June Newsletter

Protect Our Water, Reclaim Our Future- An Event Recap

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

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

_DSC5995

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

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

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

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

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

To read the full article, click here.

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

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

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

Bonding is the process by which coal companies provide financial assurance that they will reclaim the lands they have damaged by mining. Because of weak and inconsistent laws surrounding this practice, the public is at risk for having to pick up the tab for the immense destruction of mountaintop removal and other damaging coal mining practices, while the coal industry keeps the profits.

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

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

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

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

Appalachian Voices Publishes Preliminary Report on Innovative Mine Reclamation Project

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

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

Capture

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

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

Learn more about the project here.

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

The Alliance for Appalachia is hosting an event in honor of the organization’s diamond anniversary. We are excited to celebrate 10 years of grassroots coalition building in Central Appalachia, 10 years of pursuing our mission by working together to fight the abuses of mountaintop removal and other harmful coal technologies, and 10 years of envisioning a healthy, sustainable Appalachia.  

We hope you’ll join us for food, drinks, music, and story sharing among friends and allies in the movement!  

Save the Date 10 years- Hindman

RSVP Here: Facebook event, overnight housing request