A Cup of Arsenic in the Morning Does a Body…Good?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | 1 Comment

In what some folks would call the “no-duh” factor, the TVA has found contaminated groundwater near some of their coal fired power plant coal ash sites.

Following the 2008 coal ash disaster at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tenn., the topic of toxicity in coal ash has raged hotter than a coal-stoked furnace.

According to an article by EnergyCentral.com, the TVA Inspector General has found that contaminants in groundwater near the Gallatin plant in Sumner County (50 miles northwest of Nashville) are at “health-hazard levels.”

Pollutants above drinking water standards near the plant include beryllium, cadmium, nickel, arsenic, selenium and vanadium.

Contamination was also found at a coal-fired power plant in Memphis–a plant conveniently nestled directly above the aquifer that supplies drinking water to the city of Memphis and nearby areas.

Prior to the Kingston disaster–which dumped 1.1 billion gallons of coal fly ash into the Clinch and Emory rivers–coal ash was regarded as harmless to humans, namely because the coal companies claimed it was.

Thanks to independent testing and verification by labs, universities, environmental groups and the U.S. government at the Harriman site, we now know that coal fly ash contains toxic minerals such as arsenic, selenium and other delicious minerals that you wouldn’t want to drink with your morning orange juice.

The EPA’s attempts to treat coal ash as a toxic substance have been repeatedly attacked by the current Congress. A bill to strip the agency’s ability to oversee coal ash passed in the Energy and Commerce Committee, and currently awaits a floor vote.

The only Tennessee representative on the committee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) voted for the bill.

The real question is, would Blackburn be willing to use that water–now that we know what is in it–to brew her morning coffee?

Historic Meeting Between Coal Region Residents and Alpha CEO Goes…Ok, Actually

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

Residents from West Virginia held a historic meeting this weekend with the CEO of Alpha Natural Resources, the company set to take over mountaintop removal-giant Massey Energy holdings. According to the press release, the CEO actually seemed receptive to examining expressed concerns such as blasting near Brushy Fork Impoundment, which residents fear is weakening the structural integrity of the dam.

“I knew that they weren’t going to agree to stop strip mining, but I wanted to tell them about the health issues in our communities,” said Michael Clark, a board member of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “I was impressed that the CEO was there. They didn’t do a lot of talking and seemed very interested in hearing what we had to say.”

Residents also asked Alpha to consider switching to a dry method of processing coal, abandoning altogether the wet process which results in massive amounts of coal slurry, which is then poured into impoundments or injected into old coal mines, resulting in severe groundwater contamination in some communities.

The Alpha CEO requested a follow-up meeting in July, once the company has acquired Massey and has had time to investigate concerns presented.

According to Paul Corbit-Brown of Pax, WV:

“They haven’t made any promises, but they want to continue the dialogue and they are interested in our specific suggestions. This is the most hope I’ve had for there to be a very meaningful dialogue.”

Read the full press release at RampsCampaign.org

“Not Your Average Farm Band”: 2/3 Goat Singing to Stop Mountaintop Removal

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

Two Thirds Goat2/3 Goat are trying to get the goat of the coal industry, and we support them whole-heartedly.

The NYC-based, self-proclaimed “metrobilly” band is joining forces with Visualantes, a production company out of New York, to create a music video of their energetic and engaging song about mountaintop removal, “Stream of Conscience.”

The video will be a hybrid of a short film and a music video, with a central character being a girl whose plight it is to save the land she is connected to.

Become a producer – help them raise $5,500 they need to kick in their part of the project.

2/3 Goat is fronted by the haunting vocals of Kentucky native Annalyse McCoy (her father, Mickey McCoy, is a coalfield resident and a very active member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth) and the soulful singing of New Jersey guitarist Ryan Dunn. The band fuses folk, blues, rock and country with a contemporary spin, echoing their diverse origins.

Help the band reach their goal by spreading the word on their music video project!

2/3 Goat Coming To A Venue Near…Us!

We just received the wonderful news today that 2/3 Goat will be making a stop in Boone, N.C. two nights from how! On Thursday, May 19, they will make an appearance on stage at Galileo’s Bar and Cafe near downtown Boone from 10 p.m. to midnight. Come join us for a late snack and listen to some achingly excellent metrobilly rock!

Learn more about 2/3 Goat on their website

AV Supports Petition To Add 404 Species to Endangered Species List

Thursday, November 11th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

Trispot Darter, photo by Bernard KuhajdaThirty-six organizations, including Appalachian Voices, have signed on to a letter supporting the addition of 404 species of aquatic wildlife to the endangered species act.

The letter, delivered to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was in support of a petition (pdf), submitted to Fish and Wildlife last spring by the Center for Biological Diversity and six other regional and national organizations, included aquatic, riparian and wetland species in the southeastern part of the country.

“Thanks to pollution, development, logging, poor agricultural practices, dams, mining, invasive species and other threats,” says the Center’s website, “extinction is looming for more than 28 percent of the region’s fishes, more than 48 percent of its crayfishes and more than 70 percent of its mussels.”

Twenty-nine percent of the petitioned species are threatened by coal mining and oil and gas development. The original petition (pdf) included a section on the affects of mountaintop removal (aka strip) mining on aquatic species (page 18-21).

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“I am a coal miner’s daughter so we do not hate coal miners”

Friday, October 15th, 2010 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

The following is from Kathy Selvage, Board member of Appalachian Voices and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, originally posted on Blue Ridge Virginiafollowing a pro-coal rally in Washington D.C., which preceded the Appalachian Rising conference in September. These are Kathy’s thoughts after she spoke with her federal representatives about the issue:

The industry and busloads of miners headed out to DC [for a rally] and we learned that certain politicians would join them on the public stage. I called Senator Webb’s DC office, got five minutes or less of a staffer’s time and used every second, barely stopping for even a deep breath. I was unable to wrestle his name from him, even though I tried. At the end of our conversation, he did ask again for my name and zip code.

As explained to him, I am a coal miner’s daughter so we do not hate coal miners. My father was an underground miner who also loved the forests and being there (You see hunting and just “being” in the woods is a part of our culture.)

I explained what it’s like to live in a community where mining goes on extremely close to homes and the effect that has on our lives, communities, mountains and streams. Then, as if from Senator Webb’s own mouth (it is from his book Born Fighting), these words rolled: They got their wages, black lung, and the desecration of their land. I said that’s us. These are the Senator’s words and they are accurate, totally accurate. He got it right, then. (Implication: he might not today.)

Contrary to the belief of some, it is not environmentalists or environmental regulation that has taken away the jobs of miners in the Appalachian region but the practice of mountaintop removal through its huge increase of mechanization. If you will track the number of mining jobs over the last decade or more, you will see the number of jobs go down as production goes up. It is the method of extraction that decreases the jobs. (Even though I did not relay this, there is a solution: We should be creating green jobs throughout the region to replace those thousands of jobs already lost to this huge mechanization, jobs that don’t destroy our homeland and our lives.)

And contrary to the belief of some (I told him), we understand that you can’t shut down coal fired plants all over this nation immediately – we wouldn’t have electricity – but that we were looking for a new direction – a start – for green energy.

At the very least, the Senator could have been neutral today and that was my request to the staffer.

I was told this morning of a bumper sticker on a car that said, “Save a miner’s job, shoot an environmentalist,” and I also relayed this to the staffer along with stressing how important it was that leaders respond to this kind of public display and advocating of violence. It was the only time in our conversation that he responded to anything I had expressed. He said, “Gees” (slightly drawn out).

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

Appalachian Mountain Photo Competition

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

Appalachian Voices is sponsoring the “Ecological Footprint” category once again this year in the 8th annual Appalachian Mountains Photo Competition, a juried photography show sponsored by Appalachian State University’s Outdoor Programs department. The contest is now accepting submissions through December 17.

"Coal Fly Ash Sludge Disaster" by Jerry D. Greer, winner of the 2010 AMPC Ecological Footprint categoryThe “Ecological Footprint” category is looking for images that document environmental concerns in Central and Southern Appalachia. Perhaps you come across a tree root overtaking some manmade object, an abandoned trail cut through the woods or some industrial practice that is harming the environment. The point is to show how we as a species have impacted the natural world.

Appalachian Voices will be offering a $200 prize for the winner of this category.

Other categories in the competition include Adventure; Blue Ridge Parkway Vistas; “The Parkway Tree Project,” (Blue Ridge Parkway Share the Journey® annual category); Culture; Flora and Fauna; and Landscape.

Over $4000 in cash and prizes will be awarded courtesy of Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Footsloggers Outdoor and Travel Outfitters, Mast General Store and Appalachian Voices.

The Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition (AMPC) is a program of ASU’s Outdoor Programs in partnership with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. This competition is open to amateur and professional photographers at least 13 years of age and provides an opportunity to showcase their interpretation of the unique character, people, places, and pursuits that distinguish the Southern Appalachians.

For complete contest rules, photos of previous winners, the AMPC blog, and to enter, visit appmtnphotocomp.org

2010 winning images include:

BEST IN SHOW: Pushing the Christmas Tree Bailer by Tommy Penick
BEST IN SHOW: Pushing the Christmas Tree Bailer by Tommy Penick

CULTURE CATEGORY WINNER: Untitled by Ian Mahathey
CULTURE CATEGORY WINNER: Untitled by Ian Mahathey

FLORA AND FAUNA CATEGORY WINNER: Windswept Grasses in Craggy Gardens by Bill Gozansky
FLORA AND FAUNA CATEGORY WINNER: Windswept Grasses in Craggy Gardens by Bill Gozansky

To view all winners from the 2010 exhibit, visit the App Mountains Photo Competition blog.

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



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