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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Secretary Jewell:

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Jane Branham,
Coordinating Committee Chair

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

 

March Updates

The Alliance On Tour – Are We Coming Near You? 

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

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

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

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

Other opportunities to engage with this program include:

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

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

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

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

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

  • Clearfork Community Institute, Eagan TN — April 9th

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

To support this important work, or to help us provide scholarships to community members who wish to attend the spring summit to learn more about these issues, donate here!

Back to DC: A Meeting with Allies 

Now is the time for us to work together to push the Obama administration for urgent action to protect mountain communities from the impacts of mountaintop removal and to begin planning for a sustainable future for Appalachia.On Wednesday, March 11th The Alliance for Appalachia hosted an Allies Strategy meeting in D.C.  We convened at the Sierra Club in D.C. and met with a group partner organizations and national allies including RAN, EarthJustice, and Greenpeace. We discussed our policy priorities for the Obama Administration in 2015 and how we can all work together to forward those goals.
While in DC, representatives of Alliance member groups also met with the Department of the Interior with deputy directors of OSMRE and with the Office of Water at the EPA. Both agencies agreed to look into some of our concerns and we hope that we also made some valuable contacts to continue pushing for much needed change from this administration.We’re excited to continue to plan out our 2015 strategy at our upcoming Spring Steering Meeting March 31st-April 1st; it is an opportunity for our member groups to gather to share work updates, set strategy and build our regional work. For more information, contact Samantha@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

Updates from the Movement: 

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

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

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

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

Read more about this victory on EQAT’s website.

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

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


Putting Their Foot Down: Hundreds Rally at WVDEP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support Our Work!
Donate to The Alliance for Appalachia

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

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

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

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

Mingo County Mudslide forces evacuation.

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

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

More News Updates:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 2015 Newsletter

Welcome Samantha! 

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

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

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

Welcome to the team, Samantha!

Anniversary of the #WVWaterCrisis

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


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

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

Updates from the Movement: 

Anticipated Changes to the Stream Buffer Zone Rule Move Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

News and Updates:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grassroots Report Released

As we near the end of 2014, it seems yet another year has passed without significant action from The Obama Administration to end the worst abuses of mountaintop removal.

hillbillies deserve clean water

Members of The Alliance for Appalachia prepare to meet with White House Staff to discuss the need to end mountaintop removal and clean up the toxic legacy coal has left behind.

Despite the disastrous coal cleaning chemical spill in January that left 300,000 without access to clean water in West Virginia, despite a new study that links mountaintop removal to lung cancer, and despite recent accusations from local groups that a Kentucky mining company has violated the Clean Water Act nearly 28,000 times without meaningful repercussion, the Obama administration continues to drag their heels on desperately needed rule-making processes and has even cut off funding for a USGS study on the health impacts of mountaintop removal.

That’s why citizen groups are releasing a Grassroots Citizen’s Report on Mountaintop Removal today that lays out the stakes for the administration and tells them that the time for action is now. Read our press release about the report here.

Support these groups by contacting the administration and demanding action today!

ceq meeting by elaine tanner

Members of The Alliance for Appalachia meet with Obama administration staff to discuss the issues facing Appalachia.

The  grassroots citizen’s report  assesses the work the Obama administration has done in the region and provides recommendations for the final two years of Obama’s tenure.  You can check out a one page summary of the report and access the full report here.

A quick summary of the report is this: We need urgent action from the Obama administration to protect mountain communities from the impacts of mountaintop removal and to begin planning for a sustainable future for Appalachia.

While we have successfully pressured this administration in the last five years to take actions that will help protect Appalachian communities from mountaintop removal, there is much more to be done.

In fact, there are four key actions the administration can take this year that will greatly impact the future health of our Appalachian communities and allow the Administration to follow through on its promises.

Add your voice to ensure that the Obama administration takes action!

What Comes Next? Communities Gather to Discuss Abandoned Mine Lands


Abandoned Mine Lands Meeting a Success!

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

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

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

“The AML money needs to come back to where it came from, and where the healing is needed,” said Jane Branham of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Wise, County, VA and chair of The Alliance for Appalachia Coordinating Committee. “We have all these people out of work from mine closures. We can put people back to work healing the land – it’s not just good for the land, it’s good for the people, and would be a project our communities could really take pride in.”

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

October 2014 Newsletter: Mending the Past, Protecting Our Future


Abandoned Mine Lands Meeting a Success!

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

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

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

“The AML money needs to come back to where it came from, and where the healing is needed,” said Jane Branham of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Wise, County, VA and chair of The Alliance for Appalachia Coordinating Committee. “We have all these people out of work from mine closures. We can put people back to work healing the land – it’s not just good for the land, it’s good for the people, and would be a project our communities could really take pride in.”

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

The Alliance for Appalachia Hosts Steering Meeting to Plan for 2015
Following the AML Meeting, members of the Alliance Steering Committee gathered to reflect on 2014 and create strategy for moving forward in 2015. We’re excited to begin planning what’s next for The Our Water, Our Future Campaign in particular–as we continue to push for strong federal rule- and standard-makings on conductivity, selenium, stream protection and mine fill.

Updates from the Movement: 

Appalachian Transition Fellowship hosts Regional Gatherings
The Alliance for Appalachia is honored to be a part of the ambitious Appalachian Transition Project hosted by our friends at the Highlander Center. One aspect of this innovative programis a series of regional gatherings on important trends in Appalachian organizing.

Last week the group hosted a Local Food gathering, and the first week of  December will be the gathering focusing on energy, titled “Strengthening Sustainable Energy in Appalachia,” December 4-5, 2014 in beautiful Benham, KY. Registration is now open! Deadline to apply is Nov. 24, 2014.

Regional Strategic Gatherings connect the work of the Appalachian Transition Fellowship to a wider participant base around opportunities in important economic sectors. These sessions provide a space for people from non-profits, business, philanthropy, and educational groups throughout the region to share their work and identify challenges and strategies to move the sector forward in Central Appalachia.

Many Successful Fall Gatherings

Photo Courtesy of MountainJustice.org

October was busy with opportunities for people to gather and learn about the issues affecting our communities. Over 100 people attended Mountain Justice Fall Summit at Kayford Mountain for a powerful weekend of witnessing mountaintop removal first hand and learning from community members about the issues.

Heartwood hosted their annual Reunion for newcomers and old-timers alike to learn about the many campaigns their network is waging to protect our forests and our communities, as well as to relax and celebrate.

OVEC hosted Wellness and Water III. For the third year in a row, people concerned about health issues in communities adversely affected by water pollution in West Virginia gathered to share experiences and knowledge and to explore solutions. This year, the summit was in Charleston, WV and focused on chemical manufacturing and storage, which has been on the minds of many since the MCHM chemical leak in January that contaminated drinking water for some 300,000 people hooked into WV American Water’s water distribution system.

KFTC’s Letcher County Chapter paired with Appalshop in Whitesburg, KY and the After Coalproject of Appalachian State University, to host a public community forum on economic transition, and a local candidate meet and greet reception. The event included local politicians and candidates, as well as a representative from Wales who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to share policies for sustainable development that helped Wales recover from the collapse of the coal industry.

More Studies Show That Mountaintop Removal is Dangerous

News sources have been abuzz with the findings of a new study that shows that dust from mountaintop removal promotes the growth of lung tumors. Of course, communities have long known about the increased cancer they are facing, but this study was the first to prove the link through lab experiments on human lung cells.

This study and other overwhelming proof of the devastation caused by mountaintop removalprompted a high profile Editorial  in the Washington Post.

A new study out of the University of Kentucky demonstrates that conductivity pollution from mountaintop removal mines hurts ecosystems’ ability to support wildlife and healthy streams. The study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, links mountaintop removal to low salamander populations. It reiterates once again what we already knew: that conductivity pollution threatens the health and diversity of Appalachian streams.

John Grisham’s New Novel Features Mountaintop Removal 

John Grisham is world famous for his best-selling legal thrillers. He must have been inspired by some of the powerful attorneys fighting mountaintop removal for his new novel, “Gray Mountain.” The book is set in Southwest Virginia, not far from our friends at Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.

This novel is getting good reviews and will bring the issue of mountaintop removal mining to new audiences around the country and the world. As part of the book promotion, Grisham is sharing some of the facts about MTR with his 1.5 million Facebook fans if you’d like to follow along.

If you’ve read the book, let us know what you think!

Perspective on the Mid-term Elections
Many member groups of The Alliance for Appalachia worked long, hard hours to educate voters on the issues affecting our region, and there are a lot of complex feelings about the results of the recent election. Appalachian Voices’ Thom Kay offered this blog post analyzing what the impacts of the election might really have on our work to end mountaintop removal. As Thom says, “We will keep fighting for a better future for Appalachia, and push every decision-maker, regardless of their political leanings, to stand with us. We will fight to end to mountaintop removal and for a just economic transition away from fossil fuels. We will fight because no one else is going to do it for us, and we will need you there by our side.”At The Alliance for Appalachia, we know that there is no group of people we’d rather be working alongside, no matter the ups and downs we face.

Photo of failed reclamation courtesy of Appalachian VoicesNews Updates:
The Myth of Reclamation is Still Happening

This article debunks the myth that you can put a mountain back together again after blowing it up. The coal industry is blowing up mountains in Appalachia. They are not putting them back together again. The industry is polluting and burying streams, and they are not finding a way to fix them.

Lab official admits faking coal water quality reports

A lab has been caught and charged with faking water quality reports. This outlaw behavior seriously undermines communities’ ability to protect themselves from the dangerous impacts of mountaintop removal and highlights the level of corruption standing in the way of proper enforcement of the law.MSNBC Features Alliance Members for All In America: Coal Country
This high profile, week-long series travels through Central Appalachia and features many of our friends in the region speaking about the ways that coal impacts their community, the elections, and the future.

Book Featuring Appalachian Women Wins Awards and Raises Money
UK professor Shannon Bell’s powerful book, Our Roots Run Deep as Ironweed: Appalachian Women and the Fight for Environmental Justice, has one several awards recently. If you want to be inspired too, consider buying the book through OVEC, which helps raise money to continue the work.

Google Satellite Offers Groups Birds-Eye View of MTR
Are there any MTR sites you need a picture of? Google and Skybox are launching the Skybox for Good program, which will offer access to up-to-date satellite imagery to organizations and programs that are fighting environmental problems like mountaintop removal.

Market Forces Continue to Cause Coal’s Decline
This article highlights several market forces causing coal to continue decline as an economic driver in the region.

EQAT Hosts Fall Regional Trainings to Push PNC to Divest from MTR
EQAT has successfully held 15 simultaneous actions in 4 states, but on December 6th they aim to hold simultaneous actions in 10 states with multiple locations within each state! These regional trainings will introduce new activists to a growing campaign that represents the edgy and spiritual sensibility of Earth Quaker Action Team.

4th Extreme Energy Extraction Summit
The 4th Extreme Extraction Summit is fast approaching. This January 30th-February 2nd, activists fighting extreme extraction across North America will gather in Biloxi, MS to tour the gulf coast region and build relationships and strategy for the national movement.

Successful Rally at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

Today dozens of residents from Appalachia and allies from across the country rallied at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Those wishing to contact the CEQ to support residents can take action here.

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This office oversees the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Surface Mining and other agencies that are responsible for protecting Appalachian residents from the severe water and health impacts of mountaintop removal and other dangerous coal practices.

Appalachian leaders met with the agencies yesterday and were disappointed with the attitude the administration showed towards those that had traveled many hours to DC for the visit. The agency representatives asked for more time to work on the issue, but mountain leaders have been waiting five years since an Obama administration Memorandum of Understanding that promised action against the destructive practice as well as reinvestment in the economy of the region.

#ourwaterourfuture #stopmtr

The tragic and unbelievable series of toxic water spills in Appalachia in 2014 alone – from the 300,0000 people impacted by the spill in West Virginia to coal ash and coal slurry spills in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina – are just the most recent disasters to show the failures of the Obama Administration to follow through on its promises to protect Appalachian communities. There have been over 500 mountains destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining and the region is ready for a just transition to a new economy beyond this destructive practice.

Our Water Our Future Bucket Brigade and sit in at CEQ
The group engaged in a sit-in on the front steps of the CEQ and waited several hours for an agency representative to come out to speak with them – as well as hosting a square dance with a live band playing traditional Appalachian music in front of the CEQ. In addition, residents organized a bucket brigade to collect clean water from DC to bring back home to their communities which do not have access to safe water to drink.

When no representative agreed to meet with residents after several hours of waiting, residents placed a reportcard on the steps which evaluated the progress so far of the CEQ on important areas such as protecting the health and water of Appalachia. Participants in the rally gave the administration a grade of “incomplete.”

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Things Are Bubbling Up: Support Appalachian Leaders in DC Today

This week, we are supporting a strong team of Appalachian leaders from West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee gathering in Washington DC to meet with federal agencies, including the EPA and the Office of Surface Mining, to apply pressure on several key water decisions slated for 2014.

Lend your voice! Support our team in DC today: Contact the Obama administration and let them know that Appalachia deserves action for safe water – our future depends on it.

In addition to these high-stakes meetings, our team is fighting bad budget riders on the Hill that would threaten our mountains and our water. It is more important than ever to build relationships with our champions in the Senate and the House who speak up when terrible proposals to gut already flimsy water protections are presented in Congress. What’s more, beyond this critical defense work, we’re continuing to build relationships for positive action on this Hill this week by bringing on new co-sponsors to the Clean Water Protection Act. Thanks to our friends at Earthjustice and Appalachian Voices for making the week possible.

Save the Date for September

Appalachian action in DC this week is an important part of the “Our Water Our Future” campaign to push for stronger protections for our water.  We’re telling the Obama administration that we are done waiting for clean water! You can join us at the national day of action September 8-9, 2014!

Can’t be there but want to help? We’re currently fundraising to support this important campaign and need you to be a part of it. Help make this event happen!

Extreme Energy Extraction Summit

In May 2014, members of the Alliance for Appalachia joined allies from across the country working on Extreme Extraction issues in Albuquerque, NM. It was an amazing learning opportunity and an inspiring way to connect with the wisdom of other movements for energy justice across North America. As part of the event, Appalachia leaders went on a tour of local communities dealing with the toxic legacy of uranium mining. Read more about the tour here.  In the photo below, summit participants are viewing Navajo land that is threatened by a proposed uranium mine. Learning about how the local community is resisting destruction in New Mexico had a lot of connections to the battles we are facing in Appalachia. Click here to learn more about the voices at the summit.

The Alliance for Appalachia has been a core part of the Extreme Energy Extraction group and we are excited to begin planning for the next summit, which is slated to be hosted in the gulf South.

We are also excited to be working with the Climate Justice Alliance’s  Our Power campaign, which highlights key areas for just transition. Youth from The Alliance for Appalachia and our member group the STAY Project will be attending the youth gathering in Detroit this month to connect with other young people who are facing energy injustice in their home communities.

Justice to Justice Campaign Launches

Visit JusticetoJustice.com to get involved in a new campaign to tell Jim Justice Clean up his mess, pay of his debts, and stop poisoning our water! This deadbeat billionaire had wreaked havoc on communities across Appalachia. The campaign started in Wise County, VA, where Justice’s mountaintop removal coal mine have poisoned water, blasted communities, mistreated workers and left the towns to foot the bill.

Keeper of the Mountains Land Trust

Read more at the ilovemountains.org blog. Keeper of the Mountains Foundation has begun a land trust which works with small landowners to protect their land with support from Coal River Mountain Watch. They began by working with Sid and Dana Moye to protect their 24 acres of farmland, pictured above. Unlike many land trusts, Keepers will work with small landowners and those who don’t have their mineral rights, making land protection accessible to more residents. By the end of 2014, Keepers aims to have 1,000 acres of land protected in easements – an important step towards giving residents power over their own land and future.

Appalachian Transition Fellowship Launch

This exciting and ambitious program has 15 aspiring Appalachian leaders in host communities across the region working on a diverse array of projects to build economic resiliency towards a just economic transition in Appalachia.  Stay tuned to learn more about this work throughout the year!

Donate To Support This Work

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

Members of the Alliance for Appalachia met recently at beautiful Breaks Interstate Park in Virginia to plan our upcoming strategy.

Alliance for Appalachia staff has been working to support West Virginia Water Roundtables, bringing together a a diverse community of leaders who are continuing to take action following the WV Water Crisis to ensure West Virginians have access to safe drinking water.

News Updates:

Victory in the Battle for Blair Mountain! The West Virginia Department of Protection has set aside a section of Blair Mountain for protection until at least 2018. Thanks to all who worked so hard on this campaign over the years – including over 1,000 who marched for it’s protection in 2011!Tenth Anniversary of Mountain Justice: Celebrate a decade of work, learn new skills, hear great music, and find ways to get involved in the movement at this year’s camp, June 14-22nd.Breaking Clean Tour Coming Near You? Appalachian Voices is working with former coal miner Nick Mullins to tour with his family to share “stories of struggle and hope” about coal and the future of Appalachia.Check the website for tour dates. 

Earth Quaker Action Team Launches Biggest Action Yet to Pittsburgh: On July 3rd, our friends in Pittsburgh will be taking action to tell PNC to stop funding mountaintop removal!

Strong Selenium Protections Needed. Protecting our water from selenium is an important part of the fight against mountaintop removal – you can learn more about selenium dangers and EPA’s proposal to address them in this excellent article by Chris Espinosa with Earthjustice.

100,000 Have Health Impacts from Spill: This article provides a not-so-shocking update on the West Virginia Water Crisis shows a better picture of the extent of health impacts.

 

Spring 2014 Newsletter

App Rising

Our Water, Our Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Legislature

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

Appalachian Transition Work

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

 

Allies in Action

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

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

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

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

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

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