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Appalachian Leaders: Introducing the new voices of iLoveMountains

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Late last year, you heard from Ann League in Tennessee about a great victory for our mountains. And earlier in the Fall, Kentucky’s Stanley Sturgill invited you to take action to protect Appalachian’s water.

These new voices are a part of a new effort here at to bring you stories and critical actions directly from Appalachian leaders themselves. This new year, we’d like to introduce you to these new voices and invite you to welcome them!

Cradle to Grave: Making Connections From Appalachia to the Gulf Coast

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Cross-Posted from Daile’s Blog
By Daile Boulis

Biloxi, MS

This past week I had the honor of attending the Extreme Energy Summit in Biloxi, Mississippi.  From the event website:

“The Summit…will bring together a wide variety of leaders representing groups across the country who are resisting all forms of energy extraction, from small grassroots community groups working in frontline communities to large national nonprofits and everything in between.   In addition to meeting and strategizing, this diverse and dynamic group of organizers will have the opportunity to tour and see the heavily impacted Gulf Coast region as a coalition of local and regional groups have graciously agreed to host us and organize a tour of communities impacted by energy infrastructure in the Mobile area.”

I was deeply affected by the tour that we took of the gulf region, from the Eastern Biloxi Mississippi Coalition of Vietnamese-American Fisher Folks and Families and how the BP Oil Disaster continues to affect their lives and livelihoods to the Wedgewood Community in Pensacola, Florida whose community is surrounded on three sides by seven (soon to be eight) landfills, with additional stops at the Chevron Refinery in Pascagoula, MS, the MacCaffie Coal Terminal in Mobile, Alabama and Africatown, Alabama.

There was a phrase I learned during the tour, “From Cradle to Grave”: the full journey of an extracted energy product – extraction, processing, distribution (both raw and refined), and waste.

I am fairly educated and familiar with how coal is extracted, particularly here in West Virginia.  I have seen the processing plants and the coal trains.  But I never thought it completely through to the distribution of the coal and the dispersion of the associated waste.  I never thought about where the coal goes, or that as it travels its’ toxic dust and other by-products are spread along the way.

I learned that the removal of the coal from “my mine” is the “cradle”.   The coal is transported by truck to be processed, typically very near where it is extracted.  Then it is transported, generally by train, for immediate use, or for sale around the globe.

Port Terminal, Mobile, Alabama

Port Terminal, Mobile, Alabama

The MacCaffie Coal Terminal, Port of Mobile, Alabama is huge.  This is where much of our coal is transported to be shipped to countries around the world. In the shadow of this huge port isAfricatown.  This small historic community deals on a daily basis with the toxic effects of coal dust, chemicals that leak from trains and barges transporting coal, tar sands, and oil, among other products.

2015-01-30 10.24.55The terminal houses tank farms, open coal cars and shipping containers storing toxic extractive energy products as far as the eye can see – so many that if even the smallest percentage of them are leaking they have the potential to devastate not only Africatown, but the entire gulf region.

Which brings me to “…the Grave.”

Where did the sludge from the BP Oil Disaster go?  When there is an environmental clean-up, such as the MCHM from the Elk River spill in Charleston, WV, what is the final destination for the disposal of such waste?

Wedgewood Community, Pensacola, Florida

Wedgewood Community, Pensacola, Florida

Simple answer?  Landfills.  The final stop on our tour was a community in Pensacola, Florida known as Wedgewood.  After listening to the presentation outlining the seven landfills and the hazardous waste they contain, I was genuinely concerned about breathing the air.  I wish I were exaggerating.  I was appalled that anyone had to live in these conditions.  This was a nice neighborhood.  A proud neighborhood whose property values are now so low that they can’t move away from the stench and the health risks.  I can’t wrap my brain around the fact that someone, anyone, in their local, county or state government thought that it was appropriate, IS appropriate to locate these landfills on the very borders of this community.

Let me be clear:  throughout the process, from extraction, to processing, transportation and disposal, people die.  They die as a result of exposure to toxic by-products in their water, in their air.  Our need to “keep the lights on” poisons our citizens, our neighbors, our families.

I wish I knew of a solution.  Simply reducing our energy footprint would help, but not solve this issue.  Requiring these industries to not only implement responsible practices for extraction, but holding them responsible for clean-up, repair and restitution would be a positive step. Renewable energy would go a long way towards being a solution.  But even if new technology, clean technology, were implemented today, we would still have a toxic legacy that requires response.

“Cradle to Grave.” People, communities are dying. Don’t doubt it.  Don’t minimize it.  Own it.  Do what you can about it.

Kentucky’s 10th annual I Love Mountains Day Feb. 13

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Join your voice with other Kentuckians at I Love Mountains Day 2015.

This year Kentuckians For The Commonwealth will celebrate the 10th year of this event, and would love for you to join in a march and rally for a just transition for Appalachian communities: clean air and water, and a healthy democracy.

As 11-year-old Chase Gladson of Harlan County told the crowd at last year’s I Love Mountains Day:

“I’m only eleven years old, but I believe that all this is possible! My Papaw likes to say we can have a bright future here if we build it, and I believe it too. But it will take all of us – ALL OF US – working together.”

I’ll be in Frankfort with Chase and 1,000 other Kentuckians For The Commonwealth members and friends for I Love Mountains Day. I hope you’ll be among that number!

For the mountains,
Teri Blanton
Proud Kentuckian

And so it begins … Senate launches first assault on Appalachia

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

The U.S. Senate has been in session for less than three weeks, and they have already begun an attack on the Appalachian mountains and surrounding communities.

Coal industry boosters have introduced a pro-mountaintop removal coal mining amendment and they are trying to attach it to the Keystone Pipeline bill, which is expected to be voted on this week.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, would block the Department of Interior from completing its ongoing rewrite of the Stream Protection Rule. The coal industry is afraid that a strong rule would make it harder for them to continue blowing up mountains and dumping the waste in streams.

Join us in fighting against this mountaintop removal amendment by writing to your senator.

We need the Department of Interior to introduce a strong Stream Protection Rule that would help us put an end to mountaintop removal once and for all. They have been writing the rule for several years, and are expected to release it this Spring.

Please contact your senator and ask them to oppose the Coats mountaintop removal amendment.

Grassroots Report on Mountaintop Removal Reveals Gaps in Obama Administration’s Promises

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

As we near the end of 2014, it seems yet another year has passed without significant action from The Obama Administration to end the worst abuses of mountaintop removal.

hillbillies deserve clean water

Members of The Alliance for Appalachia prepare to meet with White House Staff to discuss the need to end mountaintop removal and clean up the toxic legacy coal has left behind.

Despite the disastrous coal cleaning chemical spill in January that left 300,000 without access to clean water in West Virginia, despite a new study that links mountaintop removal to lung cancer, and despite recent accusations from local groups that a Kentucky mining company has violated the Clean Water Act nearly 28,000 times without meaningful repercussion, the Obama administration continues to drag their heels on desperately needed rule-making processes and has even cut off funding for a USGS study on the health impacts of mountaintop removal.

That’s why citizen groups are releasing a Grassroots Citizen’s Report on Mountaintop Removal today that lays out the stakes for the administration and tells them that the time for action is now. Read our press release about the report here.

Support these groups by contacting the administration and demanding action today!

The  grassroots citizen’s report  assesses the work the Obama administration has done in the region and provides recommendations for the final two years of Obama’s tenure.  You can check out a one page summary of the report and access the full report here.

A quick summary of the report is this: We need urgent action from the Obama administration to protect mountain communities from the impacts of mountaintop removal and to begin planning for a sustainable future for Appalachia.

While we have successfully pressured this administration in the last five years to take actions that will help protect Appalachian communities from mountaintop removal, there is much more to be done.

In fact, there are four key actions the administration can take this year that will greatly impact the future health of our Appalachian communities and allow the Administration to follow through on its promises.

Add your voice to ensure that the Obama administration takes action!

The Myth of Reclamation is Still Happening

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Cross-posted from Appalachian Voices Front Porch Blog

It seems that whenever a picture of an active mountaintop removal mine site is posted online or shared on social media, someone steps in to comment that coal companies “put it back” or that, a few years after they reclaim the land “you won’t be able to tell the difference.”

For years, Appalachian Voices has been combating misleading claims about reclamation used by the industry and pro-coal politicians — especially the myth that mountaintop removal is necessary because it creates flat land for economic development. In a 2010 survey of mountaintop removal sites, we found that, of the 1.2 million acres of leveled Appalachian mountains, around 90 percent of reclaimed mine sites are not being used for economic development. In fact, most are just rocky grasslands not being used for anything at all.

Learn more about the lack of reclamation happening in this article which debunks the myth that you can put a mountain back together again after blowing it up, and see some of the extent of the damage on our reclamation fail page. The coal industry is blowing up mountains in Appalachia. They are not putting them back together again. The industry is polluting and burying streams, and they are not finding a way to fix them.

John Grisham’s Best Selling New Novel Features Mountaintop Removal

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

John Grisham is world famous for his best-selling legal thrillers. He must have been inspired by some of the powerful attorneys fighting mountaintop removal for his new novel, “Gray Mountain.” The book is set in Southwest Virginia, not far from our friends at Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.

This novel is getting good reviews and will bring the issue of mountaintop removal mining to new audiences around the country and the world. As part of the book promotion, Grisham is sharing some of the facts about MTR with his 1.5 million Facebook fans if you’d like to follow along. The novel is currently at the top of the best-sellers list. We’re excited to welcome any new people who found this website or learned about the issue of mountaintop removal after reading his book!

If you’ve read the book, let us know what you think!

More Studies Show That Mountaintop Removal is Dangerous

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

News sources have been abuzz with the findings of a new study that shows that dust from mountaintop removal promotes the growth of lung tumors. Of course, communities have long known about the increased cancer they are facing, but this study was the first to prove the link through lab experiments on human lung cells.

This study and other overwhelming proof of the devastation caused by mountaintop removal prompted a high profile Editorial  in the Washington Post.

A new study out of the University of Kentucky demonstrates that conductivity pollution from mountaintop removal mines hurts ecosystems’ ability to support wildlife and healthy streams. The study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, links mountaintop removal to low salamander populations. It reiterates once again what we already knew: that conductivity pollution threatens the health and diversity of Appalachian streams.

All this new information goes to show what we already knew – that mountaintop removal is irrevocably harming the land and people of Appalachia.

Citizen Groups Catch Coal Company In Thousands of Violations

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Check out the Appalachian Voices Front Porch Blog as well as the New York Times for big news today:

Four years ago, groups, including Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Appalachian Voices and the Waterkeeper Alliance, represented by the Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center took legal action against the Frasure Creek Mining in Kentucky for submitting false water monitoring reports, and now they are at it again, but this time the false reporting is even more extensive. Almost 28,000 violations of the Clean Water Act in what is likely the largest non-compliance of the law in its 42-year history.

From our friends at KFTC: If you are a coal company operating in eastern Kentucky, you can basically ignore the Clean Water Act because the primary enforcer is “asleep at the wheel.”

This article in the New York Times describes the ongoing failure by state officials to protect our water from mining pollution in Kentucky, and the ongoing failure by major coal companies to comply with the water quality laws.

In recent days, many news reports have focused on chronic and serious problems with mine safety enforcement and noncompliance. We can now add to that picture this new evidence of the coal industry’s routine evasion of environmental laws.

The true costs of these failures, as we all know, can be measured in terms of diminished health and safety of workers, residents and ecosystems.

What Comes Next? Communities Gather to Discuss Abandoned Mine Lands

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Cross-posted from

At the end of October, The Alliance for Appalachia Economic Transition Committee, in conjunction with the group’s AppFellowKendall Bilbrey and Eric Dixon, AppFellow with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, hosted a summit for folks across Central Appalachia to discuss and learn about the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund and other potential strategies for cleaning up some of the toxic legacy left behind by the coal industry.A diverse group of stakeholders, including impacted community members, non-profit organizations, scholars, policy experts, lobbyists and scientists gathered for a packed day at Breaks Interstate Park at the border of Virginia and Kentucky to discuss the looming issue of Abandoned Mine Lands.

The group’s hope is to create pathways for communities to influence mine cleanup, create jobs, and diversify our economy. What are the problems we are facing with the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund? What successes have communities had working with this fund? We’re excited to get these conversations moving in the region! Learn more in the press release or in the PowerPoint introduction to the project.

“The AML money needs to come back to where it came from, and where the healing is needed,” said Jane Branham of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Wise, County, VA and chair of The Alliance for Appalachia Coordinating Committee. “We have all these people out of work from mine closures. We can put people back to work healing the land – it’s not just good for the land, it’s good for the people, and would be a project our communities could really take pride in.”

Next steps are for an informative whitepaper to be released in early winter, highlighting the findings of this summit, research by AppFellows Kendall and Eric, and recommendations for the AML fund–all to be followed by campaign and project conversations.

Appalachian Voices  •  Coal River Mountain Watch  •   Heartwood  •  Keeper of the Mountains • Kentuckians for the Commonwealth 

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition  •   Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment • Sierra Club Environmental Justice

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards  •   SouthWings  •  Stay Project  •   West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

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