February 2014 Newsletter

Rally for Clean Water in Charleston January 2014The past two months have been a flurry of activity for members of the Alliance and our partners across the region. The ongoing water emergency in West Virginia, additional spills in West Virginia and North Carolina as well as busy state legislatures have kept our members and allies busy, busy, busy.

We’re excited to share some good news for our communities’ health and streams! A federal court has vacated the Bush administration’s 2008 gutting of the stream buffer zone rule and sent the issue back to the Office of Surface Mining — good news for the Obama administration’s efforts to rewrite the George W. Bush administration rule. We’ll be active this year pushing for strong protections for our water and we’ll keep you informed as this process moves forward.

Spill Updates: Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

West Virginia Chemical Spill

It has now been 7 weeks since 300,000 people were left unsure about the safety of their water due to the massive chemical spill in Charleston, WV. The spill has caused a lot of confusion, anger, and sent more than 400 people to the hospital – but it has also inspired some remarkable community organizing. The WV Clean Water Hub is a community-organized effort that has been supported by volunteers as well as grassroots groups in West Virginia — including Aurora Lights, Coal River Mountain Watch, Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, RAMPS and more — to identify communities in need of clean water and supplies, and to connect affected communities with volunteers and donors. This blog highlights a few stories collected from The WV Clean Water Hub and activists working for clean water over the past weeks.  The Hub is still making deliveries – donate to support this work!

North Carolina Coal Ash Spill
Earlier this month, Duke Energy dumped the third largest coal-ash spill in the history of the U.S into the beautiful Dan River in North Carolina. The N.C. Department of Health issued an advisory warning citizens not to touch the Dan River or eat fish or mussels from the popular river. The extent of the damage isn’t yet known, but the river is used by residents for fishing and recreation. Appalachian Voices has been active testing water, tracking the effects and advocating to protect our water from coal ash. Take action against the coal ash spills here.

West Virginia Coal Slurry Spill

Just a week after the coal ash spill in North Carolina, a broken coal slurry pipe at a Patriot Coal facility oozed 108,000 gallons of toxic coal slurry into a tributary of the Kanawha River, blackening 6 miles of Fields Creek. Coal slurry is a toxic soup of heavy metals, like iron, manganese, aluminum and selenium.  Activists from OVEC, CRMW, Appalachian Voices and others were quickly on the scene to grab water samples and document the impact of the spill as it entered the Kanawha River.

Appalachian Action
Here is just a small part of the important work happening in Appalachia this month. Check out the links to see how to get involved.

Today, the CARE Campaign is in DC delivering over 50,000 signatures to the Department of the Interior to hold the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection accountable for their failure to protect residents.

In Tennessee, SOCM activists are working to support the Scenic Vistas protection act and defeat a bill that would gut hardfought coal mining oversight protections. Learn more here. Residents also coordinated a water testing training as part of the ACE project.

KFTC rallied hundreds of supporters on a bitterly cold day for a successful, inspiring I Love Mountains day, an important part of their work to make sure citizens voices are heard in Kentucky’s General Assembly.

In West Virginia groups are working hard at the legislature in response to the disastrous chemical spill. One important bill is Senate Bill 373, which relates to water resource protection and the regulation of above-ground storage tanks. Member groups are fighting to remove exemptions from the bill to ensure there there are no regulatory loopholes.

InVirginia and West Virginia  our friends are gearing up for Mountain Justice Spring Break camps in March to educate and take action against mountaintop removal and fracking.

Our friends in Philadelphia, including EQAT, Rising Tide and the Sierra Club hosted a powerful action outside the regional EPA office to demand enforcement of the Clean Water Act. EPA representatives met with Appalachian citizens who were experiencing the severe effects of polluted water and demanding protection.  The EPA has regional offices in Philadelphia and Atlanta that have the ability to protect Appalachian water, and we’ll continue working with allies to keep the pressure up.

The economic transition committee is busy planning for a panel at the Appalachian Studies Conference as well as sharing our model of work with other frontline communities across the country through the Climate Justice Alliance. As the weather and crises calm down we’ll be getting more active with follow up from our December Summit. Here are two great accounts of the summit from OVEC and Appalachian Voices.