Now Hiring: Organizations in the campaign to end mountaintop removal seek to build their teams

Thursday, October 14th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

For those of you ready to take your campaign to end mountaintop removal coal mining to a more full-time level, three regional organizations working on the issue are hiring in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Southern Appalachian Mountain StewardsSouthern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, a group based in the southwestern corner of Virginia, is currently seeking a Field Organizer to promote the SAMS agenda of ending mountaintop removal coal mining, economic transition and community empowerment. The position does require some travel, and applicants should possess good people skills and enjoy working with others. Visit the SAMS website for a complete list of requirements and information on how to submit your resume.

Mountain Association for Community Economic DevelopmentThe Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) based in Berea and Paintsville, Kentucky, is looking to fill several positions, including Research and Policy Associate, several positions for the Enterprise Development team, a Human Resources and Compliance Coordinator and an Office Manager. For more information on these positions, visit the MACED website.

Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowermentStatewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) is currently hiring two community organizer positions, one in the Upper Cumberland area and the other in Middle Tennessee. Both positions offer full benefits and are very people-oriented. To read more and apply, visit SOCM’s website.

Secretary Solis: “No free passes, no do over’s when it comes to mine safety”

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

Labor Secretary Hilda SolisThe way I see it, if you drive drunk and the cops are not around, you are still breaking the law–and your violation could cause others to lose their lives.

And according to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, mining operators are the ones ultimately and solely responsible for the safety of the miners they employ. End of story.

In a speech at the National Mining Association Executive Board meeting today, Solis bluntly stated that even if the Mining, Health and Safety Administration does not catch you violating safety protocols, it is still your fault if lives are lost.

In other words, just because the cops don’t catch you, doesn’t mean you aren’t breaking the law. Or that you aren’t responsible.

Secretary Solis said:

“First, and foremost, the law is clear – mine operators are ultimately responsible for the safety and health of everyone working in a mine. Period.

I know that most of you make safety a priority, and we will work with any mine that wants our help.

But let me be clear, and candid – we will not tolerate mines that cut corners on safety, put miners at risk, pay their fines, and view it as a cost of doing business.”

The Labor Secretary’s remarks followed immediately on the heels of Massey Energy’s lawsuit against the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training subpoenas which would require Massey managers to appear and testify to MSHA in regards to the Upper Big Branch mining disaster which took the lives of 29 miners.

Solis goes on to say:

As an example, it should come as no surprise to anyone that in the wake of the Upper Big Branch disaster, we’re taking a hard look at the Pattern of Violations system.

We’re in the middle of a congressionally mandated review by our Inspector General, and there is work in the Congress to rewrite the POV statute.

But let me be clear, even if Congress doesn’t act, there will be new pattern of violation regulations soon, and they will be true to the Congressional intent to have POV be a powerful tool to change the behavior of operators who persistently put miners at risk.

and makes it very clear that the Department of Labor will start to crack down on repeat offenders:

Now the truth is, those of you running mines with good safety records have nothing to be afraid of when it comes to POV.

Those of you that examine, identify and fix your own problems will see very little difference in how you interact with MSHA.

I’m not worried about you. I’m worried about those who think it’s MSHA’s job to find their problems for them.

I’m worried about the minority of mine operators who cut corners.

And I want those mines to be very afraid of getting on pattern of violation status – because I want those mines to change their ways, and to do so quickly.

Looks like Massey’s run of repeated violations and blame-shuffling has caught the attention of the local sheriff. And she seems pretty pissed.

Maybe that old saying is true after all—you can’t outrun the law forever.

Read Solis’ full statement at Coal Tattoo

Rally for Blair Mountain Labor Day Weekend!

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

Blair Mountain historical sign commemorating the historic labor union battleIf saving mountains is a hobby of yours (and if you’re reading this blog, I imagine it is) then head out to the Whipple Company Store in Scarbro, W.Va., this weekend to support the historic Blair Mountain!

On Saturday, Sept. 4, from noon until 5 p.m., Whipple Company Store and the Friends of Blair Mountain—along with a host of other groups—will host a big Labor Day gathering to celebrate West Virginia’s Blair Mountain and promote the protection of this historic site.

Appalachian Voices is just one of the supporting sponsors of the event, which will include music, food, free tours of the Whipple store and a special display of Blair Mountain artifacts (including the baseball that saved 200 lives and the canon used by Big Coal as an early means of “collective bargaining”). A special fancy dinner party will follow in Tamarack, find out the details at the store!

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Latest Issue of Solutions Journal Dedicated to Environmental Solutions for Appalachia

Friday, July 9th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

A dynamic group of academics, local community members, and business leaders have produced a unique special issue of Solutions journal dedicated to creating a brighter future for Appalachia. Hear from Wendell Berry, John Todd, Adam Lewis, Sarah Forbes, Erik Reece and many more in the July/August Appalachia special Issue of Solutions.

Here’s what the Folks at Solutions Journal have to say about the issue:

Together with a dynamic group of academics, business leaders, and activists—each living and working in Appalachia—Solutions will present a special issue dedicated to creating a brighter future for Appalachia. Appalachia is a special place—one of the most biologically diverse and culturally rich regions on the planet. But it is only one of several regions in the United States with an economy dependent on fossil energy production and where the people fear they will suffer when America makes its necessary transition to a low-carbon economy. The challenge in each of these regions will be to make the transition as deliberately and thoughtfully as possible. Central Appalachia has the potential to become a national model of the positive transition to America’s clean energy future. Our members will receive $5.00 off the low subscription rate that keeps Solutions going.

To get your copy:

OSMRE Holding Open Houses, Accepting Public Comments on Stream Protection Rule

Thursday, July 8th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

Making good on a promise made back in April, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) will begin holding a series of open houses to accept public comments on Stream Protection Rule revisions currently in development by the agency.

The proposed revisions are intended to change stream protection in regards to surface mining, with regulating mining activities in and near streams, cracking down on monitoring of surface and ground water quality during and after mining, and revising approximate original contour restoration requirements among the items on the table.

OSMRE will hold nine separate open houses in mining heavy states, including West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming, Indiana, New Mexico and Texas.

Open houses will take place at the following locations in July:

July 19, 2010, 3 p.m. – Carbondale, IL, Southern Illinois University Student Center
July 20, 2010, 3 p.m. – Evansville, IN, Holiday Inn Conference Center North
July 20, 2010, 3 p.m. – Fairfield, TX, Fairfield Elementary School
July 22, 2010, 3 p.m. – Birmingham, AL, Embassy Suites Birmingham – Hoover
July 26, 2010, 3 p.m. – Hazard, KY, Hazard Community College
July 27, 2010, 3 p.m. – Beckley, WV, Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center
July 27, 2010, 3 p.m. – Farmington, NM, Farmington Civic Center
July 28, 2010, 3 p.m. – Morgantown, WV, Mylan Park
July 29, 2010, 3 p.m. – Gillette, WY, Campbell County Library

If you are unable to attend an open house, be sure to submit your comments via email to sra-eis@osmre.gov. Comments will also be accepted via mail, hand delivery, or courier. Send comments to:

Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
Administrative Record
Room 252–SIB 1951
Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20240

OSM will post updated information as it becomes available via Twitter and on the OSM web site. For additional information on the Stream Protection Rule, see OSM’s special section entitled “Building A Stream Protection Rule.”

Thanks to the folks at Powder River Basin Resource Council for the alert!

Earth Day Event Raises $10,000 for Keeper of the Mountain Larry Gibson

Monday, April 26th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

Larry Gibson speaks to the crowd
Larry Gibson speaks to the crowd
John Ruth leads the impromptu auction for the Vespa
John Ruth leads the impromptu auction for the Vespa
The coordinating committee for the Larry Gibson Earth Day event and fundraiser
The coordinating committee for the Larry Gibson Earth Day event and fundraiser
View more pics from the event

By Tricia Feeney

On Earth Day in Boone, N.C., Keeper of the Mountains Larry Gibson spoke at Appalachian State University and to a downtown gathering at The Greenhouse about the destruction caused by mountaintop removal.

Appalachian Voices and the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy teamed up with local volunteers, student group ASU Sustainable Energy Society, and a West Virginia-based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition for a truly grassroots effort to honor Larry on Earth Day. The coalition effort was a success! Together, we collected enough donations to install a security system at Larry’s homeplace on Kayford Mountain, W. Va.

Larry is a leader in the movement to end mountaintop removal. He started organizing to protect his homeplace in 1985 and successfully protected 50 acres, which now sit like an island in the middle of a 7,000-acre mountaintop removal site. Larry has dedicated his life to ending mountaintop removal and protecting Appalachian mountains. From his educational park, a rare spot where people can witness mountaintop removal first-hand, Larry has empowered thousands upon thousands of people to take action and defend Appalachian land and heritage. Because of his activism, Larry and his family have suffered escalating levels of violence.

To help raise funds, a drawing was held for a new Vespa Scooter. The winner of the Vespa was a local man, Ray Moltz of Blowing Rock, N.C., who immediately gave the keys to Larry. He then asked the crowd to participate in an auction for the new scooter, with the proceeds going to Larry’s cause. Another man, John Ruth, volunteered to be the auctioneer, and after a lively bidding “war,” over $800 more was raised from the highest bidder!

Appalachian Voices and AIRE – along with online donations, local volunteers, and ally organizations – successfully raised the needed $10,000 to keep Kayford Mountain and Larry Gibson safe! The Earth Day Spirit was definitely alive in Boone on April 22.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support Larry, and to those who contributed to make this grassroots effort a success!

If you are ever in Boone, Please Support the Restaurants that donated food for the event.

  • The Bead Box
  • Our Daily Bread
  • Melanie’s
  • Pepper’s
  • Stick Boy Bakery
  • Char
  • Jimmy Johns
  • Lynne Lear

Thank You to the Musicians:
Major Sevens
Jordan Okrend

3 New Cosponsors for H.R. 1310

Monday, April 19th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

The best way to start a Monday is with good news, and this week we have that in triplicate.

Last week, three new co-sponsors signed on to H.R. 1310, the Clean Water Protection Act, a historic bill to protect our water and bring an end to the harmful effects of mountaintop removal mining valley fills. Representatives John Adler (D-NJ), Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) all signed on as co-sponsors, bringing the total number of representatives supporting the bill to 170.

Representative John Adler of New JerseyRep. John Adler is a 1st term Democrat from New Jersey 3rd District, and is the 168th member of the U.S. House of Representatives (including Rep. Pallone) to cosponsor the Clean Water Protection Act (HR1310). Rep. Adler serves on the Financial Services, and Veterans Affairs committee’s.

Representative Stephen Lynch of MassachusettsRep. Stephen Lynch is a 5th term Democrat from Massachusetts 9th District and the 169th cosponsor of the Clean Water Protection Act.  Rep. Lynch serves on the Financial Services committee, and the Oversight and Government Reform committee where he is the chairman of the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia subcommittee.

Thanks to the hard work of our terrific activists in MA, and NJ including the “Jersey Girls!”

Representative Martin Heinrich of New MexicoRep. Martin Heinrich is a 1st term Democrat from New Mexico’s 1st District, and signed on as the 170th cosponsor.  Mr. Heinrich serves on the Armed Services, and Natural Resources committees.

Thanks go out to all of the great activists in the Albuquerque area!

To date, the Clean Water Protection Act has full delegations from MA (9), DC (1), CT (5), MA (10), VT (1), NH (2), ME (2), HI (2), and RI (2).

Read more about the Clean Water Protection Act (H.R. 1310) and the Senate’s companion bill, the Appalachia Restoration Act ( S. 696) on iLoveMountains.org.

Army Corps Announces Rulemaking on Surface Mining

Friday, April 2nd, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers logoOn the heels of the EPA’s bombshell yesterday announcing a strict new policy for mountaintop removal coal mining, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it will “initiate regulatory rulemaking aimed at providing better environmental protection of aquatic resources from the impacts of Appalachian surface coal mining.”

“The proposed rule change, reflecting an Administration change in policy, would expand the Corps’ National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) scope of analysis to include all of the effects of proposed surface coal mining ‘valley fills’ on downstream aquatic resources, while ensuring that future mining operations remains consistent with federal law.”

This rulemaking implements, in part, a June 11, 2009, agreement between the Army, the Department of Interior (DOI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in which the agencies committed to review existing authorities and procedures to determine whether regulatory modifications should be proposed to address environmental and public health concerns associated with surface coal mining in Appalachia.

“Today’s announcement is a major step in the direction of fulfilling this commitment. The Corps will continue to work closely with EPA and DOI to coordinate its rulemaking effort with other administration initiatives already underway focused on protecting aquatic resources from the adverse environmental impacts of surface coal mining,” said Darcy.

The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward provides more insight on his Coal Tattoo blog.

EPA takes major step to end Mountaintop Removal Mining

Friday, April 2nd, 2010 | Posted by The Appalachian Voice Editor | 1 Comment

The EPA took a major new step towards ending the environmentally destructive practice of Mountaintop Removal Mining today.

New guidance standards, effective today for new and pending surface mining permits in Appalachia, will mean that the practice of filling in valleys with mountaintops will probably not be permitted unless they meet a high standard, according to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson.

mountaintop removal mining blast/explosion
“Either no or very few valley fills are going to meet standards like this,” Jackson said in a press conference today. “If we keep doing what we have been doing we’re going to see increasing degradation of water quality.”

The new EPA standard involves a general measure of water health called conductivity, or specifically, the ability of water to pass an electrical current.

Appalachian streams below MTR valley fills typically have a conductivity of 900 microSeimens per centimeter or more, according to Donna Lisenby, Waterkeeper for the Wautauga River.

The EPA standard sets conductivity below 500, with 300 to 500 in the suspect range, Jackson said. This is the first time a numeric standards have been used to measure stream health, she said.

“The intent here is to tell people what the science is telling us,” Jackson said. “It would be untrue to say that you can have numbers of valley fills, anything more than very minimal valley fills, and not expect to see irreversible damage to stream health. And that’s just the truth. That’s what we’ve learned, and the beauty of this is that it’s entirely based on what we believe the science is telling us.”

Existing operations will not be canceled, Jackson said, but 79 major surface mining permits now undergoing review would have to comply with the new standard.

Other scientific standards, such as selenium contamination, may also be a factor in future EPA consideration of permits for valley fills, but the advantage of the conductivity standard is that a test can be done on site and it can provide instant results.

Questioned about the somewhat technical issue of how closely such measurements would be taken, Jackson said the point of the tests is to measure how much contamination is entering a stream, and that would mean testing as close to the source as possible.

Environmental groups reacted with applause today, while mining companies threatened more job losses.

“Appalachia thanks Lisa Jackson and the EPA for taking the impacts on human health and environmental justice into consideration when issuing permits,” said Judy Bonds of Coal River Mountain Watch in West Virginia.

The National Mining Association objected, called the new standard “a sweeping regulatory action that affects not only all coal mining in the region, but also other activities.”

Anticipating the mining industry’s reaction, Jackson said:

“This is not about ending coal mining – this is about ending coal mining pollution.”

“The people of Appalachia shouldn’t have to choose between a clean, healthy environment in which to raise their families and the jobs they need to support them. “

Legislation to further curb MTR mining and protect Appalachian communities, the Clean Water Protection Act, is still needed, said Lenny Kohm with Appalachian Voices. The bills are pending in the US House and Senate.


For more on the EPA’s action today see:

Citizen Lobbyists Converge On Washington To Push for Clean Water in Appalachia

Monday, March 8th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

By Marsha Johnston
A citizen participant in the Alliance for Appalachia’s annual Week in Washington

Over 200 citizen lobbyists from as far away as California and Oregon converged on Washington, DC this weekend to push Congress to pass legislation in 2010 that will put an end to mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. Our excitement built throughout the day as a series of passionate, well-organized presentations from staff members and coalfield residents inspired, shocked, informed and amused us into readiness for tackling Capitol Hill.

Deftly ironic, Mickey McCoy from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth made us laugh while presenting the horrific facts of mountaintop removal. “They have a lot of soft words for what they’re doing. Like `pond’ for slurry. We’re talkin’ 72 acres! That’s a lake. And `spill’. `Spill’ is what happens when your son reaches over the table and spills his sister’s milk. These are floods. Even mountaintop removal doesn’t sound too bad if you say it real fast. They should really be calling it `mountain bombing’.”

As new citizen lobbyists, we began doing just that.

Among several inspiring coalfield resident testimonies, Cari Moore was particularly compelling. An eighth-generation Appalachian and grand-daughter of a preacher-miner, Cari recounted how, incredibly, fellow Appalachians label her “outsider” for opposing the destruction of her family’s beloved mountains. “I try to imagine how he would react if someone said that children are breathing the same dust that gave him black lung, and I cannot imagine in my heart that he would support mountaintop removal mining,” she said. She also recounted how her community, trying to provide cleaner water by switching systems, now finds that its new system–which is closer to a mountaintop removal site–has 3 times the recommended levels of manganese instead of just 2.5 times.

Despite the money and purchased politicians behind King Coal, many presenters confessed a sense of guarded optimism. Long-time activist Lorelei Scarboro, of Coal River Mountain Watch, said she saw the momentum change with the arrival of the Obama Administration, and that we are getting more meetings with higher-level officers than ever before, who are listening. One staff member, noting that Appalachian state legislators are getting a bit desperate since the EPA said it would scrutinize MTR permits more closely, with West Virginia passing legislation naming coal the state rock.

More than once, staff members reminded us of Gandhi’s wisdom about fighting Goliath, saying we are in the last phase before winning: “First they laugh at you, then they ignore you, then they fight with you, then you win.”

Citizens will be lobbying representatives and senators Monday through Wednesday of this week. A national call-in day will take place on Tuesday, March 9. To find out how you can participate by calling your Congressperson or Senator, or to learn more about the Clean Water Protection Act or the Appalachia Restoration Act, visit iLoveMountains.org

Coal River Tree Sit Ends

Friday, January 29th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

A much publicized tree-sit at the Bee Tree mine on Coal River Mountain has come to an end after nine days. Eric Blevins, 28, and Amber Nitchman, 19, descended from their trees this morning citing concerns from cold temperatures. Read the full press release by Climate Ground Zero.

Climate Ground Zero Meeting With Manchin Results In Temporary Halt To Harassment of Tree Sitters

Thursday, January 28th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments


Photo by Climate Ground Zero

Representatives from Climate Ground Zero met with West Virignia Governor Manchin today to discuss the harassment of two tree sitters who have halted blasting on Coal River Mountain since last Wednesday.

Eric Blevins, 28, and Amber Nitchman, 19, have occupied trees in the Bee Tree strip mine for the past eight days. The two protestors have been constantly bombarded with air horns, bright lights, and threats from Massey Energy security officials.

A third tree sitter descended and was arrested on day five of the protest.

The meeting follows a statement by Manchin that called for a cease to violence in the coalfields on both sides of the coal debate.

According to CGZ website, the meeting resulted in a temporary moratorium on the use of air horns and flood lights, but the sitters are concerned about other, possibly more dangerous, forms of harassment.

Read the full Climate Ground Zero press release.


 

 

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