July Newsletter

Register for Our Water Our Future! 
Registration is now open! Sign up to 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!

Photo by Joanne Golden HillMountain activists were busy in DC last month on a lobby trip sponsored by Appalachian Voice, Earth Justice and the Alliance for Appalachia. We met with 24 House offices, the US EPA and the Office of Surface Mining to remind them that mountaintop removal is an urgent issue that needs immediate action. Learn more about this great trip with this write up from Appalachian Voices.

Updates from the Movement:

Keepers of the Mountains Hosts Kayford Mountain Fourth of July Music Festival While Traveling Around the World
Continuing an annual tradition, the Fourth of July Music Festival was a huge success this year, with movement friends new and old gathering together to celebrate our work with fellowship and music. This year the festival was solar powered – the first solar powered music festival in West Virginia! –  thanks to ongoing efforts of Keeper of the Mountains.

In addition to hosting these important gatherings, members of Keeper of the Mountains have been traveling across the world to advocate for divestment from fossil fuels and to protect the mountains. Last month, Paul Corbit Brown traveled to Bern, Switzerland to work with other Human Rights Defenders to draft a United Nations Resolution for the protection of our resources.

Justice for Justice Pickets Greenbrier Classic

SAMS launched the Justice to Justice campaign in early May, to demand the coal baron clean up his mess, pay off his debts, and stop poisoning water. In June, they delivered 300 petitions demanding that Jim Justice clean up his act to A&G Coal Corp, joined by residents of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. You can sign the petition here – this drop was only the first.

In July, members of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) were joined by about 20 allies from across Appalachia in a picket and vigils outside the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. The Greenbrier is home to an annual PGA golf tournament that brings thousands to the small West Virginia town, all of it made possible by the profits Jim Justice has extracted from Appalachian communities. Visit justicetojustice.com to support this growing campaign!

Stay Together Appalachian Youth (STAY) Project Plans 4th Annual Summer Institute
In June, STAY members traveled to Detroit for the Our Power Detroit gathering, a 3-day event hosted by the Climate Justice Alliance that gathered together youth from frontline communities across the country to discuss just transitions for their communities. The STAY Project also hosted a gathering at the Highlander Center for youth of color.

The STAY Project will host the 4th Annual STAY Summer Institute (SSI) from July 31st to August 3rd at Camp Bethel in Wise, VA.  SSI is STAY’s largest gathering of the year and is open to 14-30 year old’s from Central Appalachia, including eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, West Virginia, southwest Virginia, and western North Carolina.

Kentuckians Demand a Better General Permit
Members of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth have been busy advocating for a better water quality standards at public hearings last month. The General Permit is a problematic “one-size-fits-all” approach to pollution from coal mining in Kentucky that does not provide needed protections for Kentucky waterways. The General Permit is being updated and renewed this year and Kentuckians have been working hard submitting public commentary and gathering written comments to fix serious issues with the permit.

Mountain Justice Hosts 10th Annual Summer Camp
The annual Mountain Justice Summer Camp is a great opportunity for mountain activists to learn and teach about the issues affecting our region.

This year’s camp culminated in an action organized byRAMPS and Mountain Justice at Alpha Natural Resources headquarters in Bristol, Virginia, where activists protested the opening of new mines on Coal River Mountain. Local residents and activists have been fighting surface mining on Coal River Mountain since the late 1990s.

Win in Virginia! 
In Southwest Virginia, a controversial 26-mile section of the Coalfield Expressway must undergo a full environmental review and examine alternatives that don’t include mountaintop removal mining. The highway proposal is a partnership with coal companies to allow mountaintop removal.  More than 85,000 citizens sent comments to VDOT and FHWA expressing their concerns about the permit. Learn more about SAMS work to stop this destructive proposal.

Welcome Kendall! Appalachian Transition Fellowship Launches

The Alliance for Appalachia is excited to introduce you to our amazing Appalachian Transition fellow, Kendall Bilbrey:

Growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Wytheville, Virginia, Kendall has made it a priority to protect Central Appalachia and its people. Kendall is a 2012 graduate of George Mason University with a Bachelor of Science in Conservation Studies. Upon graduating from college, Kendall embarked on a journey to China where they studied red panda and giant panda behavior for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Kendall is passionate about the Central Appalachian region and working towards a just economic transition in the region. Kendall also hopes to promote the sustainability and conservation of the rich biodiversity and culture of the region through their work. Outside of their work in conservation, Kendall enjoys Old Time Mountain music and connecting with people everywhere they go.

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!

News Updates:

Coal company needed permission from all landowners
A federal judge ruled a surface-mining permit to a coal company that did not get permission to mine from some owners was improper. Previously any surface owner could give permission for surface mining. This ruling could have national significance.

Court rules mountaintop removal polluted streams
An important federal court ruling acknowledged damages caused by high conductivity on aquatic life. This decision puts pressure on environmental regulators to enact meaningful conductivity standards.

The real costs of public protest
In this fascinating article, mining companies outline the ways that citizen protest hurts their bottom line, as well as ways to fight back against citizen organizing.

Jim Justice Pollutes Water in Tennessee
SOCM and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit saying that an underground mine in Campbell County, TN is polluting the New River. The groups also intend to file suit against companies owned by Justice that are in violation of the Clean Water Act from not filing water pollution reports.

MCHM More Toxic Than Originally Reported
The toxic chemical that poisoned drinking water for other 300,000 people in January has been shown to be more harmful to aquatic wildlife than originally reported by the industry.

Freedom Industries Only Fined $11,000
That’s less than 4 cents for each person affected by the disastrous water crisis this past winter.

USGS study confirms mountaintop removal’s disastrous impacts on streams
In a study confirming what residents have said for years, the USGS shows that Appalachian streams impacted by mountaintop mining have less than half as many fish species and about a third as many fish as non-impacted streams.

Residents in Charleston, WV fight strip mine in Kanawha State Forest
Local gem Kanawha State Forest is under threat from a 414 acre strip mine. The community has been busy fighting this mine and has formed the local group the Kanawha Forest Coalition with support from Coal River Mountain Watch’s WV Care Campaign and other local partners.

Free well water testing in Southern West Virginia
OVEC is working with Duke University to help residents concerned with water safety to test their wells.

85 year old mountain activist Roland Micklem begins hunger strike for the mountains
Three activists are fasting outside WV Governor Tomblin’s office in protest of mountaintop removal.