Supreme Court Rejects Spruce Mine Mountaintop Removal Case

Monday, March 24th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

sprucemap3 The U.S. Supreme Court says it won’t consider the case of Mingo Logan Coal Co. v. EPA, a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to veto mountaintop removal permits. In this case, the permits in question are for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 — the largest mountaintop removal project ever proposed in West Virginia. [ More ]

The Deadline is Set for EPA Coal Ash Rule

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 | Posted by Amy Adams | No Comments

coalashTVA By the end of this year, the EPA will finally publish the first-ever federal rule regulating the disposal of coal ash. The agency’s December 19 deadline is the result of a settlement reached today in a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice, representing Appalachian Voices, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and other groups. The law, strong science and good public policy all support regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste. Will the EPA stand up for environmental and public health? [ More ]

Fighting for Clean Water in Virginia: Standing up to Coal Industry Bullies

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | 2 Comments

944745_10100206520223687_1797773733_n Today, Appalachian Voices along with our allies in Virginia filed a lawsuit against Penn Virginia, for water polluted by selenium coming from abandoned mines on their land. This lawsuit is one in a series of suits aimed at cleaning up selenium pollution in Callahan Creek. [ More ]

The West Virginia Chemical Spill: A Warning for North Carolina

Monday, January 20th, 2014 | Posted by Amy Adams | 1 Comment

WVclosedshop There is a lesson in West Virginia’s water crisis for North Carolina policymakers and regulatory agencies akin to the saying that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If you look at the changes to and by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2013 and the path ahead in 2014, the General Assembly seems resolved to run headlong down a shortsighted path that will lead to the same inevitable consequences. [ More ]

The Gap Between Environmental Protection and DENR’s Skewed Self-perception

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

Vacant responses to public criticism do nothing to lessen the disappointment of a vocal public demanding a safe environment With the management of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources' penchant for self-praise, the future must seem pretty bright. But beyond the narrative contrived in media releases, public criticism and displays of distrust in the agency’s direction have become commonplace in North Carolina’s largest newspapers and media outlets. And it’s making North Carolina’s environmental community stronger. [ More ]

For Patriot Coal, Ending Mountaintop Removal is a “Win-Win”

Thursday, December 26th, 2013 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

join_movt_mtr_sq A little more than a year ago, Patriot Coal announced it would phase out its use of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia as part of a settlement with environmental groups over selenium pollution. Taken at face value, statements made at that time by Patriot’s CEO Bennett Hatfield held promise that the movement against mountaintop removal, focused on exposing the poor economics as well as the irreversible environmental impacts of the destructive practice, had reached a pivotal turning point. [ More ]

A Watched EPA Never Acts: 5 Years After the TVA Coal Ash Disaster

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Amy Adams | No Comments

coalashTVA

It has been five years since the TVA Coal Ash disaster in Tennessee, which sent 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash into Emory and Clinch rivers. While the nation has watched and petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the agency responsible for issuing federal standards for coal ash disposal, little action has been taken. Perhaps this is similar to the old adage that says “a watched pot never boils.”

[ More ]

Appalachia’s Economic Transition is Underway: Three Broad Strategies to Get Us There

Friday, November 15th, 2013 | Posted by Guest Contributor | 1 Comment

{ Editor’s Note } Anthony Flaccavento is a regional leader in sustainable agriculture, local foods and their overlap with economic development. This is the second part of a post on building a stronger regional economy in Appalachia. Click here to read the first part.

"What’s needed is not a dilution of our commitment to the environment or social justice, but an expansion of our strategy to include working folks and their needs and concerns as central to our efforts," Anthony Flaccavento writes about strategies to make real progress on strengthening Appalachia's economy. Photo by Jessica Kennedy

“What’s needed is not a dilution of our commitment to the environment or social justice, but an expansion of our strategy to include working folks, and their needs and concerns as central to our efforts,” Anthony Flaccavento writes about strategies to make real progress on strengthening Appalachia’s economy. Photo by Jessica Kennedy.

Last week, I briefly described three key questions to frame the discussion about economic transition in Appalachia and around the nation:

1. Is the economy for people, or are people for the economy?
2. What is the proper role of government, the right balance between the ‘public sector’ and ‘the market’?
3. How do we live within our means, cultivating more widely shared prosperity, with less energy, waste and dependency?

In this second part to last week’s post, I’ll suggest three strategies I believe to be essential to making real progress on economic transition that builds greater prosperity, self-reliance and ecological sustainability. As someone whose work focuses on the details of economic diversification and transition, my perspective here is deliberately broad in hopes of providing some guidance applicable across sectors, communities and regions.

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Of Loincloths and Lean-Tos: The Fight To Protect NC’s Water

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

According to N.C. DENR Secretary John Skvarla, if you love clean air and water, here's the dress code.

According to N.C. DENR Secretary John Skvarla, if you love clean air and water, this is your dress code.

Out of the many things that were targeted in the North Carolina legislature, water quality took a huge hit. Not only did the state budget call for the consolidation of the Division of Water Quality and Division of Water Resources, it slashed the two agencies combined budget by more than 12 percent.

And there is the curious case of John Skvarla, the secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources who has derided his own agency as an “eco-enforcer” before he came onboard.

At a luncheon for the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank, he claimed to not have a position on climate change since he’s not a scientist, and stated that if environmentalists had their way, “we would live in lean-tos and wear loincloths.”

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House Votes to Block EPA on Coal Ash

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 | Posted by Thom Kay | 3 Comments

States have consistenty failed to protect water resources from toxic coal ash. But the U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill to prevent the EPA from doing anything about it.

States have consistenty failed to protect water resources from toxic coal ash. But the U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill to prevent the EPA from doing anything about it.

This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2218, a bill that strips the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate coal ash. The bill fails to protect human health and the environment from the unsafe disposal of toxic coal ash waste.

The bill’s supporters, led by bill author Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), continue to claim that the bill provides “minimum federal standards” while keeping states in the driver’s seat in regulating coal ash disposal. They even claim that states know best, and have done a good job so far. This is most certainly not the case, and state failures are well documented.

The bill’s true purpose is to stop the EPA from classifying coal ash as a hazardous material and implementing federal regulations to govern its disposal. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) repeatedly said of amendments that increased EPA oversight of state programs that they would “undercut” the purpose of the bill. In other words, the bill was not passed to ensure the safety of coal ash disposal sites or to protect human health and the environment. The only thing it accomplishes is stopping the EPA from creating a rule that the coal and utility industries would not like.

We will now turn to the U.S. Senate and work to ensure that it does not take up the bill, but instead supports the EPA’s authority and mandate to protect human health and the environment with enforceable federal standards.

How did your representative vote?

The Environment on The Hill: Congress Continues to Undermine Essential Protections

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Posted by Thom Kay | 1 Comment

Rep. Jared Huffman asks fellow members of the House Energy and Mineral Subcommittee: “Why should we be allowing mountaintop removal mining to bury hundreds of miles of Appalachian streams, destroy mountain towns, and threaten people in the region with cancer, lung and heart disease?”

Rep. Jared Huffman asks his fellow committee members “Why should we be allowing mountaintop removal mining to bury hundreds of miles of Appalachian streams, destroy mountain towns, and threaten people in the region with cancer, lung and heart disease?”

Yesterday was a busy day on Capitol Hill. With multiple hearings on environmental issues in the House and Senate, Congress is trying to get a lot of business done before the August recess.

House Natural Resources Committee Questions OSM Director Pizarchik

Joseph Pizarchik, Director of the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement (OSM) was questioned by the members of the Energy and Mineral Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee. The hearing was supposedly focused on the “war on jobs” and the Stream Buffer Zone rule rewrite.

The Bush administration changed the Stream Buffer Zone rule in 2008 to make it easier for coal companies to dump mining waste into Appalachian streams, and among many others, we have been fighting to get OSM to write a stronger rule ever since. The good news is that OSM is indeed in the process of creating a new rule, the Stream Protection Rule. The bad news is that they’ve been working on it for four years and don’t expect it to be released until next year at some time. We also don’t know how strong the rule will be.

Meanwhile, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) of the energy subcommittee has called Pizarchik to the Hill about a half-dozen times to criticize the rulemaking process. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) even criticized the rule, certain that it will cost “thousands of jobs.” Any claims of job killing are based on paranoid assumptions. After all, OSM has not even released a first draft of a rule.

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Court Victory for Clean Water in Kentucky: The Battle Continues

Friday, July 19th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Acidic mine water being discharged from one of Frasure Creek’s Kentucky coal mines

Last week, an attempt by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet to toss concerned citizens out of court failed.

Judge Phillip Shepherd denied a motion to dismiss our challenge of a settlement between Frasure Creek Mining and the cabinet. Appalachian Voices and our partners KFTC, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, will now be allowed to proceed with our argument that the settlement should be vacated.

In October of 2010, we filed a Notice of Intent to Sue Frasure Creek for submitting false water monitoring data. Frasure Creek and the cabinet reached a settlement for those violations, but it has not been approved by the court. Before that, the data Frasure Creek submitted to the state never showed any violations. After our legal action, they switched labs and began showing hundreds of water quality violations every month.

We attempted to sue Frasure Creek for these subsequent violations, but the cabinet filed a complaint in state administrative court for the same violations. We intervened and became full parties to that case, but then a slap on the wrist settlement was entered between Frasure Creek and the cabinet completely without our consent. Our current challenge to this settlement is based on the fact that we are full parties in the case yet we had no say in the settlement’s creation.

The cabinet attempted to get our challenge thrown out because they claimed that we did not follow proper procedures when we filed it, but the judge dismissed their arguments. Now, the cabinet must respond to the substance of our challenge.

>> Click here to read the ruling
>> Click here to read more about this challenge
>> Click here for more information on our Kentucky Litigation

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