The Front Porch Blog, with Updates from AppalachiaThe Front Porch Blog, with Updates from Appalachia

A Long Journey Across Water: Appalachian Coal Exports on the Rise, Study Says

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

A fair percentage of mountaintop removal-mined Appalachian coal is apparently not staying in Appalachia. Nor the Southeast. Nor even the U.S.

As a Chinese fortune I once saw said, it’s heading for a long voyage across the great water.

According to a report prepared by the Democratic staff of the Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass), exports of mountaintop removal mined coal in Appalachia have exploded in the past few years, with more than 97 mountaintop removal mines in Appalachia collectively exporting 27 percent of their production in 2011 — more than doubling the export percentage from 2008.

The coal is apparently heading for places like Russia, South America, China and India.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Coal exports from these mines in [West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia] have grown by 91 percent since 2009 to 13.2 million tons in 2011.
  • Twenty-five of those mines exported more than half of their production in 2011.
  • One Russian company is exporting nearly 83 percent of the coal from three mines in West Virginia
  • Five mines are shipping 100 percent of their coal abroad

According to the Committee’s press release, the study’s results were gathered using “data from the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, and included self-reported data from the mines themselves.”

The report, entitled “Our Pain, Their Gain,” seems to point to the fact that Appalachian communities, and even Appalachian miners (see Ken Ward’s post titled “Strip miners face serious black lung risks”) are being sacrificed for profit from overseas sales. But the coal industry wouldn’t think of doing that, now would it?

Or, would it?

Sadly, I think it already is.

Read the full release and report here.

North Carolina Bands with Mighty Big Hearts

Monday, April 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

A few weeks ago, Appalachian Voices was on the happy end of a rousing night of rowdy rock and roll and vintage and alt country, thanks to the generous hearts of a few North Carolina musicians.

Molly McGinn, sultry-voiced siren from the Greensboro, N.C., collaborative band, Wurlitzer Prize, and David Brewer, the massively talented musician often fronting Americana r&r favorites Possum Jenkins, hosted a fantastic evening of music as a benefit for Appalachian Voices and our work to end mountaintop removal coal mining.


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Bad News for a Friday: District Court Overturns Spruce Mine

Friday, March 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

A District of Columbia District Court today overturned a veto by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of a Spruce No. 1 Mine permit, the largest mountaintop removal mining permit in West Virginia history, stating that the agency did not have authority to veto a permit already approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, which hands out 404 permits under the Clean Water Act. A first glimpse over the document indicates that the court came a hair’s breadth away from actually calling the EPA’s actions unlawful, but we’ll read closer and get back with you.

The EPA first vetoed the massive permit in January of 2011. At the time, EPA’s Peter Silva said of the agency’s reasoning to veto the permit:

The proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend. Coal and coal mining are part of our nation’s energy future, and EPA has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation’s water. We have responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water.

Read the full memorandum here.

New Tool Reveals “The Human Cost” of Mountaintop Removal

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments Uses Scientific Data to Show
Negative Health Effects of Destructive Mining Practice

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
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For I Love Mountains Day: Jerry Hardt,, 502-439-6884
For Kate Rooth,, (704) 516-0092
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A group of environmental advocates is launching a new mapping tool that uses scientific evidence and government data to plot the human casualties of mountaintop removal coal mining.

The comprehensive tool, created by Appalachian Voices for, is being released in conjunction with the annual I Love Mountains Day in Frankfurt, Ky. More than 1,200 citizens are expected to gather on the state’s capitol steps on Valentine’s Day to advocate for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive practice that has shortened lifespans and caused illnesses in Central Appalachia for decades.

“In the past year several studies have come out about the health impacts of living near mountaintop removal mining,” said Ada Smith, 24, a Letcher County, Ky., resident and a speaker at I Love Mountains Day. “Though many of the studies state the obvious for those of us living in these communities, the scientific facts give us much-needed evidence to make sure our laws are truly enforced for the health of our land and people.”

The new tool on called “The Human Cost of Coal” is an accumulation of data from verified government sources and peer-reviewed scientific studies plotted on a Google map to show the correlation between mountaintop removal coal mining and increased health problems, lowered life expectancy and high poverty rates in Central Appalachia.

“It is important to realize that birth defects for babies born in [areas impacted by] mountaintop removal are over twice as high than if the mother smokes during pregnancy, and over 10 times as high for circulatory/ respiratory defects,” said Vernon Haltom from Coal River Mountain Watch.

“The Human Cost of Coal” layer pulls from national data including poverty rates from the 2010 U.S. Census, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and life expectancy and population numbers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The site also includes summaries for more than twenty peer-reviewed studies from 2007 to 2011 that provide evidence that human health problems such as heart, respiratory and kidney diseases, cancer, low birth weight and serious birth defects are significantly higher in communities near mountaintop removal mine sites.

Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining that involves using heavy explosives to blast off the tops of mountains and dumping the resulting waste into nearby valleys, burying headwater streams. More than 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of streams have been destroyed in Central and Southern Appalachia by mountaintop removal mining. Numerous health and environmental issues have been linked with the radical form of mining in the region. is a project of The Alliance for Appalachia, which is made up of thirteen local, state and regional organizations across Appalachia working together to end mountaintop removal and create a prosperous future for the region.

To view “The Human Cost of Coal,” visit


To schedule interviews or obtain images and video b-roll, please contact

Activists Stage Protest, Attempt to Shut Down Operations at Coal Plant in Arden, N.C.

Monday, February 13th, 2012 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

Activists attached signs to the coal loader at the Progress Asheville Power Station early this morning

Please note: Community Meeting Being Held About The Dangers Of Coal This Wednesday at 6p.m. in Asheville at Posana’s Cafe. Click here to learn more.

GreenPeace is bringing the protest on coal pollution to North Carolina today (aka the #1 user of mountaintop removal mined coal), staging a protest at Duke Energy’s Lake Julian power plant in Arden, N.C.

Activists have reportedly secured themselves to the coal loader and conveyer to prevent coal from entering the facility and are planning to scale the 400-foot smoke stack to “send a message to both Progress Energy and Duke Energy that communities and the climate can’t wait for a renewable energy revolution.”

Our Red, White and Water Team is currently on the way to Asheville, so stay tuned for updates!

UPDATE 12:24 p.m.: According to an article by the Asheville Citizen-Times, as of 11:15 three climbers had reached two-thirds of the way up the 400-foot* smokestack. Sixteen activists are involved in the action, and according to a Greenpeace spokesperson some protestors have already been arrested.
(*note, 400ft number comes from Greenpeace Citizen-Times estimates the height at 300-feet)

UPDATE: Photos from Greenpeace’s action today include shots of the enormous banner hung from the 400-foot smoke stack at the Lake Julian power plant. According to an article by Mountain Xpress (which also has a great stop-action photo collage of the banner going up the smokestack), all activists have been arrested and the banner removed. See more pics on Greenpeace’s FlickR feed of the action.

In the meantime…


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40 Days of Prayer for the Mountains

Monday, December 5th, 2011 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

LEAF logoThe Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship’s 40 days of prayer for the mountains started on Dec. 2 and runs through Jan. 10. While primarily a Tennessee-based organization and action, anyone is invited to receive the emails and participate.

Visit LEAF’s website to learn more and to sign up for the daily prayer.

Delivering 30,000 Bottles of Water to KY Families with Contaminated Wells

Friday, August 19th, 2011 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | 1 Comment

Delivering Keeper Springs water to Kentucky familiesOn Thursday, Appalachian Voices and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth helped Keeper Springs Natural Spring Water delivered 30,000 bottles of water to thirteen Kentucky families in Pike County whose well water is contaminated with methane.

Earlier this year a well became contaminated with so much methane gas that it caught on fire. Residents say their well water flows black and orange sometimes and other times burns their skin. They reported the problem to government officials in May.

Four months have gone by and the residents still do not have a permanent source of clean, safe drinking water. Now Keeper Springs Natural Spring Water, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Appalachian Voices have stepped in to provide residents with a tractor-trailer load of bottled water.

Treesit on Coal River Mountain enters fourth week

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | No Comments

According to RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival), a treesit by Catherine-Ann MacDougal near the Bee Tree surface mine has entered its fourth week. MacDougal was joined for the first two weeks by another sitter, Becks Kolins. According to the press release, Kolins “descended to begin legal processing” and was charged with “conspiracy, trespassing, and littering and was released Tuesday on personal recognizance.”

According to RAMPS, this treesit is the longest in West Virginia history.

Visit for the full story.

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, 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

“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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