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

Lisa Jackson comes to Durham, N.C.

Monday, December 5th, 2011 | Posted by Molly Moore | No Comments

UPDATED: View live footage of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s speech and Q-and-A at Duke University.


Attention, Raleigh/Durham area residents! EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will be speaking at Duke University on Tuesday, Dec. 6. Come out and tell your friends! If you’re interested in asking questions at the event and would like to speak with an Appalachian Voices staff member about the issues, email

The following release was distributed by the Nicholas School of the Environment.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Speak at Duke, Dec. 6.

Dec 06, 2011
from 01:00 PM to 02:15 PM
Reynolds Auditorium, Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, a member of President Obama’s cabinet, will discuss current EPA policies and recent Congressional challenges to environmental laws in a conversation at Duke University’s Reynolds Theater at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6.

The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Advance tickets are available at the Duke box office in the Bryan University Center.

Jackson’s talk is the 2011 Duke Environment and Society Lecture, sponsored by the Nicholas School of the Environment.

A Q&A with audience members will follow. Advance questions can be submitted to The event will be streamed live at

“A hallmark of Lisa Jackson‘s tenure has been her unwavering commitment to give all stakeholders a voice in the decision-making process,” says William L. Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School. “We are honored that she is making time to speak to members of the Duke community, meet with our students, and share her vision.”

Jackson, the first African-American to serve as EPA administrator, was named one of Newsweek’s “Most Important People in 2010” and was included in Time magazine’s 2010 and 2011 lists of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” Jackson, who leads a staff of 18,000 professionals, has pledged to focus on core issues: protecting air and water quality, reducing greenhouse gases, and preventing exposure to toxic contamination in communities. She has promised that EPA’s efforts will follow the best science, adhere to the rule of law, and be implemented with unparalleled transparency.

The Dec. 6 talk is part of a series instituted in 2009 by Chameides to bring to Duke major thought leaders to speak on environmental topics of significant social import. Past speakers have included former Vice President Al Gore Jr. and energy visionary Amory Lovins.

Reynolds Theater is in the Bryan Center. Ticketed overflow seating with live video will be in Griffith Theater. Paid parking is available in the Bryan Center deck. There are charges associated with online ticket reservation and will call through the Duke box office.


Friday, November 18th, 2011 | Posted by Molly Moore | 1 Comment

Appalachian Voices issued the following press release today.

Increased federal oversight of mountaintop removal coal mining corresponds with jobs increase, data shows

BOONE, N.C. – House Republicans continue to claim that federal oversight of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia threatens domestic coal production and coal mining jobs in Appalachia, but new government data points to an opposite trend.

Data recently released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration show that the number of jobs at Appalachian coal mines in the first three quarters of 2011 is at its highest level since 1997. In contrast to previous predictions by coal industry supporters, the number of miners in Appalachia has increased by six percent since the Obama Administration announced plans to strengthen the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s scrutiny of mountaintop removal permits in June 2009.

Since the April 2010 issuance of an interim guidance on surface mine permitting in Appalachia by the EPA, the number of Appalachian miners has grown by 10 percent.

“What these data show is that strengthened enforcement of mine safety and environmental rules is creating jobs in Appalachia, not destroying them” said Dr. Matt Wasson, program director for regional environmental organization Appalachian Voices. “The opposition of coal companies to any and all regulations to protect the safety of workers and communities near their mines is really about profits — specifically, that they will be forced to spend more on workers at the expense of shareholder dividends.”

On Friday Nov. 18, House Republicans held the 15th House hearing this year aimed at promoting the idea that government regulation of surface mining leads to fewer mining jobs. The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing involved legislation introduced by Representative Bill Johnson (R-OH) called the “Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act.” Johnson’s bill would stop the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from rewriting the federal stream buffer zone rule. But the bill would also greatly restrict OSMRE’s ability to regulate coal mines by prohibiting the agency from taking any actions that would reduce coal mine employment, reduce the amount of coal available for mining, consumption, or export, or designate an area as unsuitable for surface mining techniques such as mountaintop removal.

Some members of Congress have claimed that deregulation of coal mining is necessary to increase domestic coal production. But, according to Federal Reserve data released Nov. 17, the capacity of active and permitted coal mines is the highest it has been in 25 years. At the same time, the utilization of coal mine capacity thus far in 2011 is the lowest it has been in 25 years.

“The idea of a ‘Permitorium’ on coal mine permitting that House Republicans are pushing out is completely and demonstrably false,” said Wasson. “So is the idea that coal production in the U.S. is constrained by permits in any way. It’s entirely constrained by demand for coal.”

Mountaintop removal is a destructive form of surface mining that removes the tops of mountains to access thin seams of coal. Much of the remaining rubble is dumped in adjacent valleys, burying and poisoning valuable headwater streams with what is called a “valley fill.”

Appalachian Mine Jobs 2002 - 2011Q3

View more supporting data here:

Deadline for Appalachian Mountain Photo Competition Nears

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 | Posted by Molly Moore | No Comments

Photographers, don’t waste any time in submitting your favorite photos of the year to the ninth annual Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition! The deadline is 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18.

Megan Naylor’s “Reflecting on Mountains Lost” won the Our Ecological Footprint category of the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition in 2011. Her shot depicts Larry Gibson looking out onto the mountaintop removal site near his home on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia.

The Our Ecological Footprint category was conceived by Appalachian Voices as a way to encourage photographers to examine the influence our society has on the physical world around us. Past finalists submitted photos of the devastation of mountaintop removal, coal ash spills, and clear-cutting. But humanity doesn’t always leave a scar on the natural world. Other finalists submitted photos of a fly-fisherman enjoying the once-polluted Doe River and a horse-drawn cart practicing low-impact logging.

This year, Mast General Store has joined Appalachian Voices in sponsoring the Our Ecological Footprint category, which raised this category’s prize to $500.

Other categories include: Best in Show; Blue Ridge Parkway – A Ribbon of Road; People’s Choice; Culture; Adventure; Flora and Fauna, and Landscape. In total, $4,000-worth of cash and prizes is available to winners of the eight categories.

Visit the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition website for more information, and read our past blog.

Rally this Wednesday to Keep Ison Rock Ridge Standing!

Monday, November 14th, 2011 | Posted by Molly Moore | No Comments

The following is a press advisory from the Wise Energy for Virginia coalition, of which Appalachian Voices is a member.

Citizens rally to stop a Virginia mountain from being blown up for coal
Virginians call on EPA, White House to end mountaintop removal coal mining

Who: Concerned residents from Wise County in far Southwest Virginia, some of whom live at the base of Ison Rock Ridge, Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition, Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, Earthjustice, D.C. area citizens.

Where: EPA Headquarters, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday Nov.16, 12 – 1 p.m.

For more information: Visit

On Wednesday Nov. 16, citizens from the coalfields of Virginia are traveling to Washington, D.C. to rally at the EPA headquarters to call on the agency to deny a mountaintop removal coal mining permit for an iconic Virginia mountain.

The event, called Virginia Rising: The Rally to Keep Ison Rock Ridge Standing, is focused on a pending surface coal mining permit to destroy Ison Rock Ridge, a mountain in Wise County, Va.. Wise County residents and members of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition, and several other groups are calling on the EPA and the White House to block the Ison Rock permit and protect the five surrounding communities of over 2,000 residents.

Mountaintop removal coal mining has permanently destroyed nearly 70 mountains in Virginia alone and more than 500 mountains across Appalachia. Recent studies have linked mountaintop removal to increased cancer rates and birth defects in Appalachian communities. The state of Virginia has granted A&G Coal company permission to strip mine 1,200 acres of Ison Rock Ridge and bury three miles of streams in the process. The EPA is currently considering approval.

Shooting our Ecological Footprint

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 | Posted by Molly Moore | No Comments

Beauty isn’t limited to blue skies. Sometimes a photograph can capture the resilience of a besieged hemlock or the bleak gray of a mountaintop removal site and reveal beauty in the midst of ecological turmoil.

With that in mind, Appalachian Voices is again sponsoring the Our Ecological Footprint category of the ninth annual Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition. This year, Mast General Store joined Appalachian Voices in sponsoring this category. As a result, the winner’s prize for Our Ecological Footprint submissions is now $500.

Megan Naylor’s “Reflecting on Mountains Lost” won the Our Ecological Footprint category of the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition in 2011. Her shot depicts Larry Gibson looking out onto the mountaintop removal site near his home on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia.

“The Our Ecological Footprint category encourages photographers to document threats to Appalachian ecosystems,” says Willa Mays, executive director of Appalachian Voices. “As a society, we have had a visible effect on the landscape.”

Though only photographers have a shot at the prize money, the AMPC competition is as much about the public as it is about the artists. Works selected for exhibition will be put on display at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts in Boone, N.C., and the public will have nearly two months to view the exhibit and cast their votes for the annual People’s Choice award in February 2012.

Other award categories include: Best in Show; Blue Ridge Parkway; People’s Choice; Culture; Adventure; Flora and Fauna, and Landscape. All submissions are due by 5 p.m. Nov. 18.

The photography competition is a partnership between Appalachian State University Outdoor Programs, Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. AMPC is made possible through the sponsorship of Boone-area businesses, particularly Virtual Blue Ridge and Mast General Store. Other contributors to AMPC’s $4,000 prize pool include the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Footsloggers Outdoor and Travel Outfitters, and Appalachian Voices.

Since it began in 2002, the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition has grown in size and prestige. Last year, there were 600 submissions, and the exhibit was viewed in person by more than 10,000 people at the Turchin Center for Visual Arts.

Visit the photography competition’s website here.

United for America’s Arctic

Friday, September 16th, 2011 | Posted by Molly Moore | No Comments

Appalachian Voices is proud to join 50 co-signers on a statement issued by United for America’s Arctic. We recognize the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as critical habitat for polar bears and marine mammals such as endangered bowhead whales, walrus and seals. Similar to the mountains and streams of Appalachia, the Arctic’s national treasures are worthy of protection.

Alarmingly, Shell Oil is moving closer to beginning a two-year offshore drilling program in the Arctic Ocean next summer. This comes as Shell Oil faces criticism in the UK for failing to promptly report an August oil spill in the North Sea. Shell is seeking federal approval of its Arctic oil-spill response plan despite their plan’s failure to adequately address sea ice and severe weather conditions.

For example, Shell admits that they cannot safely or effectively respond to a spill that occurs more than 21 days into the Arctic drilling season (July to October). This means a well rupture in August could contaminate the Arctic unchecked until ice melts in June.

As stated by United for America’s Arctic,

“A major oil spill in the Arctic Ocean would be impossible to clean up and could have enormous consequences for the region’s communities and ecosystems. During the winter months, the Arctic seas are covered with ice and are not navigable by oil spill response ships. If a spill started as winter ice sets in, the oil could continue to gush into the sea and under the ice for eight long months. Cleanup in the Arctic would be hampered by sea ice, extreme cold, hurricane-strength storms and pervasive fog. The nearest Coast Guard facilities are nearly 1,000 miles away, and there is no port in the Arctic capable of serving large response vessels.”

Learn more about Shell Oil’s dangerous plans for the Arctic Ocean here, and read United for America’s Arctic’s full statement.