Archive for July, 2011

Stopping Mountaintop Removal: 101!

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 - posted by jw

Its official! 101 cosponsors of the Clean Water Protection Act!

As big coal and their allies in Congress continue to attack, undermine, and gut public health and environmental protections, Appalachian Voices, the Alliance for Appalachia, NRDC and others continue to play offense by promoting the bipartisan Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1375). This bill would make it illegal to dump toxic waste from mountaintop removal mines into our headwater streams in Appalachia.

This week HR 1375 hit 101 cosponsors, and that number is continuing to grow as more Representatives learn about the horrific impacts mountaintop removal is having on the born and the unborn in Appalachia. ! See if your Congressman is a cosponsor below the fold. If they are not, take a moment and ask them to cosponsor of the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1375).


[VIDEO EXTRA]: Jimmy Weekley, Paul Corbit Brown, and Blair Mountain

Friday, July 15th, 2011 - posted by jeff

House, Once Again, Passes Attack on Water, Science, Humans

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 - posted by jw

Rahall Legislates that Water Stop at State Lines. Seriously.

Yesterday evening the House of Representatives passed The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act (HR 2018), a bill that turns back the clock forty years on the environmental and public health protections in the Clean Water Act. This brazen attack on public protections is the closest big industrial polluters have ever come to completely gutting laws that protect Americans’ ability to access clean water.

Colorado Democratic Representative Jared Polis perhaps said it best:

“Let’s not fool ourselves, the bill before us today isn’t just about the role of federal government, the bill isn’t just a push for state sovereignty; rather, this bill would satisfy two very niche special interests at the cost of the American public. This bill is designed to benefit mountaintop coal mining companies and large factory farms.”

Polis is, of course, absolutely right. Meanwhile, cowards like Nick Rahall keep up this charade that this is somehow about “protecting Appalachian jobs.” Inconveniently for them, there are facts. The FACTS ARE: Mining jobs in Central Appalachia have increased since the MOU because companies are doing less mountaintop removal and relying more on underground mining. Underground mining employs more people.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: There IS an attack on mining jobs in Central Appalachia, and its called mountaintop removal.

The Votes
There were several recorded votes. One for the final bill, once on the motion to recommit, and then 6 amendments related to protecting clean water. I’ve excluded the Capito amendment, because the politics around that will be substantially different. Most Democrats voted FOR these pro-water amendments, and most Republicans voted AGAINST these pro-water amendments. We’ll note the variation below.

Lets look at the vote on final passage first.
(HR 2018 Mica-Rahall: Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act”)

HR 2018 Ayes Nays Not Voting
Republicans 223 13 3
Democrats 16 171 5
Total 239 184 8

Ds voting Aye: Altmire, Baca, Barrow, Boren, Boswell, Cardoza, Costa, Costello, Critz, Cuellar, Holden Matheson, McIntyre, Rahall, Ross, Peterson
Rs voting Nay: Dold, Fitzpatrick, Flake, Hayworth (NY), Johnson (IL), Lance, LoBiondo, Reichert, Riggell, Smith (NJ), Wittman, Wolf, Young (FL)

For brevity’s sake (and because HTML tables take forever to make) The other amendments were Jackson-Lee (12), Carnahan, Blumenauer, Connolly, and Polis.

So, between all of these votes and the amendment votes on HR 1 earlier this year, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge of where politicians stand on protecting water quality in this country. Generally, most Democrats have voted for what we would call environmental protection. There have been 11 votes when a meaningful number of them have bucked their party and voted against protecting clean water. These are listed below. Generally, most Republicans have opposed what we would call environmental protection. There have been 8 votes when a meaningful number of them have bucked their party and voted to protect clean water. These are listed below.

*please click to “embiggen” table

So, for instance, Republicans Chris Smith, Tim Johnson, and Mike Fitzpatrick have cast 8 of 8 “good” votes in favor of protecting clean water. Democrats Boren, Critz, Holden, Matheson, Rahall, and Ross have cast 11 of 11 “bad” votes in favor of eliminating protections for clean water.

Expect the President to Veto H.R. 2018 – Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 - posted by jeff


July 12, 2011
(House Rules)

H.R. 2018 – Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act
(Rep. Mica, R-FL, and 39 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly opposes H.R 2018 because it would significantly undermine the Clean Water Act (CWA) and could adversely affect public health, the economy, and the environment.

Under the CWA, one of the Nation’s most successful and effective environmental laws, the Federal Government acts to ensure safe levels of water quality across the country through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since the enactment of the CWA in 1972, the Federal Government has protected the waterways our citizens depend on by using its checks and balances authority to review and adjust key State water pollution control decisions, where necessary, to assure that they reflect up to date science, comply with the law, and protect downstream water users in other States. H.R. 2018 would roll back the key provisions of the CWA that have been the underpinning of 40 years of progress in making the Nation’s waters fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.

H.R. 2018 could limit efforts to safeguard communities by removing the Federal Government’s authority to take action when State water quality standards are not protective of public health. In addition, it would restrict EPA’s authority to take action when it finds that a State’s CWA permit or permit program is inadequate and would shorten EPA’s review and collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers on permits for dredged or fill material. All of these changes could result in adverse impacts to human health, the economy, and the environment through increased pollution and degradation of water bodies that serve as venues for recreation and tourism, and that provide drinking water sources and habitat for fish and wildlife.

H.R. 2018 would disrupt the carefully constructed complementary CWA roles for EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and States in protecting water quality. It also could eliminate EPA’s ability to protect water quality and public health in downstream States from actions in upstream States, and could increase the number of lawsuits challenging State permits. In sum, H.R. 2018 would upset the CWA’s balanced approach to improve water quality across the Nation, risking the public health and economic benefits of cleaner waters.

If the President is presented with this legislation, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

* * * * * * *

Amelia Salzman
Associate Director for Policy Outreach
White House Council on Environmental Quality

Struggling for Clean Air

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 - posted by interns

By Meg Holden
A journalist and editor with a keen eye for detail, Meg served as AV’s Communications Intern for summer 2011.

Memory loss. Muscle weakness. Mood swings. Kidney failure. Death.

It sounds like a doctor’s report on an aging patient, and it could well be. But these are also symptoms of mercury exposure, which affects everyone—especially children.

We all know that coal is the single biggest contributor to air pollution in the United States. We’ve read the pamphlets, watched the videos, and heard the statistics. We’ve been shocked, appalled, and disgusted—but we don’t have to be resigned to watching coal-fired power plants poison our air, water, and families. We can take action.

The EPA has recently proposed stronger regulations for mercury, arsenic, and lead—all poisonous to humans—as well as acid gases and other air pollutants. The new national standards would keep 91 percent of the mercury in coal from polluting our air and water.

A coal-fired power plant in Virginia

A coal-fired power plant in Virginia

In a world where one coal plant can produce 170 pounds of mercury in a year, this is not only desirable, but crucial to our national health. The amount of mercury in an old-fashioned thermometer—1/70th of a teaspoon—can contaminate a 25-acre lake. Limiting the amount of mercury and other pollutants that coal-fired power plants can release into our air is a vital step toward ending coal’s black grip on our lives.

The EPA’s proposed regulations will prevent huge amounts of toxic gases and particulates from entering our air and waterways. According to the EPA, the regulations will prevent

“as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year. The new proposed standards would also provide particular health benefits for children, preventing 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 11,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. The proposed standards would also avert more than 12,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions and 850,000 fewer days of work missed due to illness.”

The health costs associated with the life cycle of coal, from mining to processing to burning to disposal- are huge; the total is over 345 million dollars, according to a study by Harvard University.

But coal companies don’t want to emissions regulated, and they’re doing everything they can to weaken the final rule. Some groups with special interest in coal are saying that the pollution from coal power plants aren’t harmful to humans. American Electric Power claims that the new regulations will result in the closure of five power plants and a loss of 600 jobs.

“…We will have to prematurely shut down nearly 25 percent of our current coal-fueled generating capacity, cut hundreds of good power-plant jobs, and invest billions of dollars in capital to retire, retrofit, and replace coal-fueled power plants,” AEP chairman and CEO Mike Morris said. “The sudden increase in electricity rates and impacts on state economies will be significant at a time when people and states are still struggling.”

That’s right, Mike, people and states are still struggling. Struggling to breathe the heavy metal- and particulate-laden air that coal-fired power plants emit daily. Struggling to pay the medical bills for their parents, siblings, and children who have been exposed to mercury and other poisons. Struggling to find a safer, cleaner way to provide for their families.

And if you are concerned about jobs and the economy, you would support EPA’s regulations, as they tend to create jobs. A study by CERES and Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts shows that this regulation plus the Clean Air Transport Rule (CATR), a program aimed at smog- and soot-forming pollution, will create over 290,000 jobs.

Help stop the economic and public health struggle. Show your support for the EPA’s regulations on air pollutants.

1,000 Rednecks Marched on Blair Mountain!

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 - posted by jeff

The following email was sent to the 51,000+ supporters of To sign up to receive free email alerts, click here.

Just a few weeks ago citizens of Blair, WV climbed to the crest of Blair Mountain with over 1,000 new allies. Movement leaders from surrounding states, union workers, students, archaeologists, activists, and friends from neighboring counties and across the country all came together for Appalachia Rising: March on Blair Mountain.

This rally, this stand, was the culmination of a week long march to save the historic Blair Mountain, end mountaintop removal, strengthen labor rights, and demand sustainable jobs for all of central Appalachia. Click here to see footage of the march!

300 marched the 50 miles through the 100 degree heat to meet another 700 on top of Blair Mountain. Thousands joined us for a virtual march online, and across the nation, people heard our stories from over 300 articles covering the march.

We are proud to have been a part of this historic event with you, it would have not been possible without the growing grassroots presence around the US supporting these efforts. See the video here.

This week opens new doors in Blair and new doors for our movement. We have shown that we can struggle through intimidation, we can forge new alliances, we can overcome obstacles and that we will be stronger in the end.

Let’s move forward together! More details on the event and what’s next for Blair can be found at and

Thank you for your continued dedication: what we accomplished with the March on Blair is representative of what we are doing throughout the entire region impacted by mountaintop removal, and we couldn’t do that without you!

For the mountains,

Matt Wasson

Cheating Democracy: Suspending Your Right to Clean Water

Friday, July 1st, 2011 - posted by Appalachian Voices

By Rachel Goss
Appalachian Voices Development Associate / Director of Foundations, 2011

The coal industry’s war on water got another boost on June 22nd, when the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act (HR 2018). The bill, resonant with blatant disregard for scientific data and human health, would effectively remove the federal government’s ability to regulate water, and place that regulatory power firmly in the hands of the state.

Just this week, leading figures in the US House of Representatives have added insult to injury by attempting to fast-track HR 2018, pushing forward a motion to “suspend the rules” and thus refusing to let the democratic process play out fairly. A little known loop in the legislative process, the House’s ability to issue a rule suspension removes procedural and other regulations that would stop or slow the House from considering a piece of proposed legislation. In order to suspend the rules, 2/3 of the House’s Members must be present, and if this majority votes in favor, the bill is considered passed.