Archive for August, 2009

Prize-Winning Prose to be Performed at NC Stage

Saturday, August 29th, 2009 - posted by molly

Peter Neofotis is an extraordinary storyteller. He does more than narrate; he embodies every syllable of his well-crafted prose, which centers on a small town in the mountains of Virginia. He navigates characters, drama and flashbacks with grace and brings life to an entire town through the personalities and personal histories of its people. But, we don’t want him to quit his day job.

Neofotis wrote his collection of short stories, “Concord, Virginia,” by night while working as a Contributing Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Neofotis grew up in the Blue Ridge and will be returning to the mountains to perform his stories.

Performances will be held August 20-23 and 27-29 at 7:30 PM at the North Carolina Stage Company in Asheville. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Reach the box office at (828) 239-0263 or online at

Appalachian Voices on Rachel Maddow

Friday, August 28th, 2009 - posted by jw

Rachel Maddow mentioned our work to expose FACES of Coal earlier tonight [below]. Please also check out DeSmogBlog, Jeff Biggers, and ThinkProgress who are breaking and building upon this story as we speak. Meanwhile, Josh Nelson at enviroknow brings the heat to Bonner and Associates, who are trying to scapegoat a single temp employee for their Congressional forgeries. Looks like they have a lot of explaining to do…

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Apologies for not being able to improve the size of the video with MSNBC embeds. Enjoy, and please email the show to tell them THANK YOU for covering coal industry astroturfing and mountaintop removal coal-mining.

K Street PR Firm “Adfero” Hosting FACES

Thursday, August 27th, 2009 - posted by jw

Feel the grassrootsfulness!

Update: Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress has MUCH more.

Earlier today we reported that Adfero, a DC based PR firm, was hosting FACES’ website. The site which allowed you to see who Adfero is hosting was then blocked throughout the day, but has now returned. Fortunately, our friends at DeSmogBlog were smart enough to grab this screenshot below. As of this second, you can also see for yourself here.

Adfero’s mission, according to its website.

Our mission is to provide the most sophisticated public relations services to advance our clients’ public policy or business agendas.

Doesn’t sound that that grassrootsy to me. Again, props to Jim Hoggan, Kevin Grandia, and DeSmogBlog for bringing this information to light. I’m sure they’ll continue to pull this thread and uncover more information about who is behind this organization.

Additionally, and significantly, FACES may not only lack support outside the stock-photo world, but they may also be in violation of istockphoto’s terms of use.

According to parker parrot at DailyKos:

We all love iStock BUT…there are rules about use. This is prohibited:

Use that depicts personal endorsement by model

See here.

They are operating on a fine line here. I think I’ll let the owners of the images know and they can decide if the images are being used correctly.

Recently, the GLBT organization Good As You caught an opposing organization using images in such a manner. That organization was forced to change the photos on their website. Check out their story.

Also, FACES is on Twitter (@FacesofCoal), and a compilation of all these iStockPhotos is their twitter background image. Just sayin…

FACES of Coal are iStockPhotos?!

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 - posted by jw

The Farce Continues

We’ve touched on the fact that the new coal industry front group “FACES” has yet to come forward with a list of their members. Well, thanks to a few new media> gumshoes, including our own Jamie Goodman and our friends at DeSmogBlog, we’ve learned that not only is FACES hosted by a K-Street firm called Adfero, but all of the “FACES” of coal are actually just istockphotos. They couldn’t even get real photos of their supporters.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Hmmm, I think I’ve seen these faces before. (Thanks Jed!)

Update I: Our crack team discovered a few more stockphotos overnight. They are posted below the fold.
Update II: It seems the “Adfero” link which was working last night, has been hidden and made private. Hopefully someone got a screenshot before it was closed.

Tree-sit Halts Blasting at Mountaintop Removal Mining Site

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 - posted by jamie

Two activists from Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice engaged in a tree sit have halted blasting for a second day at a Massey Energy mine site in West Virginia. The two sitters established themselves on platforms over 80 feet above the ground near the Edwight mountaintop removal mine above Pettry Bottom, within 300 feet of a planned blasting zone.

Two individuals on the ground were arrested and cited for trespassing, but later released because they are the primary line of communication to the tree sitters, who claim they will not climb down until numerous conditions are met by Massey.

This is the thirteenth non-violent direct action and protest in the Coal River Valley this summer. Others include the June 23 protest at Marsh Fork School where NASA scientist James Hansen and activist/actress Daryl Hannah were arrested, and a June 18 civil disobedience action where four individuals scaled a 150-foot dragline on a Massey Energy mine site and unfurled a banner that said, “Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining.”

Visit Climate Ground Zero for the full story and latest updates.

More than 300 Groups Demand a Stronger Climate Bill from the Senate

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 - posted by jw

(via the Center for Biological Diversity and EEN. -jdub)

WASHINGTON- A broad coalition of more than 300 faith, human-rights, social justice, and environmental groups sent a letter to U.S. senators today calling for energy and climate legislation that is much stronger than the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House of Representatives June 26. That bill contained massive giveaways to polluting special interests and would fail to ensure a rapid transition to clean energy.

The groups plan to hand deliver the letter to senators’ state offices next week as part of a larger, grassroots mobilization demonstrating far-reaching support for bold leadership in the fight to solve the climate crisis.

In the letter, the groups express “profound concern” about the House bill and ask senators to usher in “the transformational change and greenhouse emissions reductions required to avert catastrophic climate impacts.” The letter calls for legislation that:

* Reduces atmospheric CO2 concentrations to a safe level of below 350 parts per million;
* Maintains existing Clean Air Act protections against global warming pollution;
* Minimizes the use of offsets and other loopholes;
* Protects vulnerable populations and communities;
* Promotes abundant clean energy;
* Eliminates polluter giveaways; and
* Adheres to preexisting U.S. commitments to the rest of the world.

Comments from a few groups that signed the letter follow:

“We haven’t yet seen the bold leadership from Congress that’s required to solve the climate crisis,” said Church World Service Director of Education and Advocacy Rajyashri Waghray. “We’re sending this letter to demonstrate broad grassroots support for such leadership.”

“We have to have a stronger climate bill than the watered-down version that passed the House,” said San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society Conservation Chair Drew Feldmann.

“We’re organizing on the ground, in communities around/throughout the country, to mobilize the everyday people who will feel climate impacts, and to defeat the entrenched, polluting special interests in Washington and pass a truly strong bill in the Senate,” said Appalachian Voices Legislative Associate J.W. Randolph.

“The everyday people of America have been left out of the climate debate. We are building a grassroots movement that reflects the diversity of America, to mobilize everyday people who are experiencing the affects of climate change. We aim to defeat entrenched fossil fuel polluting special interests in Washington and pass a truly strong climate bill,” said Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

“There’s an impressive breadth of groups on this letter, and it demonstrates that the status quo isn’t acceptable. Congress must pass a bill that actually gives us a fighting chance of avoiding runaway global warming. There’s no other option,” said Tyson Slocum, who directs Public Citizen’s energy program.

The letter reads as follows…

The Honorable Barbara Boxer
Chairwoman, U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Hart Building 112
Washington, D.C. 20510

Cc: Members of the Senate and President Barack Obama

Dear Senator Boxer,

Thank you for your continued leadership on the climate crisis. The environmental, economic, and public health threats of global warming — both in the United States and around the world — require a strong climate bill. We are profoundly concerned that as currently written, H. R. 2454 (the American Clean Energy and Security Act or “ACES”) falls far short. We are writing on behalf of the millions of members our organizations represent to urge you to draft a companion bill that provides the transformational change and greenhouse emissions reductions required to avert catastrophic climate impacts.

The Senate bill must set an economy-wide cap on greenhouse emissions that is consistent with the best available science and that can be ratcheted down as necessary. Findings from the U.S. Global Change Research Center, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and many other institutions and scientists indicate that the atmospheric greenhouse gas stabilization target of 450 parts per million CO2eq is far too high to avoid the risk of catastrophic climate change. Leading scientists currently warn that CO2 must be reduced to no more than 350 parts per million. Yet the cap set by H. R. 2454 is insufficient even to achieve 450 parts per million CO2eq. The Senate bill must contain reduction targets consistent with the best available science, representing the U.S. fair global share of reductions within the world’s remaining carbon budget, and it must include immediate action on short-lived global warming pollutants, including black carbon and methane, to slow warming in the near term.

The Clean Air Act already provides many of the necessary tools to reduce greenhouse pollutants. Therefore, the Clean Air Act rollbacks in H. R. 2454 — which would actually reduce existing pollution control requirements, facilitate the construction of additional coal-fired power plants, and grandfather in unnecessary pollution from existing plants — must be removed. The critical safety net of the Clean Air Act must be retained, not discarded in favor of a new, untested system, placing all of our eggs in one precarious basket. Existing Clean Air Act authority should be strengthened by adding deadlines for the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants to meet pollution reduction requirements or shut down.

The Senate bill should eliminate the many loopholes in H. R. 2454 and ensure the integrity of the pollution-reduction system. A top priority must be to eliminate or greatly limit and restrict offsets, which allow actual pollution from capped sources to increase, creating localized toxic hotspots in people of color and vulnerable communities; delay a shift to low carbon technologies in the United States; and increase the risks in carbon markets. In addition, the House provision prohibiting a full life-cycle analysis of biofuels must be reversed.

The Senate bill should protect low- and middle- income families. Regardless of the chosen mechanism, the setting of carbon prices must be transparent, stable, and predictable, while minimizing the ability of private entities to manipulate the carbon price. We do not believe the market mechanisms contained in the current cap-and-trade proposal achieve this. The Senate bill should ensure there are adequate protections from climate change for low-income families, vulnerable communities domestically and globally, and Native American and indigenous peoples, including protections and dividends for low-income consumers and adequate international
finance for adaptation. The Senate bill should provide for abundant clean energy. The Senate bill should provide mandates and
incentives for abundant clean energy sources such as low-impact solar, wind, and non-dam hydro, which do not add toxic burdens to communities and workers and do not require incineration technologies.

The Senate bill should eliminate polluter giveaways, including massive subsidies to coal and oil. Scarce government funding should not go to dangerous fossil fuel or nuclear industries or allow damaging practices such as mountaintop-removal mining. Instead, public money should go to investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and the creation of green jobs.

The Senate bill should live up to the United States’ international obligations. For a fair global deal with meaningful global emissions reductions, the United States must both deeply reduce emissions domestically and provide adequate international climate finance for clean technology, adaptation, and support to stop deforestation. Fulfilling these commitments will be essential to securing an effective international agreement.

We recognize the massive political effort that is necessary to pass climate legislation, but a bill with inadequate targets, loophole-ridden mechanisms, rollbacks of our flagship environmental laws, and inadequate financing to help developing countries address climate change will move us in the wrong direction. We urge you to pass a strong climate bill consistent with the principles outlined above.

Thank you.

ActionAid USA
Alameda Creek Alliance
Amazon Watch
American Center for Life Cycle Assessment Institute for Environmental Research & Education
Animal Welfare Institute
Animas Valley Institute
Anza Water Conservation Association
Appalachian Voices
Arizona Wilderness Coalition
Atlanta Mentorship Program for Sustainability
Audubon South Carolina
Battle Creek Alliance
Bedford Global Warming Coalition
Berkeley Partners for Parks
Blanket the Globe
Borneo Project
California Coastkeeper Alliance
California Interfaith Power and Light
California Native Plant Society
Californians for Western Wilderness
Calumet Project
Canary Coalition
Caney Fork Headwaters Association
Carolina Biodiesel, LLC
Carolinas Clean Air Coalition
Carolinas Clean Air Coalition
Caribbean Conservation Corporation
Cascadia Wildlands
Center for a Sustainable Coast
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Native Ecosystems
Center of Concern
Center on Race Poverty and the Environment
Central California Environmental Justice Network
Central New Mexico Audubon Society
Chalice Farm and Sustainable Living Center
Champaign County Audubon Society
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Church World Service
Citizens Against Ruining the Environment
Citizens for Quality Environment
CitizensforSanity.Com, Inc.
Citizens for Sludge-Free Land
Citizens League for Environmental Action Now (CLEAN)
Citizens United for Resources and Environment (CURE)
Clarksville Warioto Chapter of Audubon
Clean Air Watch
Clean Coast
Climate Law & Policy Project
Coastside Habitat Coalition
Coastwalk California
Colorado Grizzly Project
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Committee for a Better Alpaugh
Communities for a Better Environment
Community Coalition for Environmental Justice of Seattle WA
Community Conservation
Community Environmental Council
Community Water Center
Concerned Arizona Science Educators
Conservation Northwest
Corporate Ethics International
Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice
Deer Creek Valley Natural Resources Conservation Association
Delaware Audubon Society
Desert Fishes Council
Dogwood Alliance
Don’t Waste Arizona, Inc.
Earth Day Los Angeles
Earth Island Institute
Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch
Eco-Justice Collaborative
EcoLaw Massachusetts
Education for Global Warming Solutions
Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society
Endangered Habitats League
Endangered Small Animal Conservation Fund
Environmental Alliance of North Florida
Energy Alliance of Puerto Rico
Environmental Defenders of McHenry County
Environmental Defense Center
Environmental Health Group
Environmental Law Society, University of Michigan Law School
Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)
Environmental Studies Program Prescott College
Fairmont, Minnesota Peace Group
Faiths United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE)
Florida League of Conservation Voters
Floridians Against Incincerators In Disguise
Focus the Nation
Forests of the World, LLC
Franciscan Sisters of Mary
Fresno Metro Ministry
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley
Friends of the Owls
Friends of the River
Friends of the Santa Clara River
Friends of Whithaven Park
Fund for Wild Nature
Gallaudet Swim Club
Gila Conservation Coalition
Gila Regional Information Project
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
Global Community Monitor
Global Exchange
Global Green USA
Global Justice Ecology Project
Global Warming Education Network
Golden Gate Audubon
Grand Canyon Trust
Grand Canyon Wildlands Council
Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Green Delaware
Green Peace Corps
Green Press Initiative
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
Greenwood Earth Alliance
Gulf Restoration Network
Halifax River Audubon
Haverhill Environmental League
Help Our Polluted Environment (HOPE) in Taylor County, FL
High Road for Human Rights
Hilltown Anti-Herbicide Coalition
Honor the Earth
Huachuca Audubon Society
Humboldt Baykeeper
HOPE TO ACTION: Women for a Greener Planet
Independent Environmental Conservation & Activism Network
Indigenous Environmental Network
Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature
International Center for Technology Assessment
International Forum on Globalization
International Rivers
nternational Society for the Preservation of the Tropical Rainforest
International Tribal Association
Jewish Vegetarians of North America
KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance
Kalmiopsis Audubon Society
Kentucky Heartwood
Kentucky Mountain Justice
Kickapoo Peace Circle
Kids vs. Global Warming
Klamath Forest Alliance
Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center
Klickitat Valley Cyclists
Kodiak Audubon
Lake Merritt Institute
Leadership Team of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, MO
Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition
Life of the Land (Hawai`i)
Local Clean Energy Alliance
Lutheran Peace Group – Jemez Springs, NM
Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities
Massachusetts Power Shift
Medical Mission Sisters, Alliance for Justice
Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office
Mercury Free Wisconsin
Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network
Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance
Montana Rivers
Monteverde Conservation League US
Morning Sun Foundation
Mountain Meadows Conservancy
Musicians United to Sustain the Environment
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Center for Conservation Science and Policy
National Gray Panthers
Native Alerts
Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center
Nature in the City
NC WARN: North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network
Near West Citizens for Peace and Justice
Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, Inc.
Network Alliance of Congregations Caring for Earth (NACCE)
Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility United Church of Christ
Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
No Impact Project
No New Nukes
North Suburban Peace Initiative (NSPI)
Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC)
Northern Climate Change Network
Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment
Northwest Ecological Research Institute
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, NY
Nuclear Energy Information Service
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Nuclear Watch South
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
Office of Justice, Peace, & Integrity of Creation for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, St. Louis Province
Oil Change International
Oil Independent Berkeley
Olympia Climate Action
Orangetown Environmental Committee
Oregon Environmental Council
Oregon Natural Desert Association
Oregon Wild
Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way)
Pacific Environment
Pacifica Climate Committee
Peaceful Uprising
Portland Audubon
Post Carbon Institute
Project Coyote
Public Citizen
Puerto Rico Ornithological Society
Rainforest Action Network
Redwood Alliance Climate Action Project
Renewable Energy Office for Cornwall
Residents for a Livable Moreno Valley
Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL)
Resource Renewal Institute
Restore Sharp Park
Rising Tide North America
Rivers Unlimited
Romm ‘n’ Legions
Rural Coalition
Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN)
San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society
San Francisco Baykeeper
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace
Santa Fe Forest Watch
Save Union County
Sea Turtle Restoration Project
Sequoia Audubon Society
Shalom Center
Sirius Ecovillage Community and Sustainable Living Education Center
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Central Leadership
Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Associates
Siskiyou Project
Sky Island Alliance
Slow Food USA
Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians
Solar Cookers International
Soroptimist International of Goldendale
South Carolina Coastal Conservation League
Southern Energy Network
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
Stand Up/Save Lives Campaign
Stewards of the Earth
Sustainable Arizona
Sustainable Energy & Economy Network
Sustainable Futures Society
Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition of Greater Kansas City
Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light
Texas Climate Emergency Campaign
The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility
The Association of Irritated Residents (AIR)
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL)
The Enviro Show, WXOJ
The Forest Foundation, Inc
The Sunshine Environment Link
The TriCounty Watchdogs
Tikkun-Network of Spiritual Progressives
Tortoise Reserve
Tri-Valley CAREs
Tucson Audubon
Tuolumne River Trust
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Union County Peace Council
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Florida
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland
Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth
Unitarian Universalist Massachusetts Action Network
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
Unitarian Universalists of Goldendale
Unitarian Universalists United Nations Office
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic
Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union, Central Province
Ursulines of Tildonk for Justice and Peace
Valley Watch
Vast Horizons
Veg Climate Alliance
Via Media USA, an Episcopal Church organization
Waterkeeper Alliance
Watershed Management Group
Washington State Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice
WCL Program on International and Comparative Environmental Law
West Coast Climate Equity
Western Nebraska Resources Council
Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility
Western Wildlife Conservancy
Wild Equity Institute
WildEarth Guardians
Wildlife Center of Virginia
Williamsburg Climate Action Network
Winnemem Wintu Tribe
Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Women’s Voices for the Earth
Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

Coping With Contamination

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 - posted by molly

Stories by Sierra Murdoch

Maria Lambert of Prenter Hollow in Sand Lick, W.Va., shows a sample of her tap water—contaminated by nearby mining—and the countless jugs of water she must now carry to her home every day for cooking, drinking, etc. Photo by Paul Corbit Brown

Maria Lambert of Prenter Hollow in Sand Lick, W.Va., shows a sample of her tap water—contaminated by nearby mining—and the countless jugs of water she must now carry to her home every day for cooking, drinking, etc. Photo by Paul Corbit Brown

Maria Lambert
Sand Lick, W. Va.

Maria Lambert was born in the coal camps at the head of Prenter Hollow. When she moved down the road to Sand Lick in 2000, her father drilled a well. He tested the water and found it safe to drink.

In 2003, Massey Energy began blasting the ridge over Prenter Hollow. The first time her house shook, Lambert says, boards fell from the ceiling. The next day, she noticed orange slime and blackened water coming through her home’s waterline.

Many months later, Lambert’s mother gathered a meeting of neighbors who had polluted wells. Lambert discovered that in Sand Lick and neighboring communities – Hopkins Fork, Prenter, Laurel Creek – an abnormally high proportion of citizens had gallbladder and kidney disease, intestinal disorders, and cancer. These ailments affected residents of all ages.

Lambert suspected that a possible cause of the poor water quality and health was a slurry injection, located three miles from her house, adjacent to the blasting site. Slurry – the wastewater produced when coal is washed with chemicals to prepare it for use – had been pumped back into an abandoned underground mine. In addition to chemicals, slurry contains high amounts of the heavy metals found in coal, including arsenic, mercury, and selenium.

With Coal River Mountain Watch, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and her neighbors, Lambert created the Prenter Water Fund (, which supplies clean water to polluted communities in the area. By next April, the communities expect to have city water. Until then, Lambert says, “I’m waiting on our governor to say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else.’”

Elmer Lloyd
Benham, Ky.

Elmer Lloyd calls himself a lost-and-found man. He’s 52, back bent from 15 years in the mines. If his property hadn’t flooded three years ago when Nally & Hamilton began blasting the mountain above his home, he wouldn’t have thought twice about strip mining. Now Lloyd’s seen what’s happened to his water as a result of it, and he’s spoken out.

In 1993, Lloyd built a pond behind his home and stocked it with fish. Thirteen years later, his fish died due to sediment run-off from the strip mine above his home. When the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Service tested the pond, they told Lloyd that it was dead and he should have it removed. The pond drained into Cumberland’s primary water source.

“That was heartbreaking for me,” Lloyd says. He had built the pond for his grandchildren to camp and fish like he had done in the mountains, decades before when the peaks were still intact.

Regional inspectors fined Nally & Hamilton and gave the company 30 days to remove Lloyd’s pond. But Lloyd’s grievance addressed one of many company violations, and his was evaded like the rest.

A year after the incident, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth found and publicized Lloyd’s story, connecting him with the Kentucky Resources Council. After two years, Nally & Hamilton has agreed to compensate Lloyd and rebuild his pond, a process that could take 10 years.

But for Lloyd, this isn’t just about his fishpond. It’s about protecting his neighbors from poisoned water when they won’t speak out themselves: “I don’t believe in giving up on something I know is right.”

Erica Urius
Phyllis, Ky.

Erica Urius worried about strip mining long before her water smelled like rotten eggs. TECO Coal began blasting above her hollow in the mid-nineties. Heavy truck traffic rutted the roads.

With help from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), Urius organized community meetings and protests, and filed grievances against TECO Coal. She and her neighbors slowly earned the company’s wary attention.

In 2004, TECO began blasting the ridge above Urius’s home. Not long after, Urius and her husband noticed something different about their water. They checked their pump and found it coated with a black, oily sheen. Researchers from Eastern Kentucky University tested the water – it contained over 100 times the safe levels of arsenic, in addition to high levels of iron, mercury, and manganese.

At the time, Urius’s daughter was three years old, and the orange stains in the bathtub, sinks, and toilet deeply concerned Urius. With KFTC’s support, she contacted TECO Coal, and the company began delivering water from city taps to her home.

Urius has requested direct access to city water, but she lives remotely, and digging a waterline would be expensive. TECO Coal tried drilling the family another well, but the water still ran orange.

“I think TECO thought we’d just get quiet after a while,” says Urius. “But my daughter will be six this month, and I still can’t let her play in the tub. So we still believe in what we’re fighting for.”

Larry Bush
Exeter, Va.

Larry Bush is quick to say that coal has been good to him – his father was a miner, as was he. He recalls picking blackberries down by the streambed near Exeter and hunting with his father in the mountains above the coal camp. “We’d wash the squirrels in the water and drink right out of the stream,” says Bush.

But in 1999, the streambed started running orange, and now the mountains are stripped to gravel and grass. The pool where the Exeter Methodist Church once baptized its congregation has filled with silt. Just across the road from town, the slope is clear-cut in preparation for mountaintop removal mining.

Bush has asked the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) to test the water around Exeter for toxins and heavy metals. The VDEQ has mostly denied his requests.

But Bush has seen the orange water before in other mountain-stripped regions – the color could indicate heavy metals and a highly acidic pH.

After repeated calls, Bush convinced two biologists from the VDEQ to observe the stream behind his house. They assessed the stream’s biological diversity, and concluded that it was critically low – the stream was essentially “dead.”

With Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Bush is working to gather community support against the Exeter mine. “I’ve got three grandkids,” he says, “and I don’t want them living in a desolate wasteland.”

Moratorium Declared on New Slurry Injection Permits

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 - posted by molly

Story by Sarah Vig

Members of the Sludge Safety Project successfully argued for a reconsideration of slurry injection and, so far, have partially stopped the practice. Photo by Vivian Stockman

Members of the Sludge Safety Project successfully argued for a reconsideration of slurry injection and, so far, have partially stopped the practice. Photo by Vivian Stockman

In a partial victory for citizens and environmental groups opposed to the process, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection declared a two-year moratorium on new permits for disposing of coal slurry by injecting it into abandoned mines.

Coal slurry is a byproduct of coal preparation, a mixture of fine coal particles and water, as well as the chemicals used to remove impurities from the coal before it is sold.

Three citizen groups in West Virginia, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and Concerned Citizens in Mingo County, formed the Sludge Safety Project (SSP) to spread awareness about what they see as insufficient regulation.

After many hours of citizen lobbying, the state legislature asked the DEP to evaluate environmental and public health ramifications of coal slurry injection.

Once the DEP released its report, a moratorium was declared on new injection permits, although 13 currently operating slurry injection sites will be allowed to continue.

Though SSP sees the study itself and the temporary moratorium as a step in the right direction, the group doesn’t feel the DEP has gone far enough.

“The solution the DEP has come up with is inadequate,” said Maria Lambert, a representative for SSP. “People are going to be left with the same health issues for as long as companies are allowed to inject slurry under existing permits.”

“There is one solution to fixing the problem of coal slurry contamination in West Virginia,” Lambert stated in response to the DEP’s announced plans, “a ban on all slurry.”

New River Expedition Sees Both Beauty and Problems

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 - posted by molly

By George Santucci, Executive Director National Committee for the New River

Non-point source pollution from agricultural runoff presents a major problem along many Appalachian rivers, but is an issue that can be fixed with farm conservation measures. Photo by Bill Kovarik

Non-point source pollution from agricultural runoff presents a major problem along many Appalachian rivers, but is an issue that can be fixed with farm conservation measures. Photo by Bill Kovarik

We started talking last year about a complete trip down the New, from Watauga County, N.C., all the way to the confluence in West Virginia, to celebrate the river’s 10 years with the American Heritage designation.

At times we feared we’d bit off more than we could chew; the logistics are daunting for such a trip and in these economic times, all non-profits are keeping a close eye on expenses and bottom lines. But the river called and volunteers came and our members and supporters encouraged us .

We launched just outside Boone, N.C., where the river is narrow but spectacular. Volunteer Tony Patchett , board president Henry Doss, Chris Rasmussen, and others joined us.

During the first week, in Watauga and Ashe counties, we passed many of our restoration projects. Over the last few years we’ve planted or restored more than 69 miles of New River and tributary banks, creating riparian buffers and correcting erosion problems. Overdevelopment, the result of poor or non-existent land planning, is the New River’s greatest threat these days.

Further along, we passed sections of the river where very large new homes are being built, often in posh developments (in spite of the housing downturn). The pressure is only increasing as available land appropriate for development disappears and land which would normally remain vacant becomes valuable as riverfront property.

This is especially true in areas of what could be called “suburbia;” on golf courses like the one on the outskirts of Radford in Virginia, or along the shores of Claytor Lake. Where homes are close to the river banks, or where the banks are mowed to the edge, a great deal of erosion can be observed.

If only property owners understood that grooming the banks of their property is a guarantee they’ll be sending their own land downstream. The runoff carries nutrients from fertilizers and other pollution—elements which healthy riparian buffers naturally filter. The river was often muddy when hard rains preceded us, especially in areas of Ashe County, N.C..

There are also places on the river that have been traditionally used as dumps – particularly for tires. The efforts of NCNR Clean Ups in North Carolina and excellent and very active groups like ReNew the New in Giles County, Va., are helping to improve the trash situation overall.

As we ventured from North Carolina into the heart of Virginia, farms along the New shifted from Christmas trees to cattle. A little further long, Ronnie Powers, president of the Friends of Claytor Lake, took the expedition crew out on his pontoon boat. He and volunteers run a sophisticated cleanup operation complete with a retired U.S. Navy vessel and heavy conveyor equipment to move tons of trash from Claytor Lake. Like the rest of the New River, Claytor Lake’s biggest problem is the ever-present development pressure.

The Expedition also floated the river in the Radford Army Arsenal section with Lt. Col. Andy Munera and son Justin. The Arsenal’s contribution to the pollution of the New River is a major concern for NCNR, as it is for officials at the Arsenal. Our float emphasized the importance of continuing dialogue.

As we put in one morning, local fisherman said Claytor Lake dam had released water during the night; they thought the water was up a full foot and a half. With so many rapids due for the day, we hoped the novices in our group would spend less time swimming and more time paddling as we continued our expedition.

NCNR began their New River Expedition on July 20 and will conclude in August. Visit and click through to their Facebook Causes page and Twitter account (

First Colonists Were No Strangers To Drought

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 - posted by molly

Excerpt from a new book:
Heart of Dryness / By James G. Workman. Visit

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“New hard evidence, accumulated from tree ring data and pollen counts, suggests that devastating droughts have shattered human settlements, dating back to when people first arrived in North America.

Paleoclimatology remains a young and inexact science, and no one could pinpoint the precise stages at which high temperatures and dryness caused local human extinctions. But the correlation was sobering….

Some 5,000 ago, flourishing Native American cultures suffered prolonged exposure to climate only slightly hotter than it is today and nearly went extinct; for more than a millennium the Southwest was little more than one big ghost town.

A hot era that lasted from 800 to 1300 boosted medieval European agriculture but scorched much of pre-Columbian America.

… Despite superior technology, immunity, and weaponry, America’s first colonies were far less adept (than Native Americans) at coping with protracted thirst. Queen Elizabeth’s first settlers at Roanoke were last seen on August 22, 1587, hungry and running out of water, during a dry spell so severe that it even affected the native subsistence food of indigenous Croatoan tribes upon whom the colonists depended. Three years later they had vanished. Following centuries of mystery, a recent tree ring reconstruction from A.D. 1185 to 1984 showed that the Lost Colony precariously arrived at the onset of the region’s driest three-year episode of the last eight centuries.

Two decades later, 4,800 out of 6,000 Jamestown colonists died in waves upon their arrival. Early historians blamed the deaths on dumb planning incompetence and weak support, but scientists have now directly and precisely linked the sudden crash— in native subsistence, peak mortality, domestic livestock deaths, and a rapid decline in drinking water— to the driest seven- year period in 770 years. Unlike the colonists at Roanoke, these settlers left written records of what occurred. As water dried up, Jamestown’s former “London Gentlemen” degenerated into thirst- wracked, scurvy- ridden starving wretches turning on each other, killing and even eating members of their own family.

Following those first unfortunate colonies, the geographically blessed United States enjoyed an exceptionally cool, wet era during which it progressed from agricultural and mercantile economies through a postindustrial Information Age of 300 million highly urbanized people. Even so, during the wettest century of the past millennium a few dry “speed bumps” have profoundly destabilized Americans, suggesting the level of risks water scarcity held. A relatively mild six-year drought in the 1930s wreaked agricultural and social mayhem throughout the Dust Bowl.

A less acute but more widespread drought pressed down across the Midwest during the 1950s, extinguishing many rural economies. Over subsequent decades the already arid Southwest and West grew increasingly dry. Starting this century, laypersons across America have been observing everyday weather that seems hotter and drier than normal.

Scientists confirm that in fact it is, and will likely worsen in the decades ahead. As we humans burned and cleared vast forests, converted land to irrigation agriculture, and powered industrial growth with fossil fuels, we were unwittingly baking the earth in what appeared to be an irreversible process. Our carbon emissions had thickened the relatively thin layers of the outer atmosphere, trapping solar radiation. The effect resembled leaving our collective car in an exposed parking lot with windows sealed and kids locked inside.”