Front Porch Blog

Across Appalachia Shorts

Will Harlan Runs 72 “Miles for Mountains”

The same day members of the Alliance for Appalachia waited in the halls of Congress for the Senate hearing on the Appalachia Restoration Act (S 696) to begin, iLoveMountains.org supporter Will Harlan ran 72 miles along the TN-NC border to raise awareness about the campaign to end mountaintop removal coal mining. Harlan, editor of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, completed his end-to-end “Miles for Mountains” run of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in just under 17 hours. During the run, his support crew distributed information about iLoveMountains.org and mountaintop removal coal mining at popular trailheads.

Harlan’s ultimate goal is to enlist hikers, runners, walkers, and others to dedicate their mileage—whether it is on a treadmill or the trail—toward the collective goal of 1 million Miles for Mountains to end mountaintop removal coal mining. Find out more at milesformountains.wordpress.com

New Report Projects 8,000 Clean Energy Jobs For KY

A projected 8,750 new jobs in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors could be created in the next three years and spread out through 87 Kentucky counties, a new report by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies claims. The job creation would be possible through investments by the East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) in clean energy projects, rather than in its proposed $766 million Smith coal-fired power plant.

Another study released in May by Synapse Energy Economy Inc. showed that diversification of EKPC’s energy sources will help protect co-op utility customers from higher costs of coal and coal-burning facilities.

Economic modeling shows enormous potential for jobs in home weatherization, hydroelectric dams, solar hot water, heating, cooling, and more.

Copies of the Ochs Center report and the modeling data source are available at www.kyenvironmentalfoundation.org.

Blair Mountain Historic Places Status Uncertain

After less than four months as a protected historical site, the 1,600-acre Blair Mountain battlefield is facing removal from the National Register of Historic Places, a list that is maintained by the National Park Service.

In April, the State of West Virginia requested the de-listing of Blair Mountain. Federal rules mandate that an area can be registered only if a majority of area property owners support it. Originally, 22 out of 57 property owners opposed the listing, but that number was revised to 30 following the request to de-list.

A signed petition was delivered to Governor Joe Manchin in June urging him to help reach a solution to allow both mining and preservation of the historic site, but so far no word. At the end of July, the National Trust for Historic Preservation won an extension through mid-September on the required comment period for the de-listing. To comment, visit www.preservationnation.org/travel-and-sites/sites/southern-region/blair-mountain-battlefield.html

Blair Mountain was the location of a 1921 battle between 10,000 miners and coal-company sponsored police and federal troops. Since 1980, various organizations and local residents have tried to obtain Historical Places status for the site.

Opponents of the historic register listing include Massey Energy, a company which plans surface mining near the original historic site.

NC Senate Votes to Ban Western NC Wind

A North Carolina state Senate vote to ban wind turbines in mountain areas but approve coastal development may not pass the House this year, but it has energized opponents.

About 768 to 1000 Megawatts of electric power, enough for 300,000 – 400,000 energy efficient homes, could be produced along North Carolina’s Appalachian ridge tops, according to a study by Appalachian State University’s Western North Carolina Renewable Energy Initiative (WNCREI).

Western NC Senator Steve Goss, the only state Senator to vote against the bill, tried several times to amend the language to include responsible, environmentally sensitive wind energy development for the mountain region. At the center of the debate is North Carolina’s 1983 Ridge Law, which prohibits large structures from protruding more than 35 feet above the crest of a mountain’s ridge.However, wind energy proponents note that “windmills” are explicitly exempted from the 1983 statute. The bill is expected to remain in committee in the NC House until the end of this year’s legislative session.

Alaska Joins H.R. 1310

Environmental rights groups in Alaska recently threw their support behind H.R. 1310, the Clean Water Protection Act, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision barring the Kensington Mine from dumping its tailings from ore processing into an Alaskan lake just north of Juneau. The ruling allows the Coer d’Alene Mines Corporation’s gold mine to pump over 200,000 gallons per day of toxic wastewater slurry—composed of water, chemicals, and solid waste from ore processing— directly into a lake in the Tongass National Forest. The dumping will deposit 4.5 million tons of solids in the lake over a 10-year period, killing nearly all its aquatic life.

H.R. 1310 would amend the Clean Water Act’s definition of “fill” back to its original intent, thereby making it illegal for mining operations—such as mountaintop removal coal mining prevalent in Southern Appalachia—to dispose of mining waste into the country’s waterways.

For more information about Alaska’s work on H.R. 1310, visit http://www.seacc.org/issues/mining/kensington-mine

Berea College Goes Solar

Berea College has joined the ranks of higher education seeking to diversify their electric generation. As of March 13, the school’s Loyal Jones Appalachian Center is now partially powered by a 66-panel, 15,000 watt photovoltaic roof system. The installation contributes to the college’s goal of meeting 10 percent of its energy needs through renewable sources by 2010. A monitoring device attached to the PV system will feed data to the internet, where the public can view stats such as air temperature and electricity output. Visit www.berea.edu/appalachiancenter/ and click on “Solar Array Status” in the right column.

The center is also working to reduce energy use by exploring lighting options, energy controls and usage habits.

Molly is passionate about sharing the environmental and cultural stories of our region, and serves as AV's Editorial Communications Coordinator and Editor of The Appalachian Voice publication.