America has made much progress in the 50 years since President Johnson declared a "war on poverty." But too many Appalachian counties remain among the poorest in the U.S. The reasons are many and complex, but the ravages of coal mining and a higher burden of electricity costs in the region are part of the problem. A "war on wasted energy" would go far to address the issue.
Results from water samples we took from the Patriot Coal Co. slurry spill last month reveal violations of the company's water pollution permit, as well as arsenic and lead above drinking water standards. We also found MCHM, the notorious licorice-smelling chemical that poisoned the tap water of 300,000 West Virginians earlier this year. Joined by Coal River Mountain Watch, we sent a letter to the state Dept. of Environmental Protection calling on the agency to take strong action.
A federal judge ruled that the state Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources does, in fact, have the authority to compel Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash pits in North Carolina. Internal emails obtained by The Associated Press suggest collusion between DENR and Duke. Meanwhile, Appalachian Voices and other groups keep the pressure on both company and agency to clean up the Dan River spill and all other coal ash sites.
EPA Leverages Historic Fine Against Alpha Coal Company
After dozens of citizen lawsuits over the years aimed at the water pollution from mountaintop removal mining company Alpha Natural Resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined the company $27.5 million for violations of the Clean Water Act, and another $200 million to clean up water pollution. That's all well and good, but the EPA needs to do much more to stop this type of pollution from happening in the first place.
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[ Take Action: Demand stronger stream protections against mountaintop removal ]
Aware that high energy costs burden struggling families, a North Carolina Habitat for Humanity chapter is building a community of energy-efficient homes, relying on locally sourced materials and spirited volunteers and residents. New homeowner Melissa Finger's teen sons enjoy volunteering at the site. "We have a single wide trailer that's freezing cold and our power bills are outrageous, so we're super excited," she said before moving in.