Reflections Over 2016

We have been spending the last tumultuous month since the election making plans for what our work will look like in 2017. We know we’ll be busy doing the two things we do best — bringing people together and fighting like hell to protect our water and our future.

But we’re sending out this letter to remind everyone what we achieved together in 2016. To remind our members and allies that we are a powerful, diverse and a strategic force to be reckoned with.

We encourage you to read about our work last year and to begin making plans for the work we’ll do together in 2017. Please donate to help make this work possible. 

Building for Our Sustainable Future

We started the year working with our Economic Transition Team to strategize around how to promote the POWER+ Plan. This turned into the RECLAIM Act, a bi-partisan bill which has the potential to create economic development in our communities by supporting the reclamation of abandoned mine lands. This powerful bill grew out of our strong grassroots movement.

A coalition of partners, including The Alliance for Appalachia, worked hard on this bill – from our lobby trips to DC in March and June, to a massive petition campaign. The bill didn’t pass this year, but it was introduced in the Senate just last week! This is great momentum to be entering 2017 with. A poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies found that there is 89% support for the RECLAIM Act among registered voters in seven impacted states.  We’ll keep you updated on its progress.

Our team has also been working hard to create a Shovel Ready Toolkit – a guide for communities who want to jumpstart their economy and clean up their land by supporting the reclamation of dangerous abandoned mine sites and coal related infrastructure in their community. The toolkit would provide information on federal and private opportunities to fund reclamation and highlight stories from exciting pilot projects that are already underway.

Fighting for Clean Water

We went to DC multiple times to speak up for a strong Stream Protection Rule and the need for strong, permanent water protections for our region. In December, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) released the final Stream Protection Rule (SPR) – this important rule acknowledges the devastating affect that coal mining has on our water and will go a long way towards protecting our mountain streams from mountaintop removal coal mining.

This rule didn’t happen on its own – it happened because of the tireless work and advocacy of people across Appalachia and across the country. The Stream Protection Rule is the first major federal update to protect water from surface coal mining in 30 years!

Gathering Together – In Washington DC

We took several trips to Washington DC in 2016, but our most ambitious trip was the “Protect Our Water, Reclaim Our Future” event in June. Some key 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, contributed to the gain of at least two additional cosponsors.

  • 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.

  • We celebrated 10 years of The Alliance for Appalachia with an empowering party and fundraiser.

Gathering Together -Closer to Home

We also took many opportunities to bring our mountain leaders together to share strategy and learn from the experts – themselves, each other.

In March, The Alliance hosted a Grassroots Policy Training in early April that was a huge success with nearly 40 participants! The goal of this training was to educate our members and allies across the region on how to participate in regional and national politics, and especially how and why citizen involvement is so important in shaping policy.

We also hosted Steering meetings, opportunities for our amazing leadership to get together and create our regional strategy, as well as team summits where our teams could take time to dig into their areas of concern and learn from all the different efforts happening across our region.

This year, The Alliance hosted two celebration events in honor of our anniversary. We shared food, music, memories and lots of laughs with longtime friends and new allies. Our vision of a world in which we, residents of mountain communities, are able to determine the futures of our communities, a world in which all people have access to clean water, clean air and a healthy land base- that’s what keeps us going. 10 years and rising!

New Members and New Teams

This year, our Steering Committee approved a new standing team– the Leadership Development Team. This team’s work plan already includes a six-month facilitation mentorship program which is currently underway, and an anti-oppression/collective liberation training in February 2017.

We welcomed the Center for Coalfield Justice as a new member organization of The Alliance.  This grassroots groups is based in Southwestern Pennsylvania and has long partnered with the Alliance as well as inspired us with their tireless work for justice in the coalfields.

We also welcomed Black Warrior Riverkeeper to our Alliance. BWRK’s mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River watershed in the northern portion of Alabama, America’s #1 state for freshwater biodiversity.

With the addition of these new groups, our coalition now unites directly-impacted mining communities from Pennsylvania to Alabama in opposition to mountaintop removal and other destructive coal industry practices, and in support of a just economic future for our region.

Moving Forward Together

On election day, a lot changed. But there are many things that didn’t change. We are still united to protect our water from the threats of dangerous coal mining and to create the sustainable future that our people deserve.

We still know that mountain people are the experts of their own lives, and that we are stronger when we unite together.

With your help, we’ll continue to do that in 2017.

For the Mountains,

The Alliance for Appalachia