For the past four years, as Appalachian Voices and our partners in Kentucky have peeled back layer after layer of wrongdoing by Frasure Creek Mining, we’ve grown increasingly appalled by what the company has gotten away with right under the noses of state regulators.
So it was an important victory late last year when Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled for us in our pending cases against the company and the Kentucky environmental cabinet. One sentence from his ruling said it all:
“When one company so systemically subverts the requirements of law, it not only jeopardizes environmental protection on the affected permits, it creates a regulatory climate in which the cabinet sends the message that cheating pays.”
The Kentucky cabinet has, of course, appealed the ruling, so we have our work cut out for us this year. But the judge’s blunt summation of what happens when regulators fail to do their jobs highlights the importance of our work throughout a region where extractive industries have called the shots for too long.
Here’s a snapshot of the work ahead in 2015.
Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
- We will continue working with our partners in Kentucky, and elsewhere in Appalachian mining communities, to hold lax officials and lawbreaking coal companies accountable in court.
- With just two critical years remaining in the Obama presidency, we have plans to escalate pressure on the administration. Key court decisions last year affirmed the EPA’s authority to crack down on mountaintop removal, and with abundant scientific evidence incriminating the practice, there’s no excuse not to. [ Take action: Tell Obama Appalachian communities are still at risk ]
- Although the new Congress appears mostly hostile to our issues, we’ll leverage our strong relationships on Capitol Hill to defend against attacks on the EPA and existing environmental protections.
- In southwest Virginia, we are working with local residents and community groups to advocate for alternatives to the ill-conceived Coalfields Expressway, a mountaintop removal mine disguised as a highway.
- With a new state law and federal rule on coal ash disposal, 2015 is our chance to make sure Duke Energy and state leaders keep their promises to stop coal ash pollution and permanently close the sites threatening North Carolina communities. [ Follow our “Cleaning Up Coal Ash” campaign ]
Clean Energy and Carbon Pollution
- As states develop proposals to comply with the federal Clean Power Plan for cutting carbon pollution from power plants, Appalachian Voices is engaging with a broad base of citizens to demand robust energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, which would bring tremendous economic benefit to our region.
- In southwest Virginia, we’ll step up our work to bring much-needed clean energy jobs and economic diversity to an area suffering from its over-dependence on the coal industry.
- In North Carolina and Virginia, we are opposing the expansion of infrastructure for the natural gas industry, which would endanger communities while prolonging our addiction to dirty fossil fuels and delaying clean energy expansion. We’ll focus particularly on fighting the incursion of fracking into North Carolina.
Energy Savings for Appalachia
- We’re working closely with Tennessee state officials and electric cooperatives to roll out and promote what could become the largest on-bill financing initiative in the Southeast, an effort we played a lead role in kickstarting.
- In northwestern North Carolina, we’re educating co-op members about the many benefits of residential energy efficiency, and empowering them to demand that their local co-op provide upfront loans to pay for home improvements.