The Alliance is a coalition of member groups in the Appalachian Region. Our member groups span from Pennsylvania to Alabama and the Alliance serves as a regional connector to strengthen the campaign to end mountaintop removal, put a halt to destructive coal technologies, and create a sustainable, just Appalachia. See our About Us page to learn more.
Our strategy and larger vision is created, governed, and executed by our Steering Committee, which consists of one representative from each of our member groups. The Steering Committee sets big picture direction of our strategy. Our Coordinating Committee is also made of member group representatives. This committee oversees administrative work and day to day operations. We strive for the committee to include at least one representative from each state in our region impacted by mountaintop removal and coal industry abuses, as well as one person from a regional group. Our work teams, including the Federal Strategy and the Economic Transition teams, are made up of volunteers and staff of our member groups. Two full-time staff positions, including the Alliance Coordinator and the Economic Transition Coordinator, support the work of the Alliance, including implementation of the strategy set forth by the Steering Committee and working teams, plan and coordinate meetings and events, and are responsible for Alliance fundraising.
There’s a common saying in Appalachia: what we do to the land, we do to the people. Twenty-one peer-reviewed scientific studies conducted from 2007-2012 confirmed the truth of those words. The studies showed that not only has mountaintop removal permanently destroyed more than 500 Appalachian mountains, but people living near the destruction are 50% more likely to die of cancer and 42% more likely to be born with birth defects compared with other people in Appalachia.
Mountaintop removal is a type of coal mining that began in Appalachia in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques. Primarily, mountaintop removal is occurring in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. Coal companies in Appalachia are increasingly using this method because it allows for almost complete recovery of coal seams while reducing the number of workers required to a fraction of what conventional methods require. Please visit our sister site ilovemountains.org to read more about mountaintop removal mining and resources available.
The Appalachian region boasts a long, proud history of resistance by individuals, organizations, and alliances working to stop strip mining abuses in the region, beginning in the 1960s. The Appalachian Coalition Against Strip Mining formalized some of these efforts in the 1970s by working with a national coalition of groups from coalfields across the country for federal legislation to ban the destructive practice. Groups fought against the inclusion of a mountaintop removal variance in the federal law and also worked for steep slope limits to mining and other protections for communities. Despite those efforts, the final bill that passed, the Surface Mining Regulation and Enforcement Act (SMCRA) of 1977, included a mountaintop removal variance and did not include other provisions like a steep slope limit. Experience told activists that coal companies would take full advantage of these loopholes and so many coalition groups called on President Carter to veto the legislation, to no avail.
The first years of our Alliance were spent building trust across organizations and across state lines with groups who brought different strategies, perspectives, relationships, and histories to the table. From 2007-2010 we took on a federal-level campaign to pass the Clean Water Protection Act–that would ban the dumping of mining waste into our valleys and streams and significantly curtail mountaintop removal. We also used our collective strength to pressure the new administration to take a stand against coal-industry abuses by ending the issuing of destructive permits. With this effort came our largest national victory as a movement and one of the most significant environmental justice victories in our region in decades. The Obama Administration released the “Interagency Action Plan to Address Strip Mining in Central Appalachia,” a Memorandum of Understanding between the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Interior, and Council of Environmental Quality. The plan resulted in the suspension of 86 permit applications, 79 of which were held for further review. In the years that followed, many of these permits were withdrawn, expired, were vetoed, or remained suspended–gumming of the wheels of the coal industry’s efforts.
The Our Water, Our Future campaign worked to pressure the Obama administration to take action to end mountaintop removal and reinvest in Appalachian communities. This campaign and initiative addressed combating the dangers associated with new mining, mitigating the toxic legacy costs of coal industry abuses, and organizing for a transition to a sustainable future. In 2015 with the support of the AppFellows program, and after years of hosting regional conversations on economic transition, we developed a research project and campaign to reclaim Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) and address the toxic legacy of coal pollution. As always, we will continue to provide regular gathering and strategy-building spaces that are pivotal to navigating the ever-changing landscape in Appalachia.