Press Release: Appalachian Leaders Invite U.S. Interior Secretary Jewell to Tour Mountaintop Removal Impacted Communities

A coalition of groups has invited the Secretary to tour communities impacted by mountaintop removal

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Numerous citizen groups, including the regional coalition The Alliance for Appalachia, have recently sent invitations for U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to visit Appalachia and see mountaintop removal from the perspective of those living near the destructive mining practice. In addition, groups wish to showcase initiatives working towards healing the land, communities and economies that have been impacted by over a century of mining activity.

“It is vital for Secretary Jewell to hear from citizens from each state where mountaintop removal is happening. Our hope is that she can visit more than one site, and hear from more than just a few impacted residents,” said Mary Love, the Land Reform Committee co-chair for Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC).

Earlier this month, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Joe Pizarchik, Director of the Federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, visited West Virginia to meet with state agencies and coal company officials. While in Appalachia, Secretary Jewell mentioned an interest in returning to hear the concerns of citizens who are living near mountaintop removal mines, if those groups invited her to the region.

“We were curious when Secretary Jewell mentioned she would like to be invited by citizen groups, since we have invited the Secretary multiple times. I invited her personally during a meeting in 2014, shortly after she took her position,” said Ann League, executive director of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), who was forced to leave her home after a nearby mountaintop removal mine ruined her well water.

The Alliance for Appalachia has invited Secretary Jewell to tour the region on several occasions, most recently during a meeting with the agency this past March.  In an open letter to the Secretary last week, The Alliance for Appalachia mentioned a need to engage in creative dialogue around key issues, including lack of oversight over current mining operations and the need to protect public health and strengthen the regional economy.

“We’re pleased to once again invite Secretary Jewell to visit our communities and see these issues from the perspective of people who have lost their health and their community to mountaintop removal coal mining. We want her to see that there is a sustainable future in Appalachia beyond this devastating practice, and explore the ways her agency can be a part of building that future,” said Jane Branham, chair of The Alliance for Appalachia and a board member of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.

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 Forest Council, 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.