Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
On February 11th West Virginians faced yet another coal slurry spill into their waters. Charged with enforcing surface mine regulations under the Surface Mine Reclamation and Control Act (SMCRA), the Dept. of Interior (DOI) has been conspicuously absent and silent regarding these spills. DOI offered no comment on the recent 100,000-gallon coal slurry spill into a West Virginia creek that flows into the Kanawha River on Feb. 11th nor on the coal slurry spill in McDowell County on Feb. 19th. The Citizen Action for Real Enforcement (CARE) Campaign is asking “Where is Secretary Jewell”?
State regulators in West Virginia routinely fail to hold the coal industry accountable for its pollution. The West Virginia CARE Campaign has petitioned the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to intervene in the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to ensure safe water, air and communities for West Virginia residents. The 18 CARE Campaign partners and allied groups collected over 50,000 signatures in support of that legal petition. Individuals across the country signed on to demand that the DOI and OSM institute real enforcement in West Virginia.
Rob Goodwin, a technical expert at Coal River Mountain Watch, has been investigating the West Virginia DEP. “The West Virginia DEP has allowed the ground water and much of the surface water resources in this state to be destroyed by coal – forcing everyone to be hooked up to a huge corporation-owned water system where they have no rights or control over where their water comes from.”
Since Secretary Jewell took office in April of 2013, she has yet to meet with mine-impacted citizen groups across the country. In addition to supporting the OSM intervention into the W.Va. DEP program, the CARE Campaign partners hope the Secretary will meet this spring with the Citizens’ Coal Council and impacted communities from around the nation.
How can you help WV, you ask? In addition to attending the event in DC on Thursday- Water distribution volunteers are still welcome & needed at the WV Clean Water Hub. Monetary donations are being accepted via the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation.
Join us to ensure real enforcement in West Virginia!
Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
It has now been over 40 days since 300,000 people were left unsure about the safety of their water due to chemical spill in Charleston, WV. The spill has caused a lot of confusion, anger, and sent an estimated 400 people to the hospital – but it has also inspired some remarkable community organizing.
The WV Clean Water Hub is a community-organized effort that has been supported by volunteers as well as grassroots groups in West Virginia — including Aurora Lights, Coal River Mountain Watch, Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, RAMPS and more — to identify communities in need of clean water and supplies, and to connect affected communities with volunteers and donors.
This inspiring effort is an example of the ways neighbors step up to help their neighbors in Appalachia. It is also a stark reminder of the far-reaching impacts of this preventable disaster caused by industry negligence and lax regulations.
Here are some stories collected from The WV Clean Water Hub and activists working for clean water over the past weeks. The Hub is still making deliveries – learn how you can help below!
An Expanded Idea of Leadership
Jen Osha Buysse
The stories that get me the most are the stories of mothers with children who are sick and asking why the state is not considering it an emergency. Why is the government providing less emergency water every day, even though every day we’re learning new, disturbing issues with the water situation?
We’ve been gathering a lot of liquid baby formula and diaper wipes for the families with young children. We have an incredible group of people working together in unaffected areas to support those affected — local unions, daycares, schools. One local pediatrician donated baby supplies and landscape companies have offered their trucks.
I have spoken with many families who haven’t been able to work in the weeks since the chemical spill. They can’t just not buy water, but they can’t buy food or pay heating bills in the freezing weather. They don’t want to ask for help, but their income has been cut off.
Everyone can find a way to use whatever skills they have during this ongoing emergency. Someone has a truck, someone knows parents at a school they can organize – we’ve had to expand our idea of what leadership consists of, and I’ve witnessed all these incredible people working together to fill truck after truck.
This crisis is far from over and we must all work together to settle into a sustainable level of support that we can maintain as long as needed.
Jen Osha Buysse is an emergency relief organizer, co-founder and board chair of educational nonprofit Aurora Lights. She is a busy teacher and mother living in Morgantown, W.Va.
Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Update from KFTC.org
Hundreds of KFTC members and friends braved the cold and warnings of winter storms to march and rally in Frankfort, KY for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s ninth annual I Love Mountains Day on February 12.
Folks gathered at the Kentucky River and marched up Capitol Avenue to the familiar chants of “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” and “Whose mountains? Our mountains!”
Speakers drew parallels among communities in eastern Kentucky and other communities in Central Kentucky, Louisville, West Virginia and North Carolina that are dealing with the impacts of fossil fuels.
“We may live in different hollers, but we share the same story of environmental injustice,” said keynote speaker Teri Blanton, a Harlan County native and longtime KFTC leader who is a member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the EPA.
“It’s time for us to write a new story,” Blanton said. “Let’s create a new energy revolution in this state, a New Power revolution.”
Blanton called on elected leaders to:
- Invest in a new economy and a just transition in eastern Kentucky.
- Protect the health of people in eastern Kentucky and stop the destruction, beginning with passing the Stream Saver Bill.
- Pass the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, which would establish benchmarks for renewable energy and energy efficiency and create 28,000 new jobs in Kentucky over the next ten years.
- Support the EPA and other regulatory agencies charged with protecting the land and people.
- Pass Senate Bill 14, which would limit the use of eminent domain in cases such as the proposed Bluegrass Hazardous Liquids Pipeline.
“We have to create the democracy that we all deserve,” Blanton said.
To read more about the powerful day of action, hear beautiful quotes from speakers and see some of the great media coverage, check out KFTC’s blog!
Thursday, February 13th, 2014
by Ricki Draper and Dan Cohn
Hands Off Appalachia (HOA) is an urban-based campaign that targets the funding of mountaintop removal. A small handful of banks are responsible for the majority of the loans, bond underwriting, and other credit extended to companies like Patriot, Arch, Alpha, and James River Coal Company. The financial backing enables coal companies to continue devastating the mountains, especially through the recent tough coal markets.
For the past two years, we at HOA have been confronting UBS, a Swiss-owned wealth management company, who is one of the top funders of MTR companies. The campaign began in Knoxville, TN, and has focused on mobilizing cities in the south against MTR and applying enough public pressure that UBS is forced to stop funding mountaintop removal. Recently, HOA has been expanding our campaign into the northeast to bring more pressure to bear on corporate decision-makers at UBS’s North American Headquarters in Stamford, CT.
Following our Fall Action Camp in Connecticut last November, 14 people were arrested on November 25th during a day of powerful non-violent direct action demanding that UBS stop funding MTR. You can read more about those actions here!
On the way back to our second court date earlier this month, HOA held speaking events in eight cities to continue to shine a light on UBS’s dirty business. We stopped in Worcester, MA; Washington, D.C.; Swarthmore, PA; Boston, MA; Waltham, MA: New Haven, CT; Bedford, NY; and Frederick, MD.
Kyle Gibson presents the True Cost of Coal poster created by The Beehive Collective.
Sharing the stage at many speaking events, it was amazing to see how our work addressing the coal industry in Appalachia intersects with the various struggles for clean water and healthy communities throughout the country. We learned more about the fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline in DC; how students are organizing on their campuses at Swarthmore, Brandeis, and MIT around divestment as a tool for ending extreme energy extraction; how folks in New Haven are building resistance against the TransPacific Partnership; and we also learned about the struggle against hydrofracking in Maryland. While conditions grow more dire and disasters more frequent, it was heartening to hear about many forms of resistance to industry and corporate power.
Because our actions in November drew activists from as far away as West Virginia and Missouri, we want to make the most of every visit to UBS’s headquarters. When we go back to court for a pre-trial hearing on March 20th, we will hold another series of speaking events and benefits! Be on the lookout for another tour schedule soon. If you would like to bring us to your town, please email us at HandsOffAppalachia@gmail.com!
In the meantime, HOA is working hard to replenish the Mountain Justice Legal Defense Fund. It took a lot of money to bail 14 people out of jail in time for the holidays, and our bail money is still tied up in the Connecticut legal system. If you are able, please consider donating the MJ Legal Defense Fund online here in order to support people who put so much on the line to stop the crime of mountaintop removal.
Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
Feb 11 is the twentieth anniversary of President Bill Clinton’s Environmental Justice Executive Order. This order was a critical milestone––official acknowledgement of environmental racism and the disproportionate impact that frontline communities of color and low-income communities face from toxic pollution.
Frontline communities continue to lead the fight for environmental justice and a powerful new alliance is emerging to confront one of the greatest environmental injustices of our times: the destabilization of our climate. The Alliance for Appalachia is excited to participate in this effort along with our member groups. We want to share with you a powerful short film about an exciting new initiative: the Our Power Campaign!
Last summer, members of The Alliance for Appalachia, including OVEC and KFTC, visited the Black Mesa Water Coalition, which hosted communities from around the country who are fighting the devastating impacts of coal from the mountaintops of Appalachia to the mesas of Navajo Country. They were joined by leaders from allied communities who are sick of being exploited, poisoned and denied access to meaningful employment. These organizers shared experiences, strategized together and united around a common vision of Just Transition away from the Extractive Economy that is failing all our communities and threatening the future of our planet. Together we formed the Climate Justice Alliance and launched the Our Power Campaign.
Today we invite you for a front row seat into the beauty of this historic convening and the inspiring possibilities of the Our Power Campaign. Please, spare a few minutes to watch this short, powerful film and spread the word about this exciting new initiative by sharing the film widely: http://bit.ly/CJAmovie
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 AppFellows.org
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-933-3443
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!
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
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!
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.
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?