In August, all 31 members of the Appalachian Voices team gathered at Natural Tunnel State Park in Southwest Virginia for our annual retreat to discuss plans and goals for 2018 and beyond. In our 20th year and stronger than ever, the gathering allows team members from different states to collaborate and refresh our sense of purpose.
A major goal for our North Carolina team is to end unlined storage of coal ash by 2050 by securing policies that prevent cap-in-place — which simply covers coal ash ponds where they are — and increase the recycling of coal ash by 2019. We also plan to pressure state and federal officials to prevent construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and promote clean energy and sustainable economies in the state.
In Tennessee and North Carolina, our Energy Savings team is continuing to work with rural electric co-ops to develop new, innovative member programs. One of these is on-bill financing, which allows co-op members to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes, repay the utility over time and still save money on their electric bills.
Our Virginia team outlined their strategy to defeat the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines through legislator pressure, litigation, regulations and by helping to grow the grassroots movement against these dangerous projects. We are also working to bring major investments in solar, wind and energy efficiency to the commonwealth.
Our New Economy Team discussed their collaboration with local communities in Southwest Virginia on a plan to kickstart solar energy in the area (read more from this issue here). We’re also assisting with a regional land study to pave the way for just and equitable land ownership in Central Appalachia, and are aiming to clean up mine sites and spur economic revitalization through passage of the RECLAIM Act.
Our Central Appalachian team is continuing the push to end mountaintop removal coal mining by challenging new permits such as the Cooper Ridge Mine in Tennessee (read more from this issue here) while also addressing pollution from reclaimed, abandoned and active mines through water testing and legal strategies. We are actively engaging in communities across the region to support local organizing efforts, and intend to work with Congress to reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Lands program before it expires in 2021.
It’s been an honor to protect the mountains for and with you, the people of Appalachia, for 20 years now — we greatly look forward to the next 20.