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Appalachians Call on Congress to Protect Their Health

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Over 150 U.S. Citizens Visit DC To Call for End to Mountaintop Removal

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CONTACT
Jamie Goodman, Appalachian Voices, (828) 719-9493… jamie@appvoices.org
Dana Kuhnline, The Alliance for Appalachia, (304) 546-8473 … Dana@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org
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June 4, 2012

(Washington, D.C.) — With twenty-one recent studies highlighting the extreme health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining, citizens from Appalachia are stepping forward to ask Congress to protect their communities and to demand that regulatory agencies enforce the law.

Over 150 citizens with The Alliance for Appalachia are converging on Capitol Hill this week to address the adverse impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining and to highlight Congressional and administrative agency inaction on an issue that studies suggest has caused cancer in 60,000 people. Recent peer-reviewed studies have shown widespread devastating health impacts; citizens near mountaintop removal are 50% more likely to die of cancer and 42% more likely to be born with birth defects compared with other people in Appalachia.

“We have no choice,” said Jane Branham, who is traveling 8 hours to Washington with Virginia-based group Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “My health is failing, many of our members are elderly, and it is hard for us to come all this away. We should be home taking care of ourselves, but we have come to D.C. to fight for our survival.”

In addition to meetings with government officials, the End Mountaintop Removal Week in Washington will feature a rally on Wed., June 6, at Upper Senate Park on Capitol Hill. Organizers anticipate that thousands of citizens across the U.S. will show their support via local events and online actions.

“I want to make sure that Congress knows what’s going on in Appalachia. They don’t think it’s a problem, but I see first hand what it does to our children, especially our young children and our unborn children,” said Donna Branham of West Virginia, who recently joined other Appalachian women in shaving their heads in an act of mourning and protest against the destruction of the mountains. After years of lobbying for change at the state and local level, she is traveling to Washington, D.C. for the first time to share the impacts in her community. “If they could actually see these waters, see what’s been done to our homes, see the children that are sick and the people that are dying, then maybe they’d be willing to do something about it.”

Passage of the Clean Water Protection Act is one of the group’s main goals. The bill, H.R. 1375, was introduced by Congressmen Frank Pallone of New Jersey and David Reichert of Washington state and currently has 122 co-sponsors. “This bill alleviates the wide array of human and environmental health issues directly correlated with mountaintop removal coal mining by restoring the Clean Water Act to its original intent,” said Congressman Pallone. “By redefining fill material, we’ll be able to keep toxic mining waste out of our nation’s streams.”

The Obama administration has taken a few small steps toward limiting the most extreme forms of mountaintop removal, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent appeal of a Federal District Court judge decision to allow a permit for a 2,278-acre mountaintop removal mine that would bury nearly seven miles of streams.

Advocates, however, urge that this action isn’t enough. In addition to the Clean Water Protection Act, which would create permanent protections for streams, citizens are demanding that legal protections be enforced and that a moratorium on mountaintop removal and destructive coal technologies be put in place.

Mountaintop removal coal mining relies on heavy explosives to blast off several hundred feet of mountain to expose coal seams, and has impacted over 500 mountains in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee to date. According to the EPA, the practice has also buried or destroyed more than 2,000 miles of streams in those states.

Appalachian coal-mining regions have traditionally had high rates of unemployment, even prior to the current economic downturn, and the Central Appalachian region contends with some of the highest poverty rates in the country. Ending mountaintop removal could create more jobs in coal in the short term, and open up the possibility for a better economic future. Last month coal made up only 34% of our nation’s energy use, and rising natural gas use has indicated that continued economic dependence on coal is increasingly risky.

“I want West Virginia to be the mountain state – not the extraction state,” said tenth generation West Virginia native Dustin White. “I want to see an Appalachia filled with healthy vibrant communities where people are happy, not living in poverty. I don’t want ghost towns and potholes. Stopping mountaintop removal is the first step to creating a more economically diverse and sustainable Appalachia for our present and future generations.”

The Alliance for Appalachia’s headquarters for the week will be the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 E Capitol St., Washington D.C. The group will host a Celebrate Appalachia Congressional Reception on Tuesday June 5 in Rayburn House Office Building, B-338, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. On Wednesday, a Rally and National Day of Action to End Mountaintop Removal will take place from 11:00 to 11:45 a.m. at the Upper Senate Park on New Jersey and Constitution Avenues.

Members of The Alliance for Appalachia include: Appalachian Voices, Appalshop, Coal River Mountain Watch, Heartwood, Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club Environmental Justice, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, SouthWings, SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment), and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

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Link to health studies overviews: http://ilovemountains.org/the-human-cost
Follow on Twitter: #stopMTR, #AppRising




New Tool Reveals “The Human Cost” of Mountaintop Removal

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

iLoveMountains.org Uses Scientific Data to Show
Negative Health Effects of Destructive Mining Practice

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CONTACTS:
For I Love Mountains Day: Jerry Hardt, jhardt@kftc.org, 502-439-6884
For iLoveMountains.org: Kate Rooth, kate@appvoices.org, (704) 516-0092
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A group of environmental advocates is launching a new mapping tool that uses scientific evidence and government data to plot the human casualties of mountaintop removal coal mining.

The comprehensive tool, created by Appalachian Voices for iLoveMountains.org, is being released in conjunction with the annual I Love Mountains Day in Frankfurt, Ky. More than 1,200 citizens are expected to gather on the state’s capitol steps on Valentine’s Day to advocate for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive practice that has shortened lifespans and caused illnesses in Central Appalachia for decades.

“In the past year several studies have come out about the health impacts of living near mountaintop removal mining,” said Ada Smith, 24, a Letcher County, Ky., resident and a speaker at I Love Mountains Day. “Though many of the studies state the obvious for those of us living in these communities, the scientific facts give us much-needed evidence to make sure our laws are truly enforced for the health of our land and people.”

The new tool on iLoveMountains.org called “The Human Cost of Coal” is an accumulation of data from verified government sources and peer-reviewed scientific studies plotted on a Google map to show the correlation between mountaintop removal coal mining and increased health problems, lowered life expectancy and high poverty rates in Central Appalachia.

“It is important to realize that birth defects for babies born in [areas impacted by] mountaintop removal are over twice as high than if the mother smokes during pregnancy, and over 10 times as high for circulatory/ respiratory defects,” said Vernon Haltom from Coal River Mountain Watch.

“The Human Cost of Coal” layer pulls from national data including poverty rates from the 2010 U.S. Census, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and life expectancy and population numbers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The site also includes summaries for more than twenty peer-reviewed studies from 2007 to 2011 that provide evidence that human health problems such as heart, respiratory and kidney diseases, cancer, low birth weight and serious birth defects are significantly higher in communities near mountaintop removal mine sites.

Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining that involves using heavy explosives to blast off the tops of mountains and dumping the resulting waste into nearby valleys, burying headwater streams. More than 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of streams have been destroyed in Central and Southern Appalachia by mountaintop removal mining. Numerous health and environmental issues have been linked with the radical form of mining in the region.

ILoveMountains.org is a project of The Alliance for Appalachia, which is made up of thirteen local, state and regional organizations across Appalachia working together to end mountaintop removal and create a prosperous future for the region.

To view “The Human Cost of Coal,” visit iLoveMountains.org/the-human-cost.

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To schedule interviews or obtain images and video b-roll, please contact kate@appvoices.org.




Citizens and Policy Riders Converge On Capitol Hill

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Citizens and Policy Riders Converge On Capitol Hill
Residents Impacted by Mountaintop Removal Visit Congress, Obama Administration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 5, 2011

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CONTACT
Sandra Diaz …. (407)739-6465 …. sandra@appvoices.org
Dustin White….(304)541-3144….mountain.patriot@gmail.com
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(Washington, D.C.) — With amendments to the federal budget bill threatening to undermine the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency, citizens from Appalachia are stepping forward to ask Congress to protect their communities.

As debate over the budget continues in the Senate, over 150 citizens with the Alliance for Appalachia are converging on Capitol Hill this week to address the adverse impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining and to witness key members of Congress unveil a bill to permanently end the radical form of strip mining.

“We, the people of Appalachia, are made to give up our homes and communities, our culture and heritage, our health and even our lives so others can turn on a light bulb,” says Dustin White, a volunteer with Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “So we come to D.C. to tell Congress and our President we will no longer be ignored and we will no longer be sacrificed.”

On Tuesday, Congressmen Frank Pallone of New Jersey and David Reichert of Washington state, along with more than 50 original cosponsors, introduced the Clean Water Protection Act, legislation to prevent the dumping of coal mine waste into valley fills—a method that buries headwater streams and contaminates nearby ground and drinking water with heavy metals and other pollutants.

“This bill alleviates the wide array of human and environmental health issues directly correlated with mountaintop removal coal mining by restoring the Clean Water Act to its original intent,” said Congressman Pallone. “By redefining fill material, we’ll be able to keep toxic mining waste out of our nation’s streams.”

Under the Obama administration, the EPA has taken steps to limit mountaintop removal mining, but several pieces of legislation—including policy amendments in the federal budget bill that would severely curtail the agency’s authority to regulate the practice—threaten the EPA’s ability to limit environmental and community health impacts.

Mountaintop removal mining relies on heavy explosives to blast off several hundred feet of mountain to expose coal seams, and has impacted over 500 mountains in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee to date. According to the EPA, the practice has also buried or destroyed more than 2,000 miles of streams in those states.

Residents who live in proximity to mountaintop removal mine sites complain of orange and black tap water flowing from their faucets, breathing in coal dust floating in the air outside their homes and higher-than-normal cancer rates.

“If we are serious about moving America toward a clean energy future, banning mountaintop removal must be the first step,” says Jane Branham of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “For our economy, for our health, and for our heritage—we need this administration and this Congress to act.”

Appalachian coal-mining regions have traditionally had high rates of unemployment, even prior to the current economic downturn, and the central Appalachian region contends with some of the highest poverty rates in the country. According to Mine Safety and Health Administration, because of the mechanized nature of mountaintop removal which replaces men with explosives and large equipment, underground mines produce more jobs than mountaintop removal mines for the same amount of coal produced.

“Americans want to see an end to the destruction of our oldest and most biologically diverse mountains, and the administration has taken limited steps towards restricting the impacts of mountaintop removal,” says J.W. Randolph, Legislative Associate for Appalachian Voices, a non-profit organization working on the issue. “Congress needs to listen to the will of the people and pass legislation that would help to end mountaintop removal, and block any legislative attempt to enshrine the practice.”

Members of the Alliance for Appalachia include: The Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Appalachian Voices, Appalshop, Coal River Mountain Watch, Heartwood, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, SouthWings, SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment), and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

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Photo and Video Opportunities and Hi-Res Photos available.
Interviews available upon request




National Movement to End Mountaintop Removal Continues to Gain Momentum

Monday, April 4th, 2011

National Movement to End Mountaintop Removal Continues to Gain Momentum
Scores of Activists Gather in D.C. to Ask Congress and President Obama to End the Controversial Mining Practice

For Immediate Release
April 4, 2011

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Contact: Sandra Diaz …. (407)739-6465 …. sandra@appvoices.org
Dustin White….(304)541-3144….mountain.patriot@gmail.com
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(WASHINGTON D.C.) – This week over 150 citizens from more than 30 states are gathering in the nation’s capital to urge Congress to end mountaintop removal coal mining and protect the health of residents in central Appalachia.

Participants in the annual End Mountaintop Removal Week in Washington will conduct over 100 meetings with members of Congress during three days, lobbying in support of the Clean Water Protection Act and the Appalachia Restoration Act—two bills in Congress that would significantly curtail mountaintop removal mining by preventing the dumping of mine waste into streams and valley fills, burying headwater streams.

“We, the people of Appalachia are made to give up our homes and communities, our culture and heritage, our health and even our lives so others can turn on a light bulb,” says Dustin White, a volunteer with Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “So we come to D.C. to tell Congress and our President we will no longer be ignored and we will no longer be sacrificed.“

Mountaintop removal coal mining is a radical form of strip mining that has impacted over 500 mountains and buried over 2,000 miles of streams in central Appalachia. Residents who live in proximity of mine sites complain of orange and black tap water flowing from their faucets, breathing in coal dust floating in the air outside their homes and higher-than-normal cancer rates.

“Americans want to see an end to the destruction of our oldest and most biologically diverse mountains, and the administration has taken limited steps towards restricting the impacts of mountaintop removal,” says J.W. Randolph, Legislative Associate for Appalachian Voices, “Congress needs to listen to the will of the people and pass legislation that would help to end mountaintop removal, and block any legislative attempt to enshrine the practice.”

A number of scientific studies show the relationship between mountaintop removal coal mining and human health. The most recent study by the Harvard Center for Health and Global Environment indicates that Appalachian coal-mining communities shoulder a high cost of roughly $74.6 billion a year in increased health-care costs, injury and death due to mountaintop removal.

“What most people don’t understand about mountaintop removal mining is that it isn’t just an environmental issue,” explains Vickie Terry, a member of Tennessee’s Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment. “This is about our homes and my family’s heritage here. They are literally blowing up my and my granddaughter’s history.”

The event, now in its sixth year, is sponsored by the Alliance for Appalachia, a coalition of over a dozen community, state-wide and regional organizations who run iLoveMountains.org, a website that uses cutting edge technology to inform and involve citizens from all over the country in their efforts to save mountains and communities.

The Alliance for Appalachia is also working to fight recent Congressional attacks on the Clean Water Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the past two years, the EPA has issued water quality standards on mountaintop removal and has put into place an “enhanced coordination process” to review mountaintop removal mining permits with other federal agencies. Advocates, while supportive of these actions, are calling on the Obama Administration to take stronger action.

“If this administration is serious about moving America toward a clean energy future, banning mountaintop removal and valley fills in Appalachia must be the first step,” says Jane Branham of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “For our economy, for our health, and for our heritage—we need this administration and this Congress to act.”

Appalachian coal-mining regions have traditionally had high rates of unemployment, even prior to the current economic downturn, and the central Appalachian region contends with some of the highest poverty rates in the country. Critics say that due to the mechanized nature of mountaintop removal which replaces men with explosives and large equipment, the practice not only destroys mountains but also eliminates jobs and economic opportunities. In the last 50 years, while coal production increased the numbers of miners decreased by 90%.

Other highlights of the group’s annual Week in Washington include a a tribute for Judy Bonds, one of the movement’s leaders who recently passed away; a national call-in day to Congress for supporters unable to travel to Washington; and a Congressional reception to celebrate members of Congress and others supportive of the Alliance’s efforts.

Members of the Alliance for Appalachia include: The Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Appalachian Voices, Appalshop, Coal River Mountain Watch, Heartwood, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, SouthWings, SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment), and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

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Photo and Video Opportunities and Hi-Res Photos available.
Interviews available upon request




The Myth of Mountaintop Removal Reclamation

Monday, May 17th, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE MYTH OF MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL RECLAMATION
New Research by NRDC and Appalachian Voices Shows Extent of Mining and Exposes the False Promise of Post-Mining Restoration

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CONTACTS:
Rob Perks, NRDC, 202-286-7435 or rperks@nrdc.org
Matt Wasson, Appalachian Voices, 828-773-0788 or matt@appvoices.org
Mick McCoy, KFTC, 606-298-4458
Lorelei Scarbro, CRMW, 304-854-2002
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Reclamation FAIL report available at:
http://ilovemountains.org/reclamation-fail/

WASHINGTON (May 17, 2010) – Roughly 1.2 million acres, including 500 mountains, have been flattened by mountaintop removal coal mining in the central Appalachian region, and only a fraction of that land has been reclaimed for so-called beneficial economic uses, according to new research by environmental groups.

A study by Appalachian Voices, which analyzed recent aerial imagery of eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, southwest Virginia and eastern Tennessee, confirms for the first time the extent of mountaintop removal throughout the region; nearly half of which has taken place in Kentucky.

“The fact that coal companies can blast away the tops of 500 of the oldest and most biodiverse mountains on the continent shows an utter disrespect for the communities that have to live with the destruction of their land, air and water,” said Matt Wasson, with Appalachian Voices.

The mining industry has long exploited a federal statutory provision that exempts them from restoring the land to its “approximate original contour” if there is a plan to develop the land for “equal or better economic use” such as “industrial, commercial, residential or public use.” However, NRDC’s analysis – released today in its report Reclamation FAIL – confirms that nearly 90 percent of mountaintop removal sites have not been converted to economic uses.

“Mining companies don’t love mountains but they love bragging about how they restore mine sites for the benefit of local communities,” says NRDC’s Rob Perks. “Our study exposes Big Coal’s broken promises by proving that post-mining economic prosperity is a big, flat lie.”

NRDC examined 500 mountaintop removal sites in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee. Of these locations, 90 were excluded from the study due to active, ongoing mining activity. Of the 410 remaining sites surveyed:

  • 366 (89.3 percent) had no form of verifiable post-mining economic reclamation excluding forestry and pasture
  • 26 (6.3 percent of total) yield some form of verifiable post-mining economic development

Only about four percent of mountains in Kentucky and West Virginia, where 80 percent of the mining is occurring, had any post-mining economic activity. Virginia had the highest proportion of economic activity on its reclaimed mountaintop removal sites at 20 percent. Tennessee, which has relatively little mountaintop removal compared to the other three states, had no economic activity on the six sites examined in that state. Overall, economic activity occurs on just 6 to 11 percent of all reclaimed mountaintop removal sites surveyed as part of this analysis.

“This research shows what a sacrificial lamb Kentucky has been for an industry that is not interested in any kind of restoration,” said Mick McCoy, a member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, noting that Kentucky has more destroyed mountains and acreage than other states. “Here in Martin County, more than 25 percent of the land has been leveled by coal companies yet we are among the poorest of counties not just in Kentucky, but the entire country.”

“We watch our Appalachian communities being destroyed every day with the false promise of reclamation,” said Lorelei Scarbro, with Coal River Mountain Watch in West Virginia. “We, the citizens living at ground zero are losing our way of life and our history with every mountain they take. I am heartbroken to think what my grandchildren will have left when they grow up if we don’t stop this rogue mining.”

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.3 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing. To learn more about NRDC’s campaign against the world’s worst coal mining, visit: NoMoreMountaintopRemoval.org

Appalachian Voices is a regional, non-profit organization that brings people together to solve the environmental problems having the greatest impact on the central and southern Appalachian Mountains with offices in Boone, NC; Charlottesville, VA; and Washington, DC. To learn more, visit: AppalachianVoices.org




New EPA Policy Should Protect Communities from Mountaintop Removal

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

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Contact:
Dana Kuhnline (304) 546-8473 …Dana@TheAllianceForAppalachia.org?
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Members of The Alliance for Appalachia praised the new policy released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which would regulate mountaintop removal mining. This tough new guidance would severely limit the impacts on water caused by mountaintop removal in central Appalachia, an important step forward for protecting communities from the environmental and health impacts of mountaintop removal.

Noting the numerous peer-reviewed studies that have highlighted the enormous cumulative impact of mountaintop removal in Appalachia, the EPA said that their actions were intended to reduce the environmental and human health impacts of the practice.

“Appalachia thanks Lisa Jackson and the EPA for taking the impacts on human health and environmental justice into consideration when issuing permits,” said Judy Bonds of Coal River Mountain Watch in West Virginia.
“Our 13,000 members are pleased that their pleas and prayers are being heard – the grandmothers and grandchildren I work with are seeing a new spark of hope today,” said Ann League of Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment in Tennessee.

Community members hope that this decision is merely a first step along the path of ending this destructive practice – which has destroyed nearly 2,000 miles of streams and 500 mountains to date. “While there is much good news for us today, we also wonder — will this help save the community of Twilight in Boone County, WV and so many other communities that are in the mountaintop removal cross hairs? The safety of these communities depends on how these guidelines and laws are enforced,” said Vivian Stockman, with the Huntington, West Virginia based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

“We expect Congress to follow the Administration’s lead by passing popular bipartisan legislation such as the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1310), which would permanently protect the headwater streams of Appalachia,” said J.W. Randolph, Legislative Associate for Appalachian Voices.

The Alliance for Appalachia is a regional coalition of 13 groups in five states working to end mountaintop removal coal mining and support the creation of a just, sustainable economy in Appalachia. Members include: Coal River Mountain Watch, SouthWings, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, SOCM- Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, The Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Appalshop, Heartwood, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development and Appalachian Voices.

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Scientists Unveil A Mountain of Evidence Against Mountaintop Removal

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2010

Scientists Unveil A Mountain of Evidence Against Mountaintop Removal
Obama Administration Asked to Halt All New Mountaintop Removal Permits

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CONTACTS:
Sandra Diaz, Director of Development and Communications, Appalachian Voices….828-262-1500
Dr. Matthew Wasson, Director of Programs, Appalachian Voices….828-262-1500
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Just days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the expansion of the largest mountaintop removal coal mine in West Virginia, prominent national scientists published a blockbuster study which concludes that mountaintop removal’s impacts are “pervasive and irreversible.”

Conducted by members of the National Academy of Sciences and published in the journal Science, the far-reaching study summarized dozens of pre-existing scientific papers analyzing the impacts of mountaintop removal mining, a type of surface coal mining that uses explosives to remove the tops of mountains to expose coal seams.

The study strongly criticized inadequate federal and state regulations on the practice, stating that “Current attempts to regulate [mountaintop mining/valley fill] practices are inadequate,” and that “Regulators should no longer ignore rigorous science.”

Environmental and Appalachian community advocates hailed the study as a powerful indictment against mountaintop removal mining. Opponents to the practice also expressed disappointment over the Obama Administration’s fluctuating stance on mountaintop removal, citing inconsistencies with statements made by President Obama about restoring science to a more prominent position in agency decision-making.

In a recent interview the President told the political news organization, Politico, “It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient-especially when it’s inconvenient.”

Appalachian coalfield residents, who have long been aware of the major environmental impacts from mountaintop removal mining, are hopeful that the study will embolden the Obama Administration to take more decisive action to ultimately end the practice.

“The scientific study released today comes as little surprise to us living in the Central Appalachian coal mining region,” says Nina McCoy from Martin County, Ky., site of a large coal sludge dam break that overtook the county in 2000. “This should be the evidence the Obama Administration needs to close the floodgates on new mountaintop removal permits and stop the poisoning of our people.”

Last year, the Obama Administration released a multi-agency plan to more strictly enforce laws regulating mountaintop removal, but the President stopped short of prohibiting the practice.

On Thursday, the EPA told National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show that the agency does not have the authority to stop permitting mountaintop removal, however, critics believe there are other avenues through which the Administration could end the practice.

“The EPA has made commendable efforts to reduce the impacts of mountaintop removal on downstream water quality, but this study shows that mitigating and regulating the wholesale destruction of Appalachian Mountains is just not effective,” said Dr. Matthew Wasson, ecologist for the environmental non-profit group Appalachian Voices and director of the campaign to end mountaintop removal on iLoveMountains.org.

“The President has the power to end mountaintop removal through any number of agency actions,” Wasson added, “and he should call on Congress to pass the Clean Water Protection Act, a bill designed to end mountaintop removal-but the message from this study is that he’s out of excuses for allowing mountaintop removal to continue.”

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Images and b-roll video available upon request. Please contact Jamie Goodman at jamie@appvoices.org or 828-262-1500




Environmental Protection Agency Approves Permit for Controversial WV Mountaintop Removal Coal Mine

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 5, 2010

Contacts:
Janet Keating, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, (304) 522-0246
Judy Bonds, Coal River Mountain Watch, (304) 854-2182
Cindy Rank, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, (304) 924-5802
Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500 x221
Joe Lovett, Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment, (304) 645-9006
Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, (512) 477-2152

Environmental Protection Agency Approves Permit for Controversial WV
Mountaintop Removal Coal Mine

Decision opens the door for more destruction in Appalachia

Charleston, West Virginia – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would sign off on a Clean Water Act permit for Patriot Coal Corp.’s Hobet 45 mountaintop removal coal mine in Lincoln County, West Virginia. This controversial permit now goes to the Army Corps of Engineers, which issues such permits.

This decision highlights the urgent need for the U.S. EPA to protect streams from mining waste by revising Clean Water Act regulations gutted by the Bush Administration. The Sierra Club and other national and local environmental groups encourage the Obama Administration to begin a rulemaking to exclude mining waste from the definition of ‘fill’ as a material that can be dumped in waters of the United States.

This decision marks the first mountaintop removal mining permit to move forward of those mining permits the agency earlier identified in 2009 as needing additional attention.

“Sadly, the coal industry’s undue influence over decision-makers has traded people’s health, communities, and water for profit,” said Janet Keating, Executive Director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “We’re shooting ourselves in the future. After all the coal has been mined, what kind of economic development can happen when the water is unfit to drink and people have been driven away?”

The permit would allow Patriot to mine through more than three miles of streams, and to add millions of cubic yards of fill to existing valley fills offsite.

“We, the affected citizens that are living with the impacts of this destructive mining practice, pray that this decision is not a preview of other destructive mining permits being approved,” said Judy Bonds with Coal River Mountain Watch. “We certainly hope this is the last destructive permit approved that will allow the coal industry to continue to blast our homes and pollute our streams.”

In 2009 the EPA announced that it would conduct an enhanced review of dozens of permits to fill and otherwise destroy streams for mountaintop removal coal mining, including the Hobet 45 permit.

“Allowing this newest addition to the over 25 square miles of devastation at the Hobet complex to proceed makes one seriously question if EPA is truly interested in making a real difference,” said Cindy Rank, chair of the mining committee at West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

“While we understand that this short term deal means more mining and destruction but also the extension of employment to mine workers, we know that mountaintop removal coal mining is not a long-term economic strategy for Appalachia,” said Bill Price, environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club in West Virginia. “As Senator Byrd of West Virginia said last month, it is mechanization and the demand for coal that have eliminated jobs in West Virginia, and it’s time to adapt to change and to embrace clean energy solutions.”

Even with these alterations, the Hobet 45 mine would still have unacceptable adverse impacts on local waterways and therefore violates the Clean Water Act. Mining companies have already buried close to 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams beneath piles of toxic waste and debris. Entire communities have been permanently displaced by mines the size of Manhattan.

“The Obama administration rings in the new year by allowing coal companies to bury more miles of streams,” said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice. “There is no excuse for approving this permit when the science is clear that mountaintop removal coal mining permanently destroys streams. The administration claims to be making progress on mountaintop removal, but in reality they are still following the flawed policies put in place by the Bush administration. It is time for them to make a commitment to ending this abominable practice.”

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Harnessing Coal River Wind

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Google Earth Tour Highlights Mountaintop Removal Mining at Copenhagen
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Contact:
Sandra Diaz, Development and Communications Director….828-262-1500
Lorelei Scarbro, Coal River Mountain Watch….304-854-2002
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The issue of mountaintop removal coal mining will be featured prominently at the Copenhagen climate conference over the next two weeks, due to a collaboration between Google, Appalachian Voices and the residents of Coal River Valley, W.Va.

On Monday, as hundreds of protesters gathered at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s office in Charleston, W.Va. to rally against the blasting of Coal River Mountain, Google Earth unveiled an interactive tour and accompanying video that details the plight of the mountain. Over 6,000 acres of Coal River Mountain are slated to be destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining.

Created by Google Earth Outreach and regional environmental groups Appalachian Voices and Coal River Mountain Watch, the tour is one of 15 stories that will be featured at the United Nations Climate Change Conference from December 7-18, 2009, as well as on the Google COP15 website. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore narrates the project’s introductory video.

Each three-dimensional tour is designed to help international representatives visualize climate change and features a region or group that is devising local solutions. The Coal River Mountain tour focuses on a proposal by local residents to create a 320-megawatt wind farm on the mountain as an alternative to the mountaintop removal mine.

“Google Earth has made it possible for us to show the world that this mountain is a symbol of hope,” said Lorelei Scarbro, a resident of Coal River Valley and the tour’s narrator. “If we can save this mountain and begin developing sustainable jobs and renewable energy, maybe we can have an impact on the climate crisis that faces us all.”

According to a study commissioned by Coal River Mountain Watch, the proposed Coal River Wind Project would provide $1.7 million in annual revenue and create jobs for the community; pursuing wind instead of mountaintop removal mining would also prevent the release of 134 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere-an amount equivalent to adding 1.5 million cars to U.S. highways for a period of 17 years.

Scarbro-a resident born and raised in West Virginia and whose father, grandfather, and husband were all coal miners-lives on property that borders Coal River Mountain. Massey Energy, operators of the mine, are currently blasting less than 200 yards from an immense earthen impoundment holding 8.2 billion gallons of toxic wet coal slurry, causing concern in Scarbro and other residents. If the impoundment were to fail, Massey itself has estimated that almost a thousand people in the valley below could lose their lives.

“We don’t live where they mine coal,” Scarbro has said. “They mine coal where we live.”

To date, over 500 mountains in Appalachia have been impacted and nearly 2,000 miles of headwater streams have been buried and polluted by mountaintop removal coal mining.

During the tour, Scarbro explains the scope of mountaintop removal coal mining plans for Coal River Mountain and discusses the ridge’s wind potential. High-resolution videos of blasting, colored overlays and informational charts provide visual methods of conveying the issue.

The tour also introduces viewers to other Coal River Valley residents and relays images of some health problems residents in these neighboring communities face.

“The Google Earth tour of Coal River Mountain will show the delegates in Copenhagen what’s at stake,” said Appalachian Voices’ Executive Director Willa Mays. “Coal River Mountain is ground zero in the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining, and represents the choice between a clean energy future and the threat of climate change.”

Appalachian Voices, based in Boone, N.C., is a regional organization that works to solve environmental problems having the greatest impact on the central and southern Appalachian Mountains. Coal River Mountain Watch is a West Virginia-based group united to protect the Coal River Mountain region and promote the Coal River Wind Project.

To view the tour online, visit google.com/cop15.




EPA Grants 79 Mountaintop Removal Permits A Stay Of Execution

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Environmental Groups Cautiously Optimistic Over News

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CONTACT:
Dr. Matthew Wasson, Appalachian Voices – 828-262-1500
Stephanie Pistello, Appalachian Voices – 917-664-5511
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the preliminary fate of 79 valley fill permit applications associated with mountaintop removal coal mining. In a move that pleased environmentalists and coalfield residents in central and southern Appalachia, the EPA recommended that none of the 79 permits be streamlined for approval.

This decision is not final, but is part of a coordination procedure outlined in a June “memorandum of understanding” between the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Interior to deal with a backlog of permits held up by litigation over the past few years. The EPA has promised a more stringent and transparent review of all mountaintop removal valley fill permit applications.

Willa Mays, executive director for Appalachian Voices, a regional environmental group, was delighted about the EPA’s preliminary list. “By recommending these permits not be approved, the EPA and the Army Corps has demonstrated their intention to fulfill a promise to provide science-based oversight which will limit the devastating environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining,” Mays said. “EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Army Corps’ Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Terrence “Rock” Salt have shown exceptional leadership. This is indeed good news especially paired with the fact that 156 members of the House of Representatives are now cosponsors of the Clean Water Protection Act.”

The reaction from coalfield residents was mostly optimistic. Chuck Nelson, retired union coal miner from Glen Daniel, W.Va., and board member of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said, “By recommending these permits be further reviewed, the EPA is allowing at least a temporary reprieve for the people of Appalachia. It appears the EPA is starting to take the concerns of coalfield residents into account when considering these permits.”

Vernon Haltom, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch in Raleigh County, W.Va., was excited about the announcement. “We who live with the nightmare of mountaintop removal are glad that the EPA is beginning to do its job to protect our communities,” he said. “Our life-giving water resources are priceless, and it’s refreshing to see the EPA finally prioritizing them over coal companies’ short-term profits.”

As outlined in the memorandum, EPA Regional offices will be given 14 days to review and comment on the EPA Headquarters’ recommendations, after which EPA Headquarters can finalize the list.

If the EPA Regional offices agree with the EPA Headquarters’ assessment that these permits have “substantial environmental concerns,” an “enhanced coordination” process will begin, where the EPA and the Army Corps will study each permit on a case-by-case basis. The beginning of each coordination process sets off a 60-day period during which the two agencies must resolve any permit applications. The EPA reserves the right to exercise their veto authority over any of the unresolved permits.

In the past, the EPA was primarily absent from the approval of mountaintop removal permits, allowing the Army Corps to essentially “rubber-stamp” them. “The whole permitting process had become a bit toothless,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson admitted in a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Press. “The Corps of Engineers understands [that] when the EPA has concerns, it’s going to raise them. We’re going to do our jobs.”

In 2002, the Bush Administration expedited the permitting process by classifying mining waste as acceptable “fill material” as defined by the Clean Water Act. Valley fills are created when toxic debris from mountaintop removal mining is dumped into valleys adjacent to the mine sites, burying headwater streams and permanently damaging the hydrology of the watershed system.

“I’m glad the EPA has admitted they have some responsibility for protecting people and nature from mountaintop removal,” said Cathie Bird of Save Our Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee. “But I worry they still don’t get it. This brutal practice kills whole communities and watersheds, and it should be banned, not one permit at a time but once and forever.”

To view the permits in map form, visit the Permit Shortlist Google Map created by Appalachian Voices and the Alliance for Appalachia at http://ilovemountains.org/epa-permit-list.





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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