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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.

Water Quality Reports Faked; Appalachian Health Put At Risk

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

In a report that we wish was shocking, a lab in West Virginia was recently convicted of faking water quality reports. Ken Ward with the Charleston Gazette reported, “Appalachian [Laboratory] employees “falsified and rendered inaccurate” water samples by diluting them with distilled water or replacing them with water they knew to be in compliance with permit standards, according to the stipulation. The document says that Appalachian officials used the term “honeyhole” to refer to water from certain sites that would always test within permit limits and could be used in place of or to dilute “bad water.”

According to the story, this lab was doing water testing for more than 100 mines across West Virginia, as part of companies self reporting for the Clean Water Act.

This article by Brian Sewell at Appalachian Voices points out that misreporting data is hardly a new phenomenon, but this latest incidence sheds important light on the corruption that is harming our water and putting Appalachian people at serious risk.

Victory for Blair Mountain

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Near Blair Mountain, West Virginia

Last month, a federal appeals court gave Friends of Blair Mountain, The Sierra Club and other groups standing to seek added historical protections for this important historical landmark.  This memorial page gives a useful overview of the remarkable history of this mountain. Once the site of the 1921 battle between miners and coal companies, it has been a prime target for mountaintop removal for years. A dedicated group of people from the area and across the country have been working hard to protect this mountain.

Thanks to the September court decision, these groups can now seek legal action to protect this historic treasure from mountaintop removal coal mining. It’s the next step in what will like continue to be a long saga of the second battle for Blair Mountain.

Continued Violations on Strip Mine Near Popular Park

Friday, October 10th, 2014

The Kanawha Forest Coalition is a community group near Charleston, WV that has been working hard to stop a strip mine from destroying a beloved state forest. Unfortunately, despite overwhelming public support, they were not able to stop the strip mine operations from beginning, but the group has been working hard to ensure that the mountaintop removal mine at least follows the law.

Unfortunately, the coal operator does not appear to have the same passion for protecting the streams and neighbors well water. Careful citizen monitoring has resulted 5 violations and one Cessation Order in 5 months on a surface mine near Charleston, WV. Community members are appalled by the irresponsible behavior of the company and the difficulty in getting responses from the WV Department of Environmental Protection.

The group, along with partners at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Keepers of the Mountain and Coal River Mountain Watch have been working to collect signatures on a petition to stop the mine – please support this hard working community by signing the petition! 

People’s Climate March includes a strong contingent from across Appalachia

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Mountain leaders joined 400,000 in New York City for the People’s Climate March. Those fighting mountaintop removal were among some of the frontline communities to lead this historic march for climate protections.

Appalachian Voices did a great write up and captured the photo above. Media resources across the world captured this event, including this Grist article that features several voices from Kentucky leaders. Through the Climate Justice Alliance, key representatives from frontline communities directly affected by climate change and the destructive practices that fuel climate change acted as media spokespeople for the march. Read Stanley Sturgill’s powerful statement on the march here.

This powerful video captures some of the voices of those who attended from frontline communities:

In addition to the record breaking event, residents participated in a People’s Climate Summit and the Flood Wall Street action which made the link between climate chaos and the industries that are making massive profits off the destruction of our communities.

These events were an important opportunity not only to raise the stakes for world leaders to finally act to fight climate change, but also a chance for community leaders from California to Appalachia to connect the dots on the challenges and opportunities facing our communities and discuss how we build power from the grassroots up.

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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