Recently, the Kentucky Division of Water attempted to sneak weakened selenium standards into their three-year review of water quality standards after the original 30-day public comment period. Kentuckians spoke up. Now the DOW has agreed to seek additional comments from the public on the selenium standards until March 1st.
The DOW has proposed to raise the acute standard for selenium in streams from 20 to 258 micrograms per liter, or even higher in some cases. The DOW has also proposed to replace the current chronic standard of five micrograms per liter in streams, with a measurement of the concentration of selenium in fish tissue. The current standards are supported by the EPA and scientific research, and should not be made less stringent.
Selenium is toxic to aquatic life even at very low levels. It bioaccumulates, meaning that it increases in concentration as it moves up the food chain, affecting fish and even aquatic birds. In fish, selenium toxicity can result in deformities and reproductive failure. Important Kentucky fish species, such as bluegill, sunfish and catfish, are particularly sensitive to selenium. At higher levels, selenium is toxic to people. Humans can be exposed to selenium through the water they drink and the fish they eat. Long-term exposure can damage the liver, kidneys, nervous system, and circulatory system.
For thousands in Kentucky and across Appalachia, Feb. 14th is more than just Valentine’s Day, it’s I Love Mountains Day. Our friends at Kentuckians for the Commonwealth shared photos, video and blog posts from the event, where mountain lovers celebrated their hope for Appalachia’s Bright Future. We wanted to share some of the highlights from an amazing event. Read more at www.kftc.org/blog/
KFTC members and friends celebrated their hope for Appalachia’s Bright Future at the annual I Love Mountains Day march and rally in Frankfort today.
“I believe in Harlan County’s Bright Future, in Kentucky’s Bright Future, in Appalachia’s Bright Future,” KFTC member Carl Shoupe of Benham told the crowd on the capitol steps. “But we must do more than want it. We have to dream it. We have to build it and protect it, together. We have to demand it and work for it every day. We have to organize for it and we have to vote for it.”
More than a thousand people met at the Kentucky River and marched up Capital Avenue to call for New Power – new energy, economic and political power – and an end to mountaintop removal and other destructive mining practices that threaten our mountains, water, air and health.
Twelve-year-old Ella Corder of Somerset, winner of the first I Love Mountains Day essay contest, also spoke at the rally. “We all have a fire in our hearts. It may have started as a small, weak flickering flame, but it grew, as does our love for our treasured mountains. We need to use that burning fire to stand up for what we believe in and let our voices be heard.”
Keynote speaker Silas House challenged those gathered to take action. “We have talked for years about the problems of mountaintop removal and this outlaw industry. For the past decade, KFTC has actively worked toward solutions with four main goals: enforcing existing laws, passing stronger laws where needed to protect health and environment, developing a diverse and sustainable local economy, and, lastly, developing clean energy solutions in the region. New Power.”
Elizabeth Sanders, who left the mountains with her family before she started high school and than returned as an adult, said, “Like many people I know, I reject the idea that people have to leave eastern Kentucky if they want opportunities and a good life. Some people will choose to leave; that’s their call. But many of us are choosing to stay, or choosing to come back. We love this place. We are committed to building a better future here.”
On February 14th, join with hundreds of Kentuckians to call for an end to the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining and ask our leaders for the clean energy solutions that provide good, safe jobs and healthy communities for Kentucky.
Will you join us at the capitol?
All over eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia, residents of communities like Eolia, Hueysville, Benham, Lynch and Montgomery Creek are speaking up to protect their health and homeland from the destruction of coal and to create a more sustainable economy.
Come be one of the more than 1,200 people standing up for clean water, clean energy, and a just economic transition for eastern Kentucky.
9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Optional Citizen Lobbying in Room 111, Capitol Annex. 12:00 p.m. Gather at the Kentucky River below the bridge at Capitol Ave. 12:30 p.m. March to the Capitol (Flat route is .6 miles.) 1:15 p.m. Rally on the Capitol steps — speakers, music, and a vision for Ky. 2:00 p.m. I Love Mountains Valentine Delivery Able to arrive early? Help us welcome our friends at Footprints for Peace as they Walk for a Sustainable Future
Wear red, invite a friend, and bring a homemade sign and a valentine for the governor.
Later this month Administrator Lisa Jackson will retire as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. During her term, the EPA took several important steps to encourage coal companies to do more to protect the water in Appalachia from destructive coal mining practices. Unfortunately it was not enough: a key guidance that EPA issued to protect Appalachian streams and communities is not legally binding.
Half-measures like these are unacceptable when the health of entire communities are on the line.
Mining companies and state agencies — who have made it clear that they will do everything they can to avoid these kinds of recommendations — need to be held accountable. We need real protections. The EPA must issue legally binding water quality standards for conductivity under the Clean Water Act to to protect streams and communities in Appalachia from mountaintop removal mining pollution.
Lisa Jackson made it clear that destroying mountains in Appalachia and poisoning streams and communities was not acceptable. We need to make sure her successor works alongside President Obama to finish the job.
On February 14th, join with hundreds of Kentuckians to call for an end to the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining and ask our leaders for clean energy solutions that provide good, safe jobs and healthy communities for Kentucky.
All over Eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia, residents in communities like Eolia, Hueysville, Benham, Lynch and Montgomery Creek are speaking up to protect their health and homeland from the destruction of coal and to create a more sustainable economy.
We’re excited to announce that the application form is live for the 8th Annual End Mountaintop Removal Week in Washington this May 4th-8th, 2013. This event is one of the most important events of the year for those working to end mountaintop removal. Click here to apply today!
This year we will ramp up pressure on the Obama Administration to end mountaintop removal once and for all. In addition increasing pressure on federal agencies, we will continue our ongoing work to support the Clean Water Protection Act and gain new bi-partisan support for the bill. We will also begin conversations with lawmakers about the potential for economic transition legislation for the region.
This year we have new opportunities to make our voices heard in DC. Scholarships are limited. If you are seeking a full or partial scholarship, the deadline is March 12th. If you do not need scholarship support, the deadline to register is March 19th.
Last year’s Week in Washington was a tremendous success. More than 150 people from over 20 states came to Washington, holding over 200 meetings with Congressional offices and Agency Officials–all culminating in Appalachia Rising’s Day of Action.
2013 marks a critical moment to make the issue of mountaintop removal coal mining a top priority issue in Washington. Can you join us this year in Washington? Click here to apply!
We hope to see you in Washington!
P.S. Please forward this invitation to friends or colleagues who may be interested in joining us in Washington.
On Monday, just a few miles from the old school, students began classes at a new, safer Marsh Fork Elementary. Last week, families were invited to tour the school, where classrooms are equipped with smart board presentation stations, computer labs with the fastest internet connection in the area and a freshly painted gym with the school’s colors and mascot, a bulldog.
For years the old school building, which was adjacent to a coal silo and sat just 400 feet downslope from an impoundment that held back billions of gallons of coal slurry, was at the center of a controversy that led to protests, arrests and nationwide publicity. Local residents, especially parents of Marsh Fork students, were concerned about the health impacts of exposure to coal dust and the threat of a disaster at the impoundment owned by Massey Energy.
At the open house, Marsh Fork’s interim principal Tracie Wood told the Beckley Register-Herald, “I have never seen a community so excited about a school opening.”
Although it took years longer than many would have liked or expected from local officials and Massey, parents no longer have to worry about their children playing in the shadow of a coal preparation plant. Massey Energy gave the Raleigh County Board of Education $1.5 million to help pay for the new Marsh Fork Elementary.
Watch a flyover of the mine and impoundment above the old Marsh Fork Elementary building:
Dozens of scientific studies have linked mountaintop removal mining to high rates of cancer and other diseases in nearby communities. But as these children show, you don’t need to be a scientist to understand the devastating impact that mountaintop removal has on the health and quality of life of people living nearby.
Thanks to thousands of people like you who have spoken up for the Appalachian Mountains and communities time and again, President Obama’s agencies have taken major steps to reduce the destruction caused by mountaintop removal mining over the past four years.
As the president is sworn in to a second term later this month, we have an opportunity to finish the job and stop mountaintop removal once and for all. We need your help to ensure that President Obama makes ending mountaintop removal a priority in his second term.
Great news this morning in the continued fight to protect Blair Mountain:
Groups Continue Fight to Keep West Virginia Historic Site on the National Register of Historic Places
Logan County, WV – A coalition of historic preservation, labor history and environmental protection organizations filed an appeal today in a renewed effort to restore West Virginia’s Blair Mountain Battlefield to the National Register of Historic Places.
Today’s appeal challenges an October 2, 2012 ruling in a U.S. District court that declined to address these organizations’ claims that Blair Mountain was unlawfully removed from the National Register of Historic Places. The groups contend that the National Park Service’s December 2009 decision to de-list Blair Mountain – which was, in 1921, the site of the largest insurrection in the United States since the Civil War, as coal miners clashed with law enforcement over the right to unionize – was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to the National Park Service’s own guidelines.
In October, the court concluded that the groups lacked legal standing to challenge the National Register de-listing because there was insufficient proof of an imminent threat of coal mining at the site. This decision ignored abundant evidence that coal mining companies continue to seek permits to mine the battlefield and continue to block efforts to list Blair Mountain on the National Register.
“With the exception of the Civil War, the Blair battle is the largest insurrection in U.S. history,” said Regina Hendrix of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We cannot let this rich, undisturbed, site be wiped away forever. The area is a vital part of U.S. labor history. The archaeological record waiting to be explored will clearly show the places where the battle occurred, as well as the intensity of the battle at different sites. The archaeological record has lain dormant for 90 years along the Spruce Fork Ridge from Blair Mountain to Mill Creek and it cries out for our protection.”
“Blair Mountain stands as a center-piece of American labor history and West Virginia culture,” said Kenny King, a lifelong resident of Blair and member of the Board of Friends of Blair Mountain. “The courageous resistance of ten thousand striking coal miners in 1921 was an outcry for basic human rights. Blair Mountain must not fall to the insatiable greed of the coal industry but rather stand as a monument that honors the gains for which those miners sacrificed their lives and livelihoods. Never before, nor since have so many American workers taken up arms to fight for their constitutional rights. Blair Mountain, West Virginia stands not only as a reminder of our proud history, but also as a living symbol of hope for all who seek justice.”
“I’ve lived in Blair for over 50 years, it is my home and the mountain is my back yard,” said longtime resident of Blair West Virginia, Carlos Gore. “For our sake, and the sake of our history, the battlefield needs to be preserved so that future generations can understand what happened here and why it’s so important to be remembered.
“This ruling creates a no-win situation for preservationists and environmentalists fighting to protect the Blair Mountain battlefield and America’s labor history,” explained David Brown, executive vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Unless this decision is reversed, we would be prevented from taking action to protect this significant place until after coal mining has already begun, at which time irreparable damage would no longer be avoidable.”
“Blair Mountain is an important part of my family’s history, “said Julian Martin of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. “My grandfather and great uncle fought at Blair Mountain in 1921 on the side of the United Mine Workers of America. It would be a huge loss for Blair Mountain to be unprotected from mountain top removal strip mining.”
Background: The battle for Blair Mountain is a central event in labor history in the United States and certainly one of the best known of the many labor struggles in West Virginia. The actual site of the battle is a key part of our history and should be preserved for our children’s children to visit and explore. After many nominations and revisions the site was finally listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, only to be de-listed nine months later in a move that the coalition believes was unlawful. Since Federal coal mining laws provide strong protection for sites actually listed on the National Register, removing Blair Mountain from the Register puts the future of this important place at risk.
Groups involved in this appeal are the Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Friends of Blair Mountain, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the West Virginia Labor History Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
During a campaign season in which climate change featured most prominently as a laugh line at the Republican National Convention, the low point was when CNN’s Candy Crowley addressed “all you climate people” in her explanation of why climate didn’t come up during the presidential debates. Who knew that human disruption of the global climate had become such a narrow, provincial concern?
But there’s important information in the fact that a senior reporter for a major network could dismiss climate change as essentially a special interest issue. It’s evidence, if more were needed, that “all us climate people” got our butts kicked in the battle for the narrative in the 2012 election.
And like the Republican Party, which is now undergoing the usual soul searching that follows a big electoral defeat, those of us who believe that inaction on climate is the greatest threat facing our civilization (never mind the economy) have some serious soul searching to do about our own defeat, which occurred long before any votes were counted.
Crowley’s explanation was consistent with the conventional wisdom on why the president didn’t make climate an issue. Because it was an “Economy election” and everyone in the DC press must accept that government action on climate change could do serious harm to the economy (because “it’s become part of the culture,” even if it’s not true), any discussion of climate policy by the president would have been off-message and worked against his chances for re-election.
The unconventional wisdom, popular among “climate people,” is that the Obama campaign failed to recognize the high level of popular support for action on climate change and missed a golden opportunity to seize a winning wedge issue when they chose the more politically expedient route of ignoring it.
There’s probably some truth to both of these explanations, but here’s a third one that is particularly useful in the context of a presidential election: the campaigns avoided talking about climate policy because they believed that raising the issue would be harmful in a few swingy areas of key swing states that would likely decide the election.
Look, it’s tempting to point to all the national polls showing popular support for climate policy and say, “climate is a winning campaign issue.” But a political strategist would find nothing useful in those polls because campaigns are not won by appealing to the sentiments of the average American. Similarly, when a presidential candidate is speaking to a national audience, it’s easy to believe they are speaking to us — all of us. But they’re not. By and large, the candidates’ speeches are written to appeal to a handful of undecided voters in a few swing states, with just enough partisan red meat thrown in to motivate the party base to volunteer for the campaign and turn out to vote.
Americans understand that those swingy areas are the “tail that wags the dog” of our national elections but don’t necessarily think about the logical conclusion of that fact; the concerns and attitudes of swing voters in swing states are the “tail that wags the dog” of campaign messages, media coverage, and thus public understanding of what issues are important in the campaign.
The problem is fossil fuel interests have figured out how to wag that dog. They know they can’t win public opinion nationally, but by focusing resources in key areas of swing states such as Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, they can frame the local discussion of climate policy and environmental regulations to their advantage (i.e., as a “Job-killing war on coal“) and essentially neutralize those issues at the national level — at least during the election season.
If the Obama campaign’s pre-election polling looked anything like the maps of election results in coal-mining regions of southwestern Virginia and southern Ohio, it’s easy to imagine strategists telling the president, “Don’t exacerbate this ‘war on coal’ thing or it could hurt us in swing states” (see map):