Did you know that the rhinoceros beetle can lift objects up to 850 times their weight? Or that the blue whale’s songs can reach up to 200 decibels (a jet’s engine at 100ft. is only 100 dB)? How about that the southern cricket frog can vertically jump 60 times its body height — that’s like a person jumping up a 38-story building!
Archive for the ‘Events’ Category
This just in: Despite the coal industry’s misleading commercials, coal no longer provides 50 percent of all energy in the U.S.!
The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released data showing that coal’s share of total monthly generation fell below 40 percent in November and December 2011 and the combination of a mild winter and a decrease in natural gas prices might be the leading contributors.
Due to the warm trend in this year’s winter, natural gas prices have significantly dropped, which is allowing generators in many states to increase the share of natural gas-fired generation and cut coal’s share of electricity generation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized more than 200 organizations, school systems, health care systems and retailers as 2011’s Energy Star Leaders. Several organizations in Appalachia have been recognized for being Energy Star Leaders, North Carolina taking the lead with a whopping six energy efficient organizations.
The EPA’s Energy Star program aims to help organizations nationwide achieve energy efficiency by providing them with an energy management strategy. The strategy includes a focus on ongoing performance measurement and whole-building improvement.
Energy Star Leaders have improved the energy efficiency of their buildings by 20 percent or more. In order to become an Energy Star Leader, an organization must meet one of two energy efficient milestones.
The Southern Environmental Law Center recently released its fourth-annual Top 10 Endangered Places list of 2012, highlighting the scenic, ecologically and culturally rich areas throughout the Southeast that are being threatened by development, water issues and the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal and hydraulic fracturing.
The Catawba-Wateree River system originates in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina traveling into South Carolina and has been negatively impacted by the presence of coal ash in leaky unlined ponds along major tributaries.
But that’s not all that is threatening this network of waterways. Water withdrawal used by power plants for steam production and cooling has had severe effects on the Southeast’s water supply.
Meanwhile, on the North Carolina Piedmont, a law that bans horizontal drilling throughout the region is being attacked by the gas drilling industry and their political allies.
Virginia may be the most threatened state in the Southeast. The Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee are being destroyed by mountaintop removal. These mountains are some of the oldest on earth and more than 500 have been destroyed by mountaintop removal.
Across the state, the Chesapeake Bay estuary has been polluted for decades. What some may not know is that this pollution creates dead zones incapable of supporting aquatic life.
Plans to construct and renovate highways have disrupted many distinguished recreation spots in Charlottesville, Va., and in Chilhowee Mountain, Tenn. Chilhowee Mountain is part of Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest and known as a destination for outdoor lovers around the country.
More southern states such as South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama are experiencing severe environmental threats as well. The Savannah River, which stretches from South Carolina to Georgia, may lose many aquatic habitats as the Army Corps of Engineers plan to deepen its shipping channel.
The Dawson Forest, located just north of Atlanta, is threatened by a proposed $650 million reservoir that would drain 100 million gallons of water from the Etowah River each day to support Atlanta’s increasing water supply needs. Alabama’s coastline is on SELC’s Top Ten list for a second year because of the potential reoccurrence of spills like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion — the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The SELC has released its Top Ten list for fours years now, hoping to raise awareness among residents of these areas and others in the U.S. The environmental law organization has nearly 50 attorneys and is involved in more than 125 cases and projects in its six-state region to fight against these potentially irreversible threats.
For more information about SELC and what it does, visit: www.southernenvironment.org.
Tennessee has got the ball rolling as many anti-mountaintop removal allies are writing in to their local newspapers to get their voices heard.The mountains of Appalachia are some of the oldest and most beautiful found in the U.S., and they are being slowly destroyed by mountaintop removal.
The Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act is a bipartisan bill that will prohibit surface mining at elevations higher than 2,000 ft. If this bill is passed, there will be NO more mountaintop removal in Tennessee, and it will also be the first state to ban mountaintop removal.
Here are some letters to the editor published in city newspapers in Tennessee:
Thanks Tennessee for your persistent efforts to help end the injustice of mountaintop removal. Way to go everyone, and keep those letters to the editor flowing!
If you’ve ever heard of Blair Mountain, you know the turmoil it has been through in the last several decades. Now this historic mountain and its battlegrounds are being threatened by surface strip mining. That’s why the Blair Community Center and Museum needs your support!
The Blair Community Center and Museum is a nonprofit organization working to promote and preserve the history of Blair Mountain. Established in the fall of 2011, the Community Center and Museum has been working to reach out to those unaware of environmental destruction caused by strip mining of Blair Mountain. Despite their tireless efforts, they simply do not have the funds to allow the organization to grow.
The Community Center and Museum is currently working in a large church, which they use as an office, community center and museum. It has a leaky roof, poor heating, and there is no drinkable water nearby. They also need to improve their museum by adding showcases, frames and important museum pieces.
The Blair Mountain Community Center and Museum has a goal of reaching $10,000 by the end of April. The projects, of course, will cost more than the goal they have set for themselves, but this money would aid in planting the seed to get them going.
Blair Mountain, located in Logan County, WV, was once the site of one of the nation’s largest labor conflict, the Battle of Blair Mountain. This battle was only five days long, but was heavily equipped with machine guns, explosives and an estimate of over one million rounds of ammunition.
More than 15,000 coal miners gathered in Charleston, WV, in an attempt to overthrow the control barons of the coal mining companies. Little did they know that a private army led by the Logan County Sheriff and coal operators were awaiting their arrival.
Though the battle was almost a century ago, it is not taught in schools and many people may not have even heard of it.
So please help our friends of Blair Community Center and Museum as they continue their fight to save this historical place they’ve called home for centuries.
To find out more information about this project or to donate, visit: www.indiegogo.com/The-Start-of-A-New-Beginning.
We’ve known for a long time that mountaintop removal is affecting Appalachian creatures. This time it’s a fish found in the Appalachian streams and rivers — the Kentucky arrow darter.
This fish, found only in Kentucky, is one of the top 10 U.S. species most threatened by fossil fuel development, according to a report released by the Endangered Species Coalition.
The darter thrives in the shallow waters of the upper Kentucky River Basin, where most of the state’s coal mining takes place. The darter was once found in 68 streams throughout Kentucky but it is now only found in 33.
The filth — mountaintop removal mining pollution — that coal companies are putting into the waters is burying these fish alive, along with impacting other wildlife. Humans are also dealing with more and more health issues like cancer and birth defects that have been linked to the erosion and toxins polluting the Appalachian streams.
This fish is a part of a grand habitat. It feeds on the many aquatic insects found on the banks of these streams, while birds, amphibians and other fish feed on the darter. This habitat is being skewed by the decreasing amount of darters throughout the region. Protecting the darter not only benefits this one particular habitat, but ultimately aids in the clean up of the headwaters in Kentucky making them safer to drink.
But unfortunately, this is not a perfect world of instant gratification.
In 2010, the Kentucky arrow darter became a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection, which means that it is on a federal waiting list. In a legal settlement between the Center of Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the darter will be considered for protection in 2015.
Mountaintop removal has already destroyed more than 500 mountains, 1 million acres of hardwood forests and 2,000 miles of streams throughout Appalachia.
One may ask how protecting a single species of fish can put a stop to mountaintop removal, but just remember what Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Do you love mountains? Ever have the urge to stand up for the end of mountaintop removal? Well now is the chance to make a difference and fight for the protection of our environment.
This February will bring many opportunities for you to get involved.
Beginning on Feb. 1 in Prestonsburg, Ky., Footprints for Peace will be hosting the Walk for a Sustainable Future. This will be a two-week walk leading up to Kentuckians For The Commonwealth’s annual I Love Mountains Day in Frankfurt, Ky.
The march will be on Tuesday, Feb. 14 and needs the help of all environmental enthusiasts to take an exciting march to the Capitol Building in Frankfurt, Ky., to stand up for clean water, clean air and a stop to mountaintop removal coal mining.
KFTC will be calling on Gov. Beshear and others in the state legislature to serve the public interest by ending mountaintop removal.
All ages are invited to come support this movement and share the same vision of protecting our land.
Signs are encouraged, but if you lack an artistic side don’t worry, many will be provided by KFTC. After all, what is a march without the pickets?
This year, participants are asked to bring small pinwheels for every person at the rally to deliver to Gov. Beshear. KFTC hopes to have 1,200 pinwheels – each representing 50 people living with cancer caused by strip mining.
But that isn’t the only message the pinwheels will be sending. The pinwheels will also represent the hope that wind turbines and clean energy solutions will become more prominent in the future.
The march begins at 12:30 p.m. Afterward, there will be a rally featuring a special guest speaker, Tar Sands Activist Melina Laboucan-Massimo.
So come out and join us for a day of fun – and a movement to better our environment.
For more information and to sign up for I Love Mountains Day, visit Kentuckians For The Commonwealth online at www.kftc.org.
Appalachian Voices staff and members are getting geared up for the 4th annual Weekend in Wise, a Weekend of Communion for the Mountains. And the best part is you’re invited! This Friday, we’ll head for Appalachia, Va. in the beautiful mountains of Southwest Virginia to learn more about the destructive process of mountaintop removal coal mining, hear stories from coalfield activists, and get to know every stage of the dirty life cycle of coal.
On top of the chance to learn about mountaintop removal, we’re looking forward to participating in service projects and workshops including tours of mountaintop removal sites and a course in water quality testing. On Saturday evening, there will be a citizens panel, where we’ll have the chance to meet people living with mountaintop removal in their communities, the same folks leading the charge against coal companies by standing up for a brighter future. Learn more and check out the itinerary here or visit their page on Facebook.
There will be time to kick back and enjoy live music, local food and a special screening of the documentary The Last Mountain. Hosted by the good people at the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards and Wise Energy for Virginia, it’s sure to be an enlightening couple of days. We’ll all walk away with a better understanding of mountaintop removal, our personal connection to coal and the confidence to get engaged in our communities.
Seeing the many aerial shots of mountaintop removal provides perspective on the effect a few machines and a lot of explosives can have on the landscape. The Weekend in Wise event is a chance to see these effects at ground-level. We hope to see you there! But if you can’t make it, check back next week for our reactions and a report on the many happenings of the weekend.
Everyone knows that mercury is a toxic substance. We have all been told to never hold the mercury from a broken thermometer and to handle broken compact fluorescent light bulbs with care for the miniscule amount of mercury they contain. Mercury thermometers are now no longer allowed on many public school campuses. You may have heard the somewhat antiquated expression, “he/she is as mad as a hatter” and know that it is derived from the fact that hatters used to use mercury in making hats. Mercury poisoning can lead to neurological disorders, mood swings, lack of ability to speak, aggressiveness and a wide assortment of ailments that can cause a person to be perceived as ‘mad’. To this day mercury poisoning is sometimes referred to casually as, “Mad Hatters Disease”.
Coal-fired power plants are one of the largest sources of pollution in our country. They emit thousands of pounds of toxic mercury pollution every year, as well as arsenic, lead and acid gases, putting families at risk. Coal fired power plants produce approximately 48 tons of mercury into the air each year across the country.
To paraphrase from a Sierra Club fact sheet on mercury:
Mercury from coal-fired power plants is released into the air and then rains down into our lakes, streams, and other waters. Mercury in water is converted into the most toxic form (methylmercury) by aquatic organisms, which are eaten by fish, poisoning them and the animals that eat them, causing death, reduced fertility and reproductive failure. Mercury can also make its way to our dinner tables via contaminated fish. Once ingested, mercury acts as a potent neurotoxin and can cause damage to the brain and nervous system.
Pregnant women and children are at greatest risk from mercury exposure, especially if they consume large amounts of fish and seafood. Exposure to mercury in utero can contribute to birth defects including neurological and developmental disorders, learning disabilities, delayed onset of walking and talking, and cerebral palsy.
Over 30 people, many of them either pregnant or of child bearing age came out to Virginia Beach’s Best Body Company last week to take part in the Sierra Club’s and the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition’s free mercury hair testing event. Though they won’t have the results for three more weeks, they wanted to see what their individual levels of mercury are, as well as their children’s. Luckily, if a woman is in the high risk zone for fetal complications due to mercury poisoning, she can phase out mercury laden foods to bring her levels down and bring her to a low risk level. However, most people are not that conscious of their mercury intake or knowledgeable of what fish are high in mercury. In Hampton Roads seafood and freshwater fish are on dinner plates and served in restaurants in high numbers.
There are currently 8 significant mercury emitters in and upwind of Hampton Roads, most of them coal-fired power plants. While we may be stuck with several existing coal plants concentrated in and around Hampton Roads we are fortunate enough to have developed new, non-polluting technologies such as wind power which, according to the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, can provide 20% of our electricity needs. In Virginia, we also have tremendous potential for energy efficiency -making our houses, schools, factories, and workplaces actually decrease their electricity use through increased insulation, and more efficient windows and appliances. What is also great about investing in energy efficiency is that it could create as many as 10,000 Virginia jobs while keeping electricity demand absolutely flat, despite a growing population, for the foreseeable future.
Knowing the alternatives, it is very curious then that the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) is currently pursuing permits to build what would be the largest coal-fired power plant in the state, a whopping 1,500 megawatts, in Surry County. Since Dominion Virginia Power services the vast majority of Hampton Roads, almost none of this power would be going to serve the region, yet it is Hampton Roads that is going to be receiving the brunt of the pollution. In addition to emitting regionally problematic pollutants such as nitrogen, which we are spending millions to clean out of the Chesapeake Bay, and ground level ozone which make it hard on asthmatics, the proposed coal plant would emit 44 pounds of mercury into the air each year.
44 pounds may seem like a small amount until you consider that as little as gram of mercury (about a drop) falling on a 20 acre lake annually for just a few years can cause the fish to have high enough concentrations of mercury to contaminate humans that eat them. Eight Hampton Roads rivers and lakes are already under federal fish consumption advisories for mercury contamination. We are advised to eat no more than one fish a month from some of these waterways. In other waterways women of child bearing age and children are warned against eating a single fish at any point. The swamps that feed the Blackwater and Nottaway Rivers, Lake Drummond, and the Dismal Swamps are all rife with the conditions and bacteria that convert mercury from coal-fired power plants into the ingestible and more dangerous methylmercury that bio-accumulates up the food chain until it gets onto our plates in the form of dangerously tasty tuna, shellfish, or bass. The 44 pounds of mercury that the proposed ODEC plant in Surry County would emit translates to 19,958 grams of mercury a year. In the map below you can see the mercury impaired waters in red.
Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is working hard to gain approval for their behemoth of a coal plant through the Army Corps of Engineers and is also working hard to publicly defame Surry County land owners who are suing ODEC because they refused to properly advertise the vote that lead to local zoning approval of the project back in February of 2010. They have even been sending their team of high powered lawyers to lobby downwind communities like Virginia Beach trying to convince them not to publicly oppose the project for the health and financial detriments it would bring to Virginia’s largest city. Luckily Virginia Beach listened to their constituents and health groups has committed to publicly oppose the project. ODEC is actively pursuing approval.
ODEC is actively trying to add insult to injury by trying to get approval to build a seemingly unnecessary coal-fired power plant upwind of an area already violating federal standards for ground level ozone and with 8 existing bodies of water that are dangerously contaminated with mercury.
The permitting process is a slow one, and ODEC doesn’t expect a decision from the Army Corps for at least a year. This gives everyone in Hampton Roads a great opportunity to weigh in with their City Councils and County Board of Supervisors about this ill-conceived project. All the communities in the region sit on the Hampton Roads Regional Planning District Commission, including those that approved the project in Surry County (and hastily I might add) despite a massive public cry for the opposite from their own constituents. Surry has already upset regional communities by refusing Isle of Wight’s request for an independent study of the downwind economic effects from the pollution. A Surry Board of Supervisor, with tax dollars on his mind, said that such a study would, “only mess up our decision making process.” Localities like Hampton City, Newport News, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, etc can join Virginia Beach (and the town of Surry, in Surry County) in opposing this project -but they won’t do it on their own. Every Hampton Roads government needs to hear from their constituents of every age and race, that they need to publicly oppose this project.
If you live in Hampton Roads please take the time to speak at a City Council or Board of Supervisors meeting. If public speaking isn’t your thing, call them up or write a letter. You can also write letters to the editor of your local newspaper on the subject, educating thousands.. There are several of us that would love to help you accomplish any of these things. If you are interested contact me, Mike McCoy at 434-293-6373 and mike(at)appvoices.org and I, or one of my colleagues, can walk you through one of several ways to help.
The first and easiest way for everyone to help, no matter where you live is to sign the letter to the Army Corps of Engineers. You can sign it by clicking HERE.
You can also help support the EPA’s effort to create stricter mercury limits, and learn a ton more about mercury on the Sierra Club’s website here.
To learn more about this proposed coal plant click here.