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.

Breaking News: Coal ash spills into Lake Michigan

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 | Posted by Jamie Goodman | 4 Comments

Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Sentinel Journal

Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Sentinel Journal

In a bizarre concidence on the heels of an EPA update on hazardous coal ash ponds in the U.S., a coal ash dam a cliff wall on a coal ash pond a bluff wall containing backfilled coal ash in Wisconsin broke collapsed yesterday, spilling as yet unreported amounts of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan.

A pickup truck and several construction trailers were pushed into the lake when a football-field sized section of cliff at the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant in Oak Creek, Wis., gave way. According to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Sentinel-Journal, the debris field stretched 120 yards long and up to 80 yards wide at the bottom. No one was hurt in the slide.

We Energies erected a boom and were scheduled to begin skimming fuel and floating debris from the surface of the lake this afternoon or early Wednesday.

According to an Associate Press story today, a We Energies spokeswoman said the landslide “likely contains coal ash.”

To read more:

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 rampscampaign.org 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 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.



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