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Fellowship Prepares Leaders for Regional Change – Deadline Feb. 10

Friday, January 31st, 2014

For Immediate Release
Appalachian Transition Fellowship
1959 Highlander Way
New Market, TN 37820

Highlander Research & Education Center & Rural Support Partners is launching the Appalachian Transition Fellowship June 2, 2014. This fellowship seeks to increase the connectivity and capacity of Appalachian institutions, communities, and leaders for shared analysis to facilitate regional transformation.

Central Appalachia is engaged in a period of economic transition. While the decline of previously stable industries such as coal and manufacturing bring significant economic instability, it also offers Appalachia the opportunity to focus on the long-term well-being of its people and its communities. This economic transition allows regionally-based industries to prosper while also protecting and supporting the environmental and social well-being of the
region. The Appalachian Transition Fellowship (AppFellows) will build & support the collective analysis & projects of regional institutions and leaders that address =systemic problems such as healthy food access, health disparities & energy inefficiency to create a just and sustainable Appalachian economy.

This program offers the opportunity to spend a year working within host communities to help foster cross-sector (education, nonprofit, for-profit, philanthropy, and government) partnerships, provide needed capacity to regional efforts, and build personal and professional skills. Through institutional placements, independently designed projects, training, and mentoring, the program gives emerging leaders skills and networks needed to advance economic and social change in the region.

About The Appalachian Transition Fellowship (AppFellows)

AppFellows is a year-long, full-time, paid program designed for 15 emerging community leaders who are committed to working in Central Appalachia, defined as West Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee, Appalachian Ohio and Western North Carolina, for the economic transition of the region.

We are excited to receive fellow applications. Applications are due on February 10, 2014, and can be found at our website

The inaugural class will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Dedicated to the Central Appalachian Region
  • Have shown creativity and innovation in their work or field of study
  • Serious about a career that will support the transition to a sustainable and equitable region
  • Interest in supporting economic development programs
  • Strong collaboration, teamwork and group decision-making skills
  • Commitment to working in rural areas
  • Willingness to participate in all of AppFellows year-long activities

For interview opportunities, please contact Joe Tolbert at or call 865-933-3443

Appalachia Deserves Safe Water!

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Today, citizens are gathering outside of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 3 headquarters in Philadelphia, Penn., to demand a clean water future for Appalachia. In the wake of a devastating chemical spill in West Virginia and decades of damaged water from mountaintop removal mining and other coal industry abuses, citizens are taking action.

They need you to join them by telling the EPA that all Americans deserve safe water.

In Central Appalachia, state politicians have tied the hands and budgets of regulatory officials trying to conduct meaningful water-quality oversight. What’s more, loose federal EPA guidances have proven to be unenforceable and make little difference on the ground. We need a federal rule that supersedes the corruption of state politicians and that has enough teeth to make a real difference for Appalachian communities.

Join these citizens today and tell the EPA that Appalachians need new water safeguards from an industry that’s run amok.

It’s time to act. The EPA holds the keys to protecting Appalachia’s health. Let’s show them we won’t stand by while any American is forced to drink polluted water!

Ask Your Legislators to Support Tennessee’s Scenic Vistas

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Help Protect Tennessees Scenic Vistas

Once again, Tennesseans have an opportunity to protect our beloved mountains in the form of a bill that would help ensure the beauty and economic vitality of the Cumberland Plateau.

The Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) in the state House and Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) in the state Senate, would prohibit high-elevation surface mining techniques such as mountaintop removal in the great Volunteer State.

Contact your legislators today and ask them to support the Scenic Vistas Protection Act (House Bill 1844/ Senate Bill 1925)!

Rep. Johnson and Sen. Finney have once again proven their dedication to protecting Tennessee mountains and shown clear vision in seeing the worth of our mountains as economic drivers. The coal mined in Tennessee represents around 0.1 percent of coal production in the United States. And while coal production in Tennessee has plummeted in recent decades, coal companies in Tennessee have increasingly resorted to cheaper and more destructive mining methods.

The mountains are one of the prime drivers of tourism in Tennessee, generating an economic impact of more than $15 billion and sustaining nearly 177,800 jobs. Coal’s economic value to the state is pale in comparison — according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2012 Tennessee had fewer than 200 surface coal mining jobs.

Tell your legislators that you are a Tennessean who cares about protecting our mountains — ask them to co-sponsor the Scenic Vistas Protection Act!

Hold Government Accountable for the West Virginia Water Crisis

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Late last week, a devastating chemical spill from a Freedom Industries tank poisoned the drinking water for over 300,000 people in West Virginia. Across nine counties, residents lost access to safe drinking water and hundreds became immediately sick.

Now, a week later, some residents are still without water in the homes–and those that do have water flowing from their taps are finding that it’s still undrinkable. What’s more, workers are struggling from lost wages because businesses were forced to shut down during the crisis.

There must be a change in the way industry does business in West Virginia. The federal government must hold the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection accountable for it’s inability to protect safe drinking water.

It is no secret that Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, the WV legislature, and the WV Department of Environmental Protection have worked to undercut protections for people’s health and the environment in favor of the coal, gas and chemical industries.

This spill is the last straw.

Since West Virginia leadership won’t protect communities living downstream from unregulated industries, the federal government must. Sign the petition, and tell the Obama Administration that West Virginia leaders cannot be trusted to stand up for the health of West Virginia communities.

Initial reaction to West Virginia chemical spill is — Why?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Guest post by Jennifer C.

Jennifer and her family have lived in West Virginia for multiple generations

Why? That is the question we as a community have been asking the last several days. Why has our water been poisoned? Why has a chemical storage facility been allowed to store a virtually unknown chemical right above the river intake for the water company that provides water for 300,000 residents of nine counties? Why was the leak not properly reported in a timely manner? Why were there no laws in place to evaluate and better regulate such facilities?

Political grandstanding will set in soon. Blame and finger pointing will further some careers and undermine others. The news cycle will spin over to a new scandal or controversy, whether it be in New Jersey or Washington, D.C. When the news crews leave, we will be left with the remainder of the mess- the down and dirty remnants of this contamination and the corruption that allowed it to happen.

My sister is five months pregnant, and both she and my mother showered and drank the water before the spill was announced to the public.  My mother and sister had seven hours of drinking, showering, and clothes washing between the time of the initial leak and the announcement being made to the general public via local news stations. Seven hours of exposure and contamination. Not only is this terrifying, it is totally unacceptable.  Freedom Industries seeped a toxic chemical into the supply network for at least a day before residents discovered the leak when they complained of the smell.

My entire immediate family has been affected by this water contamination. There is not one home in my extended family that has safe, clean water. We have traveled to friends in outlying counties to shower, wash clothes, and refill our water supplies. We have spent easily $300 on water and paper supplies because we cannot wash dishes.

Fortunately, my family has the economic ability to purchase bottled water. Additionally, we have nurses in the family and internet access to research and discern all the data and information that has trickled out in the days following the spill. Unfortunately, not all West Virginians have these option. Instead the people of West Virginia have the wisdom and knowledge to work the land and be self-sufficient. 

With our past history of industrial development and then abandonment by large absentee landlords, we have grown accustomed to undertaking the hardships that come with industry. West Virginia is filled with some of the most intelligent people I have met. Going out in search of water, I have seen the best in people – as tends to happen in all emergencies around here. West Virginia has the kindest, most resilient people.

No matter how resilient the people are, the effects of this water crisis are going to be farther reaching than we can guess right now. Charleston, WV has effectively shut down as restaurants and any stores that serve food items have had to close their doors by order of the health department. Employees have lost their meager wages due to no customers. No customers equals no tips. For people that live day to day this is a devastating situation, especially since they have no way to purchase water with no income from their workplace shutting down. While I feel bad for Red Lobster not having any customers, for locally owned eateries this is especially crushing. Local businesses and the companies and employees that depend on them have had no income for over five days. The economic impact of this situation will be felt for a long time and may change the landscape of independent business for years to come.

I am concerned even more for the environmental impact this will have on the communities and families in the area. Those that have well and city water will be affected in the long run where seepage into the water table will begin. Once this chemical begins leeching into the wells of families living in rural areas, the health effects could linger years to come. These toxic chemicals aren’t going to just disappear. Cincinnati is currently preparing to deal with this disaster as it moves down the Ohio river. 

Through it all the company responsible for the leak, Freedom Industries, has been irresponsible in communicating information to the public. The president of Freedom Industries, Gary Southern, gave a press conference on the spill where he at best came across as arrogant and well hydrated (repeatedly guzzling water from a bottle brought in from out of the area). Once again, absentee owners poison the people of West Virginia and those responsible for the environmental and socio-economic impact disappear behind  a wall of money and network of attorneys.

The new questions we need to ask as a community, state, and nation all begin with “what”. What regulations need changing? What are some of the protocol we can put into place to prevent this delayed response in the future? Most importantly, what are we going to do as a community and state about the industries and companies that are destroying our beautiful state? What are we, as citizens, going to do to protect ourselves from this level of pollution and destruction ever happening again?

Resolve to shake things up in 2014

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Resolve to fight mountaintop removal in 2014

Each new year we are given a moment to reflect on the past year as well as consider what we want to accomplish going forward. Some of us diligently write down resolutions or share them loved ones, for others it is a less conscious process.

Regardless of which approach you take, this year I am asking that you make a personal resolution to take action in your community to end mountaintop removal.

2014 marks the five year anniversary of the Obama Administration’s promise to the American people to address the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. And while we have achieved small victories during that time, blasting continues on a daily basis, toxic coal mining waste continues being dumped into critical headwater streams, and Appalachian communities continue to suffer.

This year we need to make sure our voices are heard across the country. Regardless of where you live, we need to raise awareness in our communities and reach people who have never heard of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Will you resolve increase your commitment to fighting mountaintop removal in 2014?

We have lots of ideas of how you might do that and I’m sure you have many more. Resolve to act now and together lets make 2014 the biggest year yet in the fight to end mountaintop removal coal mining!

Tell Obama to Include Appalachia in His Clean Energy Agenda

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Citizens from across Appalachia gathered last spring in D.C. They return this week to meet with White House officials.

This week, citizens from across Appalachia are meeting with the White House to demand that mountaintop removal and its impacts on water quality be a part of Obama’s clean energy agenda.

As President Obama paints a pretty picture of America’s clean energy future, the reality on the ground in Appalachia is much different.

The administration has dragged its feet on important promises to curtail devastating health and environmental impacts in the region by failing to create a strong Stream Buffer Zone Rule and a strong standard for conductivity — measures that would protect Appalachian communities and streams from toxic mining waste.

Tell the White House we haven’t forgotten its promises. Let the White House know that a clean energy future for America must include a clean water future in Appalachia.

Join Appalachians as they raise their voice in Washington this week!

See you this Thursday! Coalfields Expressway, Rally to Stop the Hijack!

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Tell the FHA a Strip Mine is NOT a Highway

This Thursday, Dec. 5, we need you to stand with us at the doorstep of the Federal Highway Administration to expose the Coalfields Expressway for what it really is: a stripmine highway.

Citizens will be traveling from across the state to join us, including many people who live directly in the path of the proposed highway. Don’t miss out, RSVP now!

When: 12 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5
Where: Federal Highway Administration
             1200 New Jersey Ave SE
             Washington, D.C., 20590

The Coalfields Expressway is a Virginia highway project that has been hijacked by the coal industry so that they can seize land through eminent domain, blow up mountains, bury streams with mining waste and ignore environmental protections while doing so.

RSVP now to join us on December 5 and help us by forwarding this invitation to your friends

For the Mountains,


Join us in D.C. this December: Coalfields Expressway, Rally to Stop the Hijack!

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Tell the FHA a Strip Mine is NOT a Highway

On Thursday, Dec. 5, we need your support to rally in front of Federal Highways to expose the Coalfields Expressway for what it really is: a stripmine highway.

The Coalfields Expressway is a Virginia highway project that has been hijacked by the coal industry so that they can seize land through eminent domain, blow up mountains, bury streams with mining waste and ignore environmental protections while doing so.

RSVP now to join us on December 5.

Federal Highways will determine whether this project moves forward without any additional review or whether it is put on hold until the environmental impacts are fully considered. They need to hear directly from you that this project is nothing more than a mountaintop removal project being disguised as a highway.

Join us:
When: 12 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5
Where: Federal Highway Administration
             1200 New Jersey Ave SE
             Washington, D.C., 20590

RSVP now!

Also if you haven’t yet, please sign this petition to Federal Highways, which will be delivered on December 5 during the rally.

The choice is clear to us; we need to make sure it is clear to them. See you in D.C. this December.

Act Now: EPA Approves Weakened Standards for Water Pollution

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Last Friday, EPA allowed the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection to weaken a critical water quality standard for selenium; a decision that could deeply compromise the safety of communities across the entire Appalachian region.

Take action now and tell the EPA that it is unacceptable to weaken water quality standards and put communities rights to clean water at risk.

The significance of the EPA’s decision cannot be overstated. Already, other states in Appalachia, including Virginia and West Virginia, are considering similar changes to their water quality standards. Friday’s action by EPA sends these states a signal that is okay to gut protections for clean water and make it easier for the coal industry to do more mountaintop removal coal mining.

In making this decision, EPA is ignoring the input of thousand of citizens. Take action now and tell EPA we need them to do their job and to protect the rights of citizens to clean and safe water — instead of the coal industry.

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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