April Updates

We’re excited to see the roll-out of a powerful new feature at iLoveMountains.org that works to show the ongoing impacts of mountaintop removal.

For years, it was impossible to track the spread of mountaintop removal coal mining in Central Appalachia over the course of time. Appalachian Voices has compiled 30 years of satellite imagery and other data to show how this destructive form of coal mining is gradually getting closer to communities, even as coal production in the region is declining.

Of the thousands of communities at risk, the research identified the top 50 where the adverse effects of mountaintop removal — including water pollution, increased health risks, poverty rates and population loss — is greatest.

Take a moment this week to explore this new powerful feature and learn more about the communities at risk from mountaintop removal!

Springtime Meetings for the Alliance and Our Allies

Now is the time for us to work together to push the Obama administration for urgent action to protect mountain communities from the impacts of mountaintop removal and to begin planning for a sustainable future for Appalachia. This spring has been busy with meetings as we work to together to make our plans for the future of our work – and of the region! Here is a quick summary of what we’ve been talking about:

Meeting With Allies in DC

In March The Alliance for Appalachia hosted an Allies Strategy meeting in D.C. We convened at the Sierra Club in D.C. and met with a group partner organizations and national allies including RAN, EarthJustice, and Greenpeace. We discussed our policy priorities for the Obama Administration in 2015 and how we can all work together to forward those goals.

While in DC, representatives of Alliance member groups also met with the Department of the Interior with deputy directors of OSMRE and with the Office of Water at the EPA. Both agencies agreed to look into some of our concerns and we hope that we also made some valuable contacts to continue pushing for much needed change from this administration.

Snapshots from our month of meetings! Getting great minds together to create a just and sustainable Appalachia!

Spring Steering Meeting

The Alliance for Appalachia hosts meetings several times a year for our member groups to gather, celebrate and share our work and create new strategy and priorities for our work teams. This April we gathered in beautiful Benham, KY at the historic Schoolhouse Inn.

One focus of our spring meeting was to flesh out our federal strategy plans for the coming months –  especially with regard to the comment periods for the Stream Protection Rule and Selenium Standard. Stay tuned as we roll out a plan to take action on these important policy changes!

AML Policy Priorities Tour and Summit

Leaders from Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky used the knowledge presented at the April AML Policy Priorities Summit meeting combined with their previous expertise and experience with AML issues to discuss the changes to policy needed in order to eliminate hazards to communities, restore our lands, and create diverse economic opportunities along the way.

Ironically, just up the road from our meeting the town of Lynch was experiencing major problems with their water from two mine blowouts in the past few weeks. While they are still determining the root cause, it’s believed to be an AML problem in both instances. The Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands is keeping the people of Lynch waiting while trying to determine if a) It really is an AML problem b) if they have funds to clean up the problem and restore clean water to the residents of Lynch. They are currently unable to drink, cook, or brush their teeth, and this is certainly making an economic impact on Lamplight Coffee House and other businesses, churches and households in Lynch.

It is our hope the the work laid out at the AML meeting can help bring more funds to communities like Lynch to address their problems rather than in times of disaster.

Presence at the Appalachian Studies Association

March 27-29th the annual Appalachian Studies Conference was held at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. The Alliance for Appalachia hosted a session entitled “Our Water, Our Future” that was heavily attended.

Our AppFellow, Kendall Bilbrey, and Eric Dixon of the Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center, served on a roundtable discussion entitled “Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation and how Communities Influence Mine Cleanup, Create Jobs, and Diversify our Economy Through Policy Change” to much acclaim. The Alliance for Appalachia’s table was a must see as many people came by to donate money, pick up bumper stickers and buttons, sign up for the I Love Mountains e-mail list, or just to talk about their experiences and get to know The Alliance for Appalachia. All involved agreed that the conference was a great success and provided us with a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and meet new and interesting people dedicated to celebrating and improving Appalachia.

Updates from the Movement: 

Last month’s newsletter brought the news that PNC Bank had divested from mountaintop removal, and now Barclays bank has chosen to do the right thing!

Barclays PLC, the world’s #1 financial backer of mountaintop removal coal mining last year, just announced it’s ending its support for mountaintop removal. This is huge news for mountains and for communities in Appalachia! Read more at The Guardian: http://a.ran.org/r1f


Our activists and allies at Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards triumphed this month when the permit for a new mountaintop removal site in Wise County, VA was rejected! The Ison Rock Ridge mine would have destroyed 1,300 acres of mountain, buried 14,000 feet of streams, and polluted local water

Crayfish Against Mountaintop Removal

Healthy critters in our streams are an important sign that the water is safe for all life. So it’s key that we keep an eye on the crawdads!

Our friends at Center for Biological Diversity have created a petition and lawsuit that forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose to protect two species of crayfish from Appalachia under the Endangered Species Act. The crayfishes have been lost from more than half of their ranges because of water pollution, primarily from coal mining. The Big Sandy crayfish is known only from the Big Sandy River basin in eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia; the Guyandotte River crayfish is known only from the Guyandotte River basin in southern West Virginia.

This listing proposal means that federal agencies will now have to confer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before funding or permitting any activity that could harm the animals. When the listing is finalized in 12 months, it will be illegal for any person or corporation, including coal companies, to harm the crayfishes or their habitat. The Service will propose critical habitat to protect the crayfishes in the near future.

Mountain Justice Annual Summer Gathering 
Disorganizer’s Gathering! – May 30 – June 2
Organizer’s Gathering! – June 4 – June 7

This year, MJ is branching out from our traditional summer camp model to meet the evolving needs of a network that has built up over MJ’s 10 years of resistance to the destruction of Appalachia. Over the last decade, this time together has become an important place for organizers doing powerful work in Appalachia to share stories, collaborate, build the movement, and just hang out in lovely spots in the mountains. Our spot this year is in the Kanawha State Forest, close to Charleston, WV, and right next to a sprawling strip mine. The location is beautiful and intentionally chosen: not only will we get to hike and bike in these lovely mountains with friends old and new, but host organizers with the Kanawha Forest Coalition will share experience from the campaign to permanently shut down the KD #2 Mine.

AML Policy Priorities Tour

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.

Updated AML Educational Tour Schedule

  • KFTC Land Reform Committee, Prestonsburg KY (Postponed from Weather, TBA)
  • AML Policy Priorities Group Conference Call: March 18th 11am
    • 760-569-6000, PIN: 465-754
  • 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

Questions about the tour? Contact Kendall@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

Upcoming: AML Educational Tour

EducationalTourFlyer

 

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.

Updated AML Educational Tour Schedule

  • KFTC Land Reform Committee, Prestonsburg KY (Postponed from Weather, TBA)
  • AML Policy Priorities Group Conference Call: March 18th 11am
    • 760-569-6000, PIN: 465-754
  • 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

Questions about the tour? Contact Kendall@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

Quakers Force PNC Bank to End Investment in Mountaintop Removal

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Bowing to pressure from Quaker environmentalists, today 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 (1). PNC’s total investment was $687.5 million for that year.

MTR1

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.”

According to EQAT’s analysis, PNC’s changes in investment will sever ties with the two largest companies (Alpha and Arch). Given Patriot Coal’s bankruptcy and CONSOL Energy’s imminent shifting out of mountaintop removal, PNC Bank will be left without any major investments in mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal has long been criticized for its negative environmental and health impacts. This process of getting coal from a mountain involves blowing up the top of the mountain and dumping the remains into rivers and valleys. The contaminants from the dynamite hang in the air and the sludge and residue from this process poisons water (2). Scientists note the impact of burning dirty coal is speeding up global climate change.

Continue reading

Moving Forward Together: February Newsletter from The Alliance for Appalachia

Abandoned Mine Land Project Moving Forward

A few weeks ago, President Obama announced the POWER+ Plan for the FY 2016 budget that prioritizes opportunities for economic diversification and development in coalfield communities, creating a large buzz (see News Updates below). This budget proposal is a step toward recognition for the potential for new and just economies to thrive in Central Appalachia, but it is far from the beginning of the conversation. Workers, state officials, community groups, political heads–people across Central Appalachia have been asking for years: “What’s next for our region as the coal economy declines?”

That question will be explored in an upcoming whitepaper from our Economic Transition team that looks at the Abandoned Mine Lands fund’s potential to help revitalize local economies while mitigating dangerous environmental conditions left behind from old coal mines.

This timely project is a culmination of research led by Eric Dixon and Kendall Bilbrey, AppFellows working with The Alliance for Appalachia’s Economic Transition team, Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center and the Highlander Center.

On April 2nd, The Alliance for Appalachia and Appalachian Citizens Law Center will co-host an Abandoned Mine Lands Summit and training–to work with community leaders from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia to learn about the Fund, the findings of the whitepaper, and to explore how we as a region can begin to advocate for these important changes.

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!

Upcoming Strategy Meetings 

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.

In the next month, The Alliance will be hosting several strategy meetings as we map out the course of our year. On March 11th, we’ll be hosting a national strategy meeting in Washington, DC. We invite representatives from our member groups, other regional stakeholders and national allies to join us in aligning our efforts.

March 31st-April 1st will be our Spring Steering Meeting; it is an opportunity for our member groups to gather to share work updates, set strategy and build our regional work. For more information about any of these upcoming meetings, contact Samantha@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

Updates from the Movement: 

Appalachian Leaders Travel to Extreme Energy Extraction Summit

Leaders working to end mountaintop removal attended the Extreme Energy Extraction Summit, an opportunity to network and learn from environmental justice leaders from across the US and across many issues.  Daile Boulis, a volunteer with OVEC and the Kanawha Forest coalition who took the photo above, has written up the event here, if you’d like to learn more about the powerful toxic tour participants took that showed the continuing devastation of the BP OIl Disaster and other severe environmental justice issues experienced in the Gulf South – as well as the inspiring local leaders who are working to stop these poisonous industries.

Upcoming Mountain Justice Camps
Mark your calendars for these engaging camps which provide information on mountaintop removal and a variety of ways to take action against it.

March 7-14th will be Mountain Justice Spring Break, at Natural Tunnel State Park in Southwest Virginia hosted by the RRENEW Collective and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.

The 2015 Mountain Justice Summer Convergence will be held in beautiful Kanawha State Forest, just south of Charleston WV, from Saturday May 30 through Sunday, June 7.  The Convergence is held in conjunction with the Kanawha Forest Coalition, a citizens’ group which is opposing a mining permit for a new mine adjacent to Kanawha State Forest.
The Mountain Justice Summer Convergence will have a variety of workshops, site tours and hikes during the day, based on an “Unconference” model, which will allow the camp to be flexible and more spontaneous.  The camp will evolve throughout the week based on the input and feedback of the camp participants.   Evening activities will include speakers, a panel discussion with members of the Kanawha Forest Coalition, live music and dancing.  Tent camping is available and all meals will be cooked on site by a kitchen collective.The event is low-cost and accessible to most budgets.  The 2015 Mountain Justice Summer Convergence is intended to be meeting of minds, broad-based, a regional gathering open to everyone in the coal, climate and energy movement. For more information and to register, go to  www.mountainjustice.org

Kentucky Celebrates Ten Years of I Love Mountains Day!
Hundreds braved the frigid weather for an inspiring day in Frankfort, KY.  The day focused on building New Power in the region for a just transition. As Teri Blanton said during the event, “We understand that there can’t be a climate movement over here, a racial justice movement over there, and a just economy movement somewhere else. We get the connections. We live in those intersections. We know that we are all in this together.” Read more on the KFTC Blog! 

ACHE Act Introduced into US House of Representatives
Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25) reintroduced the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act, legislation that would require the first comprehensive federal study of the health dangers of mountaintop removal coal mining. The ACHE Act, H.R. 912, would place a moratorium on all new mountaintop removal mining permits while federal officials examine health consequences to surrounding communities.  Learn more about the bill and the campaign here.

SOCM Members Fight a Coal Ash Landfill
SOCM Members rallied against dangerous proposed changes to the TVA Kingston Coal Ash landfill. This area is still experiencing toxic after effects of the 2008 coal ash disaster. The ground beneath the proposed Kingston coal ash landfill features sinkholes, cavernous bedrock, and rapid groundwater flow. All the groundwater beneath the landfill eventually flows into the Clinch River, according to a geologic study of the proposal! Learn more about the community’s work on SOCM’s blog and in thisnews article. One community event was the documentary showing pictured below.

Support Our Work!
Donate to The Alliance for Appalachia

News Updates:

Inside Appalachia Covers Reactions to the POWER+ Plan Across the Region – and interviews Betsy Taylor, a member of our Economic Transition Team. Details of the plan are covered here 

Federal Court Finds Fola Violated the Clean Water Act Thanks to a lawsuit led by citizen groups West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Sierra Club and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition represented byPublic Justice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Fola’s water violations have been noted, despite the lack of enforcement from state agencies.

Citizens Fight WV Legislature Efforts to Rollback Water Regulations
Despite the 2014 Water Crisis, when a coal chemical spill crippled the Charleston economy and left 300,000 people without access to clean water, the WV Legislature is looking to reduce water protections.

Decision allows Kentucky to use flawed “General Permit” to shield polluters from responsibility
The Sixth Circuit Court declined to hold ICG Hazard’s Thunder Ridge Surface Mine in Leslie County, KY accountable for dangerous selenium pollution, though it did recognize that the mine is damaging area streams, and noted that state regulators had chosen not to limit the pollution.

W.Va. state school board moves back toward original climate change standards 
After massive criticism for trying to remove the science from science curriculum, a new version of the standards has been released.

Dirty Bakken Oil Train Derailment Causes Massive Explosion in West Virginia
This terrifying explosion is yet another example of the dangers our region faces from an out of control, unregulated fossil fuel industry.

Appalachian Regional Coalition Evaluates Progress. 
After 50 years of work in the region, this comprehensive report examines ongoing poverty and health issues.

Renewable Energy Bill Ended in West Virginia
The already weak renewable standard has been repealed by the new state legislature.

Appalachian Love Story Focuses on young people working to stay in the region. This series is part of the STAY Project.

Bid to pull permit at Kanawha State Forest Surface Mine Denied Groups will continue to fight the dangerous mine.

Take Action: Protect Our Streams!

Visit our partner site iLoveMountains to take action on this important issue!

In the wake of a devastating chemical spill in West Virginia and decades of damaged water from mountaintop removal mining and other coal industry abuses, citizens have won a huge victory for our water and our future.

A federal appeals court stated that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are authorized to do their jobs and protect Appalachian communities from mountaintop removal.

This decision gives EPA the opening they need to create a federal rule that supersedes the corruption of state politicians and that has enough teeth to make a real difference in Appalachian communities.

It�s time to seal the deal. Tell EPA to protect our water and our future!

Obama Offers POWER+ Plan to Expand Funds to Coalfields, Incentivize Community Led Economic Development

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boonecounty

Chatter about economic transition in the coalfields is growing, and Obama’s POWER+ Plan for FY16 has joined the conversation. The Alliance for Appalachia is excited to see a proposal in the administration’s budget for solid investment, reclamation and job creation in Central Appalachia. Coal mining communities have contributed so much to America’s prosperity, and today are continually faced with mounting health, environmental and economic costs.

 

The president’s plan calls for economic diversification, disbursement of additional funds, and incentives to pair reclamation with community wishes for economic development. This new plan begins to address many of the concerns that Appalachian communities have been advocating for years. Community leaders have been predicting the decline of coal for decades , and have been coming up with common sense solutions like many outlined in the POWER+ plan.

 

The Alliance for Appalachia is ,however, disappointed to see focus on carbon capture technology in the POWER+ Plan, which the Alliance and many leading scientists feel is a dead-end technology. Instead, the Alliance would like to see more investments in energy efficiency and renewable technologies that have real potential to transition our energy system while immediately benefiting low income families struggling to meet rising energy costs.

 

Appalachian communities must do their part to make sure that our congressional leaders side with the interests and needs of their constituents at this critical turning point in our region’s future, including supporting future legislative measures to make sure these funds enter our communities.

 

The AML Policy Priorities Group is a citizens’ group which originated from the efforts of Appalachian Transition Fellows working for The Alliance for Appalachia and the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. Through the Highlander Center’s Appalachian Transition Fellowship program, these organizations have been collaborating to create a whitepaper regarding AML fund opportunities and policy recommendations in Central Appalachia and to bring together leaders and community members throughout the region who are working on the issue.

 

“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.  “We have all these people out of work from mine closures, and 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 community could really take pride in.”

 

The Alliance for Appalachia is a coalition of groups across the Central Appalachian region working to end mountaintop removal and other destructive extraction methods, as well as to create a just and sustainable future for Appalachia.


Questions? Contact the Alliance’s Appalachian Transition Fellow Kendall Bilbrey at kendall@theallianceforappalachia.org

Almost Done! One more way you can help in 2014!

We couldn’t do what we do without you — it’s as simple as that.

All year long, you have lent your voice to the fight against mountaintop removal. In June, you backed a delegation of Appalachian leaders in Washington, fighting off bad bills and gathering important information about upcoming rulemakings from the Obama Administration. In September, you supported dozens of movement leaders in DC at a critical interagency meeting and an amazing Our Water, Our Future day of action. And earlier this month, you helped spread the word about Appalachian Leaders’ new Grassroots Progress Report, outlining a plan of action for the last two years of the Obama Administration to protect Our Water and Our Future.

Now we are asking you to be a part of one more thing this year: making our work in 2015 possible.

As we close in on the 2015 public comment periods of critical water-related rulemakings, it’s crucial that we begin the year on strong footing–and we can do it with you help. Click here to make a tax-deductible contribution today.

Whether you’re able to contribute $10, $25, $50 or more, every dollar of your holiday contribution goes directly to groups working to end mountaintop removal coal mining.

Help us end 2014 by donating to end mountaintop removal.

Thank you for such an incredible year!

Join Us: Measure Obama’s Legacy and Build Grassroots Power

 

Grassroots Progress Report Evaluates Obama’s Legacy in Appalachia

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.

Five years ago, in June, 2009, the Obama administration created a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) among federal agencies responsible for protecting Appalachian communities from the extreme damage of mountaintop removal coal mining. Last week, The Alliance for Appalachia released a report evaluating the progress that the Obama Administration has and has not made in the last 5 years regarding the MOU and other big promises to protect Appalachian communities.

Much work is needed to complete the MOU process, to ensure effective regulatory enforcement in our region, to create sound rule-makings, to strengthen citizen engagement and to invest in a bright future for Central Appalachia. Our coalition of organizations represents thousands of citizens who are ready to work. This report is an invitation for the Obama Administration to do the same.

“This is about the long term health of our people; it’s about the future of our economy. It’s not just this generation, but future generations. Inaction should not be the legacy of the Obama Administration,” says Davie Randsdell, Kentucky native and contributor to the report.

You can find coverage of the report on Louisville Public Radio, SNL Financial, Eco-watch, Huffington Post and the Lexington Herald and you help turn this report into action by lending your voice here.

You can also check out great quotes from our recent press conference on our Facebook page – share them with your friends! 

The Alliance for Appalachia attends the Building Equity and Alignment Gathering

Over 50% of “environmental” funding and resources go to 2% of “environmental” organizations; the other 50% of funding and resources go to the other 98% of organizations, mostly base-building groups. This fact was the seed from which a new national project called the Building Equity and Alignment for Impact initiative grew!.

Building Equity and Alignment for Impact (BEAI) is a unique, movement-building initiative involving representatives of the environmental justice grassroots organizing sector, national environmental organizations and the philanthropic sector who have come together because we know that in order for our organizations to have impact, we must lift up the leadership, achievements, and importance of grassroots organizations; the value of principled collaboration between grassroots and big green groups; and, the reality that in order to build a powerful movement that can effectively address the most critical environmental crises of our times, we need to significantly increase resources to the grassroots organizing sector.

We are honored to be a part of this visionary work and to have attended the BEAI strategy meeting this November. We see this effort as an important piece of building the sort of power we need to strengthen our environmental justice movement.

AppFellows Gather to Map the Sustainable Energy Landscape in our Region
The AppFellows Program hosted it’s second regional gathering December 4-5, Strengthening Sustainable Energy, at the historic Benham Schoolhouse Inn in Harlan County, KY. This gathering focused on conversations around sustainable energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and legacy costs of energy production with an eye towards economic transition. AppFellow Joshua Outsey working with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, MACED, the City of Benham and COAP (Christian Outreach with Appalachian People) highlighted the exciting Benham Energy Project, where one former coal camp has the opportunity to weatherize homes and choose responsible energy sources after discovering their contract with Kentucky Utilities will expire soon.

Other AppFellows who presented their work at the gathering were: Kendall Bilbrey and Eric Dixon’s AML Project (The Alliance for Appalachia and ACLC), Tyler Cannon (OVEC), Carol Davey (ACEnet), Tom Torres (University of Tennessee), and their host communities. Topics moved from basics of the abandoned mine lands fund to highlighting savings and success after West Virginia businesses make the switch to being energy efficient. Aside from the fellows, there was a large representation from Central Appalachian organizations, agencies, and businesses working towards a sustainable energy climate here in our mountains.

Updates from the Movement: 

We Won’t Stand for Corruption! Our member groups are taking action against falsified water pollution reports. 

As the New York Times recently reported, Alliance member groups Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Appalachian Voices and other allies are threatening to sue coal company Frasure Creek unless the state of Kentucky acts on the tens of thousands of violations the coal company has racked up.

“Frasure Creek’s actions — and the Cabinet’s failures to act — undermine the regulatory framework that safeguards the people and waters of Kentucky” says the letter threatening the lawsuit. Appalachian citizen groups have given the state 60 days to act.

Proposed Expansion of Largest Mountaintop Removal Mine in the Country


photo courtesy of OVEC’s Vivan Stockman and Southwings

The Hobet Mine near Spurlockville, W.Va., is the largest mountaintop removal mine in the country — and the coal company is trying to expand it further! Now is your chance tosend a letter to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in defense of the mountains, streams, and people that would be harmed by this expansion proposal.

For 29 years, some of the most destructive coal mining has occurred in the Mud River watershed. The new permit could allow for the destruction of 470 acres and include 30 waste water discharges. The permit further encroaches on the Big Ugly Wildlife Management Area. Thirty three homes will be within a half mile of blasting, dumping and water pollution discharge if this site is allowed to move forward.

Mountain Leader and Family Featured in New Video


We are storytellers and last month, the story of one of our movements leaders, Donna Branham of Mingo County, WV was captured in a new short film.

“We are somebody. My family is somebody. We deserve to be treated with respect and honor,” says Donna.See the story of Donna and her family here.


Photo credit: The New Yorker
News Updates:
Massey CEO Don Blankenship Finally Indicted

Four years after the Upper Big Branch explosion, longtime Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has been indicted on charges that he violated federal mine safety laws, creating the dangerous conditions that led to the deaths of 29 miners.

Coal River Mountain Watch Hopes to Open New Judy Bonds Center

Judy Bonds helped to found Coal River Mountain Watch in 1998. From that point on she dedicated her life to protecting her community from the destruction brought on by the coal industry. Today, CRMW occupies a historic two-story building in Naoma, West Virginia, just a few miles from her old house and on the front lines of the resistance against mountaintop removal. That building has come up for sale and CRMW is working to purchase and preserve this wonderful space which has played such an important role in this community and this struggle. You can donate to help make it a reality.
Photo credit: Earth Quaker Action Team

EQAT take action to Push PNC to Divest from MTR
On Saturday, December 6, approximately 300 people participated in over 30 actions in 12 states and the District of Columbia to demand that PNC Bank stop financing companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining.

Coal Costs Keep Adding Up
This op-ed in Kentucky catalogs the great costs of the coal industry, from miners safety and health to environmental tolls.

Photo credit: Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Judge Rejects Deals Between Kentucky Officials and Coal Company
As Kentuckians for the Commonwealth reports: “The Franklin Circuit Court on Monday issued two long-awaited orders rejecting settlement deals between the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and Frasure Creek Mining arising from the coal company’s thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act from 2008 through 2011.”

Yet Another Study Shows the Dangerous Impacts of MTR
Michigan State University confirms, yet again, that mountaintop removal can damage waterways downstream of mine sites.

Grassroots Progress Report Evaluates Obama’s Legacy in Appalachia

The report discusses the Obama Administration’s successes and shortfalls in addressing the impacts of mountaintop removal and investing in a just and sustainable economy in Appalachia

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CONTACT

Katey Lauer, (304) 546-8473 Katey.Lauer@theallianceforappalachia.org

Invitation to Teleconference:

On Wednesday, December 3rd at 11 am EST The Alliance for Appalachia will be hosting a press conference via teleconference to discuss the report, the history of the Obama administration’s progress regarding mountaintop removal, as well as recommendations and next steps. For call-in information, contact Dana@Theallianceforappalachia.org

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Following a tumultuous year for the coal industry, including the disastrous coal-chemical spill that left 300,000 without access to clean water in West Virginia, and increasing layoffs as coal mining continues to decline, a coalition of Appalachian citizen groups are demanding increased action from the Obama Administration.

The Alliance for Appalachia is releasing a Grassroots Progress Report (linked here) that assesses the work the Obama administration has done in the region and provides recommendations for the final two years of Obama’s tenure. The coalition feels it is a critical time for the administration to seriously engage in the extensive health and environmental costs of coal in the region, as well as address the urgent need for economic transition.

In addition to presenting suggested actions for the administration, the report outlines repeated failures by state agencies to enforce the law. This report comes on the heels of accusations from local groups that a Kentucky mining company has violated the Clean Water Act nearly 28,000 times, likely the largest non-compliance of the law in its 42-year history, while state regulators continue to give only slaps on the wrists.  The lack of accountability for rampant violations of the Clean Water Act and other laws are one reason that citizen groups are calling for urgent federal attention to the issue.

The quiet cut-off of funding for a USGS Study on the health impacts of mountaintop removal and continued delayed in rule-making processes, indicate that the administration is ignoring the issue, despite new studies linking mountaintop removal to increased rates of cancer and growing national concerns over climate change and water shortages.  Groups want the administration to address serious lapses in regulation, enforcement, and oversight of mountaintop removal mining operations, and to engage in collaborative dialogue around solutions and mitigation for adverse impacts caused by mountaintop removal mining operations, as well as to discuss what’s next for the region.

“The coal industry is never going to be like it was in the 30s. The jobs have been on a decline since the beginning.  We need to realistically think of the future of Appalachia, and fix this mess,” said Teri Blanton, a volunteer with The Alliance for Appalachia and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.  “We could employ ten times the number of workers just fixing the toxic pollution mountaintop removal has left behind. We need reinvestment in Appalachia – not just clean energy, but cleaning up the messes left behind by dirty energy.”

In addition to planning for an Appalachian future with fewer and fewer coal jobs, the coalition is seeking more permanent protections and concrete commitments for what the agencies can accomplish by the end of 2016.  In September, leaders from mountain communities attended an interagency meeting with representatives of the Obama administration.  The goal of this meeting was to address this progress of the administration towards promises made in a 2009 memorandum. In June, 2009, the Obama administration created a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among federal agencies responsible for protecting Appalachian communities from the extreme damage of mountaintop removal coal mining.  Groups were disappointed with the lack of initiative shown by agency representatives in the five years since the memo was created.

“The meeting we thought we were going to have wasn’t what happened at all. The administration representatives said they wanted to ‘start a dialogue,’ but we thought the dialogue had started years ago in 2009.  This meeting should have been the culmination of years of work, not the beginning,” said Davie Ransdell, a former coal reclamation technician who now volunteers with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Alliance for Appalachia.

The grassroots report is one way community groups are following up with meeting attendees. Suggested administrative changes include a Conductivity Rule and strong Selenium Standard from the US Environmental Protection Agency and a strong Stream Protection Rule and Mine Fill Rule from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation Enforcement.

“Now is the time to get these policies on the books so future administrations can have something to work with,” said Ann League of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment.

Mountaintop removal and other coal industry abuses have long compromised the waters of Central Appalachia. Over 2,000 miles of stream have been buried by mountaintop removal alone and mountaintop removal has destroyed 10% of the land in central Appalachia – more than 500 mountains. The severe impacts of mountaintop removal show the urgent need to end this practice as well as to begin building towards reclaiming the land and water for a healthier future.

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, 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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