinel about his experience at POWROF:

I jumped at the chance to go! If I’d learned one thing as an activist, it’s that saying “yes” to something I’ve never done before can be a tremendously empowering experience, and that so long as I don’t let my mistakes tell me I’m not good enough, they will tell me how to be better. If I had a lot to learn, that meant I’d learn a lot.”  [. . .]

“Research says in the US only the very rich influence legislation. Until we achieve campaign finance reform, lawmakers must keep their campaign donors happy. But I prefer to be optimistic. Activism, like voting, is a matter of faith, of humbly doing what we can knowing together we are strong. We progressives always win in the end, even if it’s often two steps forward and 1½ steps back: Democracy, Emancipation, Suffrage, Social Security, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, LGBT Rights. Can you name anyone who is revered for blocking progress whose time had come? We’re trying to forget the guy who said, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” But will we ever forget the guy who said, “I have a dream,” and then put his life on the line to make it come true? I hope we can convince more of our lawmakers to become not the villains of the future but its heroes.

Together, we too shall overcome some day. I’m honored to dream with you.”

To read the full article, click here.

Citizens’ Petition to Amend Self-Bonding Rules, OSMRE seeking public comments

In early March, WildEarth Guardians petitioned the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) to amend its regulations on financial assurances to ensure that companies and their subsidiaries with a history of financial insolvency no longer be allowed to self-bond coal mining operations.  Now, OSMRE is accepting public comments on the petition.  

Once our mountains are destroyed by mountaintop removal, no one can put them back. However, coal operators have a responsibility to clean up the mess – otherwise our communities are left surrounded by toxic eyesores and dangerous water.

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 surrounding this practice, the public is at risk for having to pick up the tab for the immense destruction of mountaintop removal and other damaging coal mining practices, while the coal industry keeps the profits.

The most irresponsible approach is called self bonding – or when a coal company simply promises they will reclaim our land after mining. And if the coal company can’t clean up their mess? The taxpayer is left with the enormous burden of cleaning up after their mess. Companies must set aside bonds for the full cost of reclamation to ensure adequate dollars for reclamation.

The coal industry is laughing all the way to the bank, and we’re left with dirty water and unstable lands.  We need you to comment today to protect our communities from this outrageous practice.

The OSMRE is taking steps to limit self bonding – and we need people like you to speak up to make sure the laws are as strong as possible. The public comment period is open until July 20You may submit comments by any of the following methods:

  • Sierra Club Action Link
  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. The petition has been assigned Docket ID: OSM-2016-0006. Please follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Administrative Record, Room 252 SIB, 1951 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20240. Please include the Docket ID: OSM-2016-0006.

Appalachian Voices Publishes Preliminary Report on Innovative Mine Reclamation Project

Alliance member organization, Appalachian Voices is partnering with Downstream Strategies and Coal Mining Engineering Services to identify and analyze Abandoned Mine Land (AML) sites in far Southwest Virginia for site cleanup and redevelopment opportunities.  The goals of the project are to, 1) Demonstrate the need for and potential positive impact of the RECLAIM Act in the Southwest Virginia coalfields as the proposed legislation moves through Congress; 2) Utilize results to accelerate Virginia’s deployment of RECLAIM and other funds; and 3) Promote AML projects that are forward thinking and adaptive to the changing economic realities in far Southwest Virginia.  

The partners are examining sites individually to assess their suitability for economic activities such as agriculture and agroforestry, commercial and industrial development, energy infrastructure and recreation.  The approach includes analyzing existing resources (like community interest and capacity, and proximity to population centers, transportation, utilities infrastructure, markets, etc.) around potential sites to locate the most promising locations.

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The full report, which will provide a general analysis of the 15 most promising sites identified based on clean-up cost estimates and economic impact, will be released in the early Fall of this year.  Phase 2 of the project will move the sites with highest potential towards shovel-ready status, meaning the plans are in place and the project is ready to explore funding sources.  From the report, “Despite oft-quoted from statistics about the region, there are numerous, diverse bright spots on the map of redevelopment, from commercial and industrial projects to agriculture and recreation.”

Appalachian Voices has been sharing their progress with other organizations in the Alliance and throughout Central Appalachia, providing a template and useful reference guide for other states interested in undergoing a similar process.    

Learn more about the project here.

Celebrating 10 Years in the Region– You’re Invited!

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!  

Save the Date 10 years- Hindman

RSVP Here: Facebook event, overnight housing request

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.

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.

 

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