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Divestment from Fossil Fuels Can Mean Reinvestment in Appalachian Economic Resiliency

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

The Fossil Fuel Student Divestment Network has spread to over 500 campuses internationally.  These students and alumni are working to get their universities and colleges to divest from fossil fuels. A recent victory at Harvard University shows the power of the movement – just six months ago, Harvard officials had told students and alumni there was no way the school would divest their $33bn endowment from fossil fuels. However, Harvard is the 9th college so far to show movement in the direction of divestment by setting aside a fund to reinvest.  Pitzer University recently won the most comprehensive divestment victory yet.

Photo by Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network

Recently, organizers hosted a convergence, gathering 300 students from dozens of universities in San Francisco along with leaders from across the environmental justice and climate change movements to learn new skills and make plans.

Paul Corbit Brown from the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation and Christine Gyovai spoke to the impacts of coal on communities in Appalachia, as well as the powerful work for economic resiliency that they are a part of in Central Appalachia.

“I discussed how to support projects where community members  are developing local economies, especially in Southwest Virginia,” said Christine Gyovai. “We are looking at how to sustain this project over the long haul – how do we translate our ideas and visions into concrete, sustainable action. It was great to see ways that other communities are doing this work.  It’s important to have a place to come together and hear people’s stories.”

“I appreciated all the different people’s perspectives gathered at the convergence – different perspectives with a unified theme. It was inspirational, but also hands on with concrete ideas and tools to bring back home.”

As students look to divest from fossil fuels, it’s  important to explore what reinvestment in the communities most impacted by fossil fuels can look like. To hear interviews with some of the students who organized the convergence, check out this article.  Go here to sign a petition calling for divestment of fossil fuels and to find out about local campaigns in your area.

Activism and Academia Meet for the Mountains at Annual Conference

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Thanks to Dan Taylor with OVEC for this great write up of the recent Appalachian Studies Association Conference in Huntington, WV. Read on for an update about the conference and the important work:

It was great to have the Appalachian Studies Association conference back at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, where I live.  I had a great weekend, meeting lots of interesting new people and hearing lots of interesting new ideas.  The best thing about this conference is always the variety, as many disciplines and fields touch on the “Appalachian” experience. You can hear great academic lectures, talks on activism, music and art; it runs the whole gamut of cultural experience in an overloaded weekend.

A highlight was watching my co-workers here at OVEC, who is also based in Huntington, present on Cemetery Preservation issues, as it related to mountain top removal coal mining and gas extraction that threatens our states’ history. This session included Boone County residents and activists Maria Gunoe, Dustin White and Danny Cook, currently working on access issues with the Cook family cemetery, and OVEC organizer Robin Blakeman, who has dealt with these issues in the past.

There were also great sessions on Appalachian labor history, economic transition in Wales after coal mining left the region, prison expansion in Central Appalachia and the Highlander Center’s new Appalachian Transition Fellowship Program.  This fellowship is a particularly interesting and fantastic opportunity to build capacity for economic transition in our region.  The Alliance for Appalachia and OVEC have recently been accepted as hosts for fellows.  I very much look forward to working with the fellows and seeing the great projects that they can accomplish in the next year.

The Alliance for Appalachia hosted sessions on the work of the economic transition team.  We had a great crowd, great discussion and enthusiasm for our past work and our work moving forward to create a better and more just economy for our region.

Participating in events like the Appalachian Studies Association is just one way that communities are building the regional conversation for a just transition for a cleaner, brighter Appalachian future.  Topics discussed at the panel hosted by The Alliance for Appalachian included the need for land reform, energy efficiency initiatives, and tax reform. Events like these are an exciting way for those working on these important issues to share information and keep moving the region forward. Stay tuned for more updates as this exciting work grows.

Gainesville Loves Mountains Campaign Near Victory!

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Exciting Update from our friends at Gainesville Loves Mountains!

It’s been 3+ years since Gainesville Loves Mountains first started our campaign to end GRU’s purchases of mountaintop removal coal.

This powerful campaign has finally reached its conclusion. We can win this victory with your support.

On April 17th, Gainesville City Commissioner Lauren Poe will direct City staff to take the initial steps to formally end GRU’s relationship with strip-mined coal from Appalachia. You can read more details on our website, but here’s how you can help us win:

*Please share this petition with everyone you know and ask them to sign on before April 17th.

*We also need Gainesville residents, as well as Appalachians living in the shadow of MTR, to contact our City Commission personally and let them know that you support our campaign. Even a brief personal phone call, letter, or email with the simple message “I want GRU to bring a permanent end to their consumption of strip-mined Appalachian coal” goes a long way.

*And finally, if you live in the Gainesville area, please help spread the word about the April 17th City Commission meeting on Facebook. You can also help us outreach for the April 17th meeting through phone-banking and canvassing at public events.  If you have even one hour of time between now and the 17th and would be willing to help get out and spread the word, please contact us ( and we’ll put you to work!

Thanks so much for your support. With your help we can win a victory for the mountains and set an example for coal-consuming communities everywhere.

ACE Project Trains New Tennessee Volunteers

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

The Appalachian Community Enforcement Project is a project of the Alliance for Appalachia, its member organizations, and other local and regional groups. Through partnerships in coal-impacted communities, we monitor surface water quality and pursue Clean Water Act enforcement in order to protect the people and places of Central Appalachia.

Recently, SOCM‘s E3 Committee hosted at community water testing training in middle Tennessee.  SOCM gained a few new members and trained about a dozen members to water test for ACE.

Up next members in Tennessee are looking to host an Ally Organization Water Testing Training in Knoxville.  Hands off Appalachia and SOCM are working to lay  groundwork and strategize ways that water testing can support local campaigns.


Victory Against Mountaintop Removal in Spain

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Exciting updates from those working to end destructive mining across the earth! Check out this great article for details on this story that is very similar to Appalachia despite it being across the ocean.  In the Laciana Valley in Spain, local activists has succeeded in getting the local government to end plans for mountaintop removal coal mining in their mountain community.

During the last twenty years, irreversible changes have been taking place in the Southwestern Cantabrian Mountains, in an area of great ecological value, which is protected by EU environmental legislation. The extractive technique known as Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining (MTR) has illegally modified during this time the topography and the life of people in Laciana Valley (León). Although it is literally an explosive industrial process, this mining activity developed in relative silence, away from public opinion. In general, MTR operations are remote, located beyond the landscape seen from city centers. At first glance, only a well-trained eye can detect the landscape morphological transformations involved in the amputation of the top of a mountain and its subsequent artificial reconstruction. But for the 10.000 inhabitants directly affected by this activity, mostly connoisseurs of mountain valley profiles, MTR is constantly visible and audible.

More info in:

- Herrero, A. (2013). Anatomía de un conflicto socioecológico: el caso de la minería de carbón a cielo abierto en el Valle de Laciana. Tesis Doctoral:

West Virginians Call for Real Enforcement

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

On February 11th West Virginians faced yet another coal slurry spill into their waters.  Charged with enforcing surface mine regulations under the Surface Mine Reclamation and Control Act (SMCRA), the Dept. of Interior (DOI) has been conspicuously absent and silent regarding these spills.  DOI offered no comment on the recent 100,000-gallon coal slurry spill into a West Virginia creek that flows into the Kanawha River on Feb. 11th nor on the coal slurry spill in McDowell County on Feb. 19th. The Citizen Action for Real Enforcement (CARE) Campaign is asking “Where is Secretary Jewell”?

State regulators in West Virginia routinely fail to hold the coal industry accountable for its pollution. The West Virginia CARE Campaign has petitioned the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to intervene in the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to ensure safe water, air and communities for West Virginia residents. The 18 CARE Campaign partners and allied groups collected over 50,000 signatures in support of that legal petition.  Individuals across the country signed on to demand that the DOI and OSM institute real enforcement in West Virginia.

Rob Goodwin, a technical expert at Coal River Mountain Watch, has been investigating the West Virginia DEP. “The West Virginia DEP has allowed the ground water and much of the surface water resources in this state to be destroyed by coal – forcing everyone to be hooked up to a huge corporation-owned water system where they have no rights or control over where their water comes from.”

Since Secretary Jewell took office in April of 2013, she has yet to meet with mine-impacted citizen groups across the country.  In addition to supporting the OSM intervention into the W.Va. DEP program, the CARE Campaign partners hope the Secretary will meet this spring with the Citizens’ Coal Council and impacted communities from around the nation.

How can you help WV, you ask? In addition to attending the event in DC on Thursday- Water distribution volunteers are still welcome & needed at the WV Clean Water Hub. Monetary donations are being accepted via the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation.

Join us to ensure real enforcement in West Virginia!

40 Days and 40 Nights Since Clean Water in WV: How to Help

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

It has now been over 40 days since 300,000 people were left unsure about the safety of their water due to chemical spill in Charleston, WV.   The spill has caused a lot of confusion, anger, and sent an estimated  400 people to the hospital – but it has also inspired some remarkable community organizing.

The WV Clean Water Hub is a community-organized effort that has been supported by volunteers as well as grassroots groups in West Virginia — including Aurora Lights, Coal River Mountain Watch, Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, RAMPS and more — to identify communities in need of clean water and supplies, and to connect affected communities with volunteers and donors.

This inspiring effort is an example of the ways neighbors step up to help their neighbors in Appalachia. It is also a stark reminder of the far-reaching impacts of this preventable disaster caused by industry negligence and lax regulations.

Here are some stories collected from The WV Clean Water Hub and activists working for clean water over the past weeks.  The Hub is still making deliveries – learn how you can help below!

How to Help:

Donate to the Hub

Volunteer with the
WV Clean Water Hub

Keep informed:

Take Action:
Easy Action A Day
Tell EPA to Protect Water

An Expanded Idea of Leadership

Jen Osha Buysse

The stories that get me the most are the stories of mothers with children who are sick and asking why the state is not considering it an emergency. Why is the government providing less emergency water every day, even though every day we’re learning new, disturbing issues with the water situation?

We’ve been gathering a lot of liquid baby formula and diaper wipes for the families with young children. We have an incredible group of people working together in unaffected areas to support those affected — local unions, daycares, schools. One local pediatrician donated baby supplies and landscape companies have offered their trucks.

I have spoken with many families who haven’t been able to work in the weeks since the chemical spill. They can’t just not buy water, but they can’t buy food or pay heating bills in the freezing weather. They don’t want to ask for help, but their income has been cut off.

Everyone can find a way to use whatever skills they have during this ongoing emergency. Someone has a truck, someone knows parents at a school they can organize – we’ve had to expand our idea of what leadership consists of, and I’ve witnessed all these incredible people working together to fill truck after truck.

This crisis is far from over and we must all work together to settle into a sustainable level of support that we can maintain as long as needed.

Jen Osha Buysse is an emergency relief organizer, co-founder and board chair of educational nonprofit Aurora Lights. She is a busy teacher and mother living in Morgantown, W.Va.


I Love Mountains Day: Marchers Vote for a Bright Future

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Update from

Hundreds of KFTC members and friends braved the cold and warnings of winter storms to march and rally in Frankfort, KY for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s ninth annual I Love Mountains Day on February 12.

Folks gathered at the Kentucky River and marched up Capitol Avenue to the familiar chants of “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” and “Whose mountains? Our mountains!”

Speakers drew parallels among communities in eastern Kentucky and other communities in Central Kentucky, Louisville, West Virginia and North Carolina that are dealing with the impacts of fossil fuels.

“We may live in different hollers, but we share the same story of environmental injustice,” said keynote speaker Teri Blanton, a Harlan County native and longtime KFTC leader who is a member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the EPA.

“It’s time for us to write a new story,” Blanton said. “Let’s create a new energy revolution in this state, a New Power revolution.”

Blanton called on elected leaders to:

  • Invest in a new economy and a just transition in eastern Kentucky.
  • Protect the health of people in eastern Kentucky and stop the destruction, beginning with passing the Stream Saver Bill.
  • Pass the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, which would establish benchmarks for renewable energy and energy efficiency and create 28,000 new jobs in Kentucky over the next ten years.
  • Support the EPA and other regulatory agencies charged with protecting the land and people.
  • Pass Senate Bill 14, which would limit the use of eminent domain in cases such as the proposed Bluegrass Hazardous Liquids Pipeline.

“We have to create the democracy that we all deserve,” Blanton said.

To read more about the powerful day of action, hear beautiful quotes from speakers and see some of the great media coverage, check out KFTC’s blog!

Hands Off Appalachia Tours East Coast

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

by Ricki Draper and Dan Cohn

Hands Off Appalachia (HOA) is an urban-based campaign that targets the funding of mountaintop removal. A small handful of banks are responsible for the majority of the loans, bond underwriting, and other credit extended to companies like Patriot, Arch, Alpha, and James River Coal Company. The financial backing enables coal companies to continue devastating the mountains, especially through the recent tough coal markets.

For the past two years, we at HOA have been confronting UBS, a Swiss-owned wealth management company, who is one of the top funders of MTR companies. The campaign began in Knoxville, TN, and has focused on mobilizing cities in the south against MTR and applying enough public pressure that UBS is forced to stop funding mountaintop removal. Recently, HOA has been expanding our campaign into the northeast to bring more pressure to bear on corporate decision-makers at UBS’s North American Headquarters in Stamford, CT.

Following our Fall Action Camp in Connecticut last November, 14 people were arrested on November 25th during a day of powerful non-violent direct action demanding that UBS stop funding MTR. You can read more about those actions here!

On the way back to our second court date earlier this month, HOA held speaking events in eight cities to continue to shine a light on UBS’s dirty business. We stopped in Worcester, MA; Washington, D.C.; Swarthmore, PA; Boston, MA; Waltham, MA:  New Haven, CT; Bedford, NY; and Frederick, MD.

Kyle Gibson presents the True Cost of Coal poster created by The Beehive Collective.

Sharing the stage at many speaking events, it was amazing to see how our work addressing the coal industry in Appalachia intersects with the various struggles for clean water and healthy communities throughout the country. We learned more about the fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline in DC; how students are organizing on their campuses at Swarthmore, Brandeis, and MIT around divestment as a tool for ending extreme energy extraction; how folks in New Haven are building resistance against the TransPacific Partnership; and we also learned about the struggle against hydrofracking in Maryland. While conditions grow more dire and disasters more frequent, it was heartening to hear about many forms of resistance to industry and corporate power.

Because our actions in November drew activists from as far away as West Virginia and Missouri, we want to make the most of every visit to UBS’s headquarters. When we go back to court for a pre-trial hearing on March 20th, we will hold another series of speaking events and benefits! Be on the lookout for another tour schedule soon. If you would like to bring us to your town, please email us at!

In the meantime, HOA is working hard to replenish the Mountain Justice Legal Defense Fund. It took a lot of money to bail 14 people out of jail in time for the holidays, and our bail money is still tied up in the Connecticut legal system. If you are able, please consider donating the MJ Legal Defense Fund online here in order to support people who put so much on the line to stop the crime of mountaintop removal.

Appalachian Groups Join Allies in Climate Justice Alliance

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Feb 11 is the twentieth anniversary of President Bill Clinton’s Environmental Justice Executive Order. This order was a critical milestone––official acknowledgement of environmental racism and the disproportionate impact that frontline communities of color and low-income communities face from toxic pollution.

Frontline communities continue to lead the fight for environmental justice and a powerful new alliance is emerging to confront one of the greatest environmental injustices of our times: the destabilization of our climate.  The Alliance for Appalachia is excited to participate in this effort along with our member groups. We want to share with you a powerful short film about an exciting new initiative: the Our Power Campaign!

Last summer, members of The Alliance for Appalachia, including OVEC and KFTC, visited the Black Mesa Water Coalition, which hosted communities from around the country who are fighting the devastating impacts of coal from the mountaintops of Appalachia to the mesas of Navajo Country. They were joined by leaders from allied communities who are sick of being exploited, poisoned and denied access to meaningful employment. These organizers shared experiences, strategized together and united around a common vision of Just Transition away from the Extractive Economy that is failing all our communities and threatening the future of our planet. Together we formed the Climate Justice Alliance and launched the Our Power Campaign.

Today we invite you for a front row seat into the beauty of this historic convening and the inspiring possibilities of the Our Power Campaign.  Please, spare a few minutes to watch this short, powerful film and spread the word about this exciting new initiative by sharing the film widely:

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

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition  •   Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowermentSierra Club Environmental Justice

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

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