Posts Tagged ‘blair mountain’

Across the Years: Updates from the Archives

Friday, October 7th, 2016 - posted by interns

By Elizabeth E. Payne

For two decades, The Appalachian Voice has reported on environmental issues from across central and southern Appalachia. In honor of our 20th anniversary, we looked back through our archives to identify important topics that we’ve covered over the years and provide updates on where these issues stand today.

Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining’s Ongoing Impact in Appalachia

Mountaintop removal coal mining continues to threaten the mountains and rivers of Central Appalachia. This image of Kayford Mountain was taken in July 2014. Photo by Lynn Willis, courtesy of Appalachian Voices/Southwings

Mountaintop removal coal mining continues to threaten the mountains and rivers of Central Appalachia. This image of Kayford Mountain was taken in July 2014. Photo by Lynn Willis, courtesy of Appalachian Voices/Southwings

In our inaugural issue in Winter 1996, The Appalachian Voice ran its first story about mountaintop coal removal mining. In “A View From Kayford Mountain: ‘Seng, Ramps, And The Human Casualties of Burning Coal,” Mary Hufford wrote about a particularly destructive form of surface mining that would grow in scope over the coming years.

In Winter 2003, we once again covered the issue when Tiffany Hartung discussed the damage already being caused by a recently permitted mine on Zeb Mountain in an article called “Mountaintop Removal by any Other Name… Elk Valley residents voice concern as cross ridge mining comes to Tennessee.” For 10 years, community members and advocacy groups fought to stop this destruction, and in June 2013, we reported on their victory. After repeated violations to the Clean Water Act, a legal settlement ended mining on Zeb Mountain.

Mountaintop removal coal mining has destroyed more than 500 mountains and over one million acres in Central and Southern Appalachia to date. In recent years the pace of the mining has slowed, but the health risks to nearby communities remain significant. With many regional coal companies now going through bankruptcy, citizens and advocacy organizations are increasingly focused on ensuring that these sites are properly cleaned up and reclaimed.

Read more about the continued threat of mountaintop removal coal mining here.

Hemlocks Under Threat

The aphid-like woolly adelgid is devastating hemlock populations in the southern Appalachians, leaving behind gray ghosts like these in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Photo by Steve Norman, courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

The aphid-like woolly adelgid is devastating hemlock populations in the southern Appalachians, leaving behind gray ghosts like these in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Photo by Steve Norman, courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Hugh Irwin’s article, “Exotic Pest Invasion Threatens Many Tree Species,” in the Spring 1996 issue contained our first mention of the threat posed by the hemlock woolly adelgid. This non-native, aphid-like insect sucks the sap out of both the eastern and Carolina hemlocks and can damage or kill the trees within a few years.

Deborah Huso’s article, “Praying for a Good Predator: Biologists introduce beetles, try to save Eastern Hemlock,” in the Summer 2005 issue was one of several we’ve run over the years about the ongoing efforts to save the hemlock trees.

While the hemlock woolly adelgid is found across much of the eastern United States, its impact in the southern Appalachians has been profound. The U.S. Forest Service is combating this pest by introducing natural predators and insecticides that kill the woolly adelgid and looking for hybrid varieties of hemlocks that are more resistant to attack.

A recent study of hemlocks in North Carolina by U.S. Forest Service scientists found that once the trees are infested, more than 85 percent are dead within seven years.

A Haze Over the Great Smoky Mountains

Air pollution affects the visibility at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as evidenced by these images of clear versus hazy days. Photos courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service

Air pollution affects the visibility at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as evidenced by these images of clear versus hazy days. Photos courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service

The first issue of the publication in Winter 1996 was “partly devoted to the insidious, sometimes invisible problem of air pollution” — a topic that has been a regular theme since.

The Summer 2004 issue included a story by Matt Wasson and Harvard Ayers called “And the Winner Is… America’s Most Visited Park Is Also Its Most Polluted,” which covered air pollution in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At the time it was reported that, “Over the last five years, the Smokies have had more than 100 days when breathing is potentially dangerous due to excess ozone. Even healthy visitors and staff are warned to limit exertion of any kind on such days, including hiking and biking.”

While ozone levels remain elevated, according to the U.S. National Park Service no ozone health advisories were issued in 2013, the latest year for which records are available.

Still Cleaning Up Coal Ash

Our February/March 2009 issue focused on the disastrous coal ash spill that took place in Kingston, Tenn., on Dec. 22, 2008.

Our February/March 2009 issue focused on the disastrous coal ash spill that took place in Kingston, Tenn., on Dec. 22, 2008.

Following the catastrophic coal ash spill in late 2008 at Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant, the February/March 2009 issue of The Appalachian Voice was devoted to this disaster that brought the problem of coal ash to national attention. We have followed the topic closely ever since.

Nearly eight years later, toxic coal ash — waste leftover from burning coal — continues to poison the region. In Alabama, communities are struggling to deal with coal ash that was transported to the area after the 2008 Kingston spill. Subsequent disasters, such as the North Carolina’s Dan River spill in 2014, keep the issue in the spotlight.

In December 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released federal rules for disposing of coal ash, which environmental groups criticized as insufficient. Earlier that year, the N.C. General Assembly passed even stricter regulations, but many of the state’s guidelines have since been overturned. And in towns like Walnut Cove, N.C., toxic compounds are still leaching from neighboring coal ash impoundments into residents’ drinking water.

Protecting Migrating Birds


The cerulean warbler’s population is in steep decline. Conservationists are working to preserve its summer habitat throughout Appalachia. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Migratory birds took center stage in “Less Twittering in the Trees: Migratory Birds Show Alarming Population Declines,” an article from April/May 2009 by Kathleen McFadden that described how the loss of habitat, especially through forest fragmentation, was threatening populations of many migratory birds.

While many populations are still in decline, conservationists are hoping to reverse this trend. Appalachian Mountain Joint Ventures — a regional coalition of organizations and agencies working to conserve the habitat of migratory birds that was cited in the 2009 article — continues to partner with private landowners to protect the natural homes of at-risk birds.

In January 2015, the coalition was awarded federal funding for a five-year program to enhance the habitat of the cerulean warbler. This program includes funding to manage and improve 12,500 acres of forest land and 1,000 acres of reclaimed mine land in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio and Maryland.

Battle to Save Blair Mountain

Blair protest

In June 2011, environmental activists gathered for the March on Blair Mountain in an effort to save the historic site from destruction from mountaintop removal coal mining.

The largest labor uprising in American history took place in late August and early September, 1921, on Blair Mountain in southern West Virginia. At that time, thousands of miners joined forces to fight for better treatment and the right to unionize.

In the Summer 2005 issue, Denise Giardina wrote an article called “The Battle of Blair Mountain… Revisited” about the ongoing struggle to save the archaeological remains of the battle from destruction by mountaintop removal coal mining.

After years of victories and defeats for conservationists, for now it seems the site will be preserved. On July 26, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior dropped its appeal of an earlier case, paving the way for the site to be returned the National Register of Historic Places, which will add some protection to the battlefield.

Passing on the Pipelines

pipeline map

The East Coast is crossed by natural gas pipelines. Blue indicates existing pipelines, other colors are proposed pipelines. Map by Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition.

The expansion of natural gas pipelines into the Appalachian region was first mentioned in the Late Summer 2003 issue. In “Passing on the Patriot Pipeline: Duke Power Criss-Crossing New River Watershed,” Lynn Caldwell and Jeffrey Scott wrote of their fight to block a pipeline already under construction.

By the next year, the Patriot Extension was fully operational. The 95-mile pipeline is now operated by Spectra Energy, a spin-off company of Duke Energy, and extends from one natural gas pipeline in Wythe County, Va., to another pipeline in Rockingham County, N.C.

On July 23, more than 600 people gathered in Richmond, Va., for the “March on the Mansion” to ask Gov. Terry McAuliffe to stand against proposed pipelines in the state.

On July 23, more than 600 people gathered in Richmond, Va., for the “March on the Mansion” to ask Gov. Terry McAuliffe to stand against proposed pipelines in the state.

Since then, natural gas infrastructure has expanded across Appalachia, and so has our coverage. Today, community members and environmental groups, including Appalachian Voices, are fighting to block the construction of two more proposed lines — the Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast Pipelines, in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. For the latest, read more here.

In Bankruptcy, Patriot Coal Creates its Legacy | Sacrificing a Historic Landmark to Coal

Friday, October 19th, 2012 - posted by molly

In Bankruptcy, Patriot Coal Creates its Legacy

By Brian Sewell

Concerns over how Patriot Coal will meet its commitments to generations of retirees have rippled throughout Appalachia. When the St. Louis-based spin-off of Peabody Coal filed for bankruptcy in July, it cited “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs” owed to retirees and beneficiaries as factors. Now, with their benefits on the line, many former employees worry that Patriot might have been created to fail.

Retirees and union representatives have said they believe that parent company Peabody planned to saddle Patriot with less-valuable Appalachian coal assets and the “unsustainable legacy costs” in question. United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts called Patriot a “house of cards” created by Peabody to “get out of its obligation to pay for the pensions and health care of thousands of people who spent their lives working for Peabody.”

At the time of its formation, nearly two-thirds of Patriot’s workers were represented by the United Mine Workers of America and many of its mines were union operations. Provisions in the Federal Mine Health and Safety Act include funding of health benefits for UMWA retirees. Under bankruptcy law, commitments to shareholders are paid first; legacy costs to employees come from any remaining assets and often are not paid in full.

While Patriot has attempted to assure that its obligations will be met, the debt-addled company made clear in official bankruptcy documents that a return to long-term viability depends on its “ability to achieve savings with respect to these liabilities.” The UMWA, along with the U.S. Trustee, is asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley C. Chapman to move the case from New York to West Virginia, where the majority of Patriot’s mines are located.

In July, during an act of civil disobedience led by the group Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival, dozens of protesters trespassed onto Patriot’s Hobet Mine Complex in Raleigh County, W.Va. The group focused their efforts on exposing Patriot’s obligations, pointing out that UMWA pensions are funded through a per-ton tax on coal, and “in the middle of a projected six-year, 50 percent decline in production, this funding stream is increasingly unsustainable.”

Lou Martin, a professor at Chatham University, wrote an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette reflecting on the protest and its goals. “The real struggle is not between the tree huggers and the miners. It is between the people and the outside corporations that will exploit the land and the people and leave nothing behind, not even pensions.”

Sacrificing a Historic Landmark to Coal

In 1921, a bloody rebellion led by thousands of miners attempting to unionize played out over a week on Blair Mountain in southern West Virginia. The Spruce Fork Ridge battlefield is one of the most significant historic landmarks in Appalachia, but on Oct. 2, a federal judge dismissed an appeal by a coalition of groups seeking to restore the site’s listing on The National Register of Historic Places to protect it from mountaintop removal. Judge Reggie B. Walton explained his decision to dismiss the case by saying that, even if Blair Mountain’s listing been restored, it would not prevent mining from occurring “should the coal mining companies who own existing permits choose to exercise their rights afforded by the permits.” The battle remains the largest armed American rebellion since the Civil War, and Blair Mountain is treated as an archeological site by researchers and historians. The site became listed as a historic landmark in 2009 before it was removed from the list due to pressure from coal companies eager to conduct surface mining operations on the mountain.

Big Coal Wins Latest Battle to Blast Historic Blair Mountain

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 - posted by matt

Is nothing sacred to coal companies in Appalachia?

March on Blair Mountain

In a jaw-dropping display of contempt and disregard for the communities and landscapes where they mine coal, three coal companies back in 2009 challenged the listing of West Virginia’s Blair Mountain on the National Register of Historic Places. The companies, including mining behemoths Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, opposed the listing of Blair Mountain as a historic site because it could interfere with their plans to conduct mountaintop removal mining operations on the Spruce Fork Ridge battlefield, site of the “largest organized armed uprising in American labor history,” and the most important historic landmark in Central Appalachia.

The 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain was the culmination of a three-year struggle to unionize the coal mines of southern West Virginia and ended only when federal troops intervened on behalf of anti-union coal companies. There are few sites as significant as Blair Mountain that commemorate the brave men and women who laid down their lives for a movement that has brought Americans everything from the weekend to child labor laws to the largest and most prosperous middle class the world has ever seen. (more…)

Concerned Citizens Dispute Water Quality Study

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 - posted by jamie

The Whitesville, W.Va.-based Sludge Safety Project is claiming that a recent study of the water quality in an area of Boone County by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection used flawed research methods, contains errors and misinterprets its own data.

In January, the WVDEP completed a year-long study that found that drinking water supplies in the area surrounding Prenter Hollow were not coal-mining impacted. Residents of Prenter have complained of “blackwater” events and contamination that they believe is the result of injecting coal slurry into abandoned underground mines.

WVDEP commissioned Triad Engineering to conduct the year-long study of the geology and hydrology of the area, interview impacted residents and examine samples from domestic wells.

A week before the WVDEP study was released, the Sludge Safety Project rallied at the state Capitol to share results of independent studies concluding that coal slurry contaminated Prenter residents’ water. In 2008, Prenter residents filed a lawsuit against a group of coal companies claiming that underground slurry injection from a Massey Energy coal facility and other coal preparation plants contaminated their underground water supply.

The Battle For Blair Mountain Continues

With new reports of heavy equipment activity on Blair Mountain, residents are growing increasingly concerned that Arch Coal could begin strip mining the historic site of the 1921 battle for coal miners’ rights.

In February, Arch Coal announced record profits for the fourth quarter of 2011. One of the nation’s largest coal producers, Arch has four planned operations on Blair Mountain, some of which intrude onto the historic battlefield.

Supporters are exploring new ways to protect the mountain. The Blair Community Center and Museum, a non-profit organization located in Logan County, W Va., opened in the fall of 2011 to promote and preserve the history of Blair Mountain and educate the public on the environmental destruction caused by strip mining on the mountain.

The Community Center and Museum is currently running a special fundraising campaign for improvements to the museum building — including much-needed roof repair and a heating system — and to enhance the museum’s collection, including showcases, frames and important museum pieces. Future projects the center hopes to pursue include converting the building to solar power and constructing a community garden greenhouse.

The Blair Mountain Community Center and Museum has a goal of reaching $10,000 by the end of April. Visit, to learn more.

Blair Community Center and Museum Needs Your Support

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 - posted by Madison

If you’ve ever heard of Blair Mountain, you know the turmoil it has been through in the last several decades. Now this historic mountain and its battlegrounds are being threatened by surface strip mining. That’s why the Blair Community Center and Museum needs your support!

The Blair Community Center and Museum is a nonprofit organization working to promote and preserve the history of Blair Mountain. Established in the fall of 2011, the Community Center and Museum has been working to reach out to those unaware of environmental destruction caused by strip mining of Blair Mountain. Despite their tireless efforts, they simply do not have the funds to allow the organization to grow.

The Blair Community Center and Museum sits at the base of historic Blair Mountain in Logan County, WV

The Community Center and Museum is currently working in a large church, which they use as an office, community center and museum. It has a leaky roof, poor heating, and there is no drinkable water nearby. They also need to improve their museum by adding showcases, frames and important museum pieces.

The Blair Mountain Community Center and Museum has a goal of reaching $10,000 by the end of April. The projects, of course, will cost more than the goal they have set for themselves, but this money would aid in planting the seed to get them going.

Blair Mountain, located in Logan County, WV, was once the site of one of the nation’s largest labor conflict, the Battle of Blair Mountain. This battle was only five days long, but was heavily equipped with machine guns, explosives and an estimate of over one million rounds of ammunition.

More than 15,000 coal miners gathered in Charleston, WV, in an attempt to overthrow the control barons of the coal mining companies. Little did they know that a private army led by the Logan County Sheriff and coal operators were awaiting their arrival.

Though the battle was almost a century ago, it is not taught in schools and many people may not have even heard of it.

So please help our friends of Blair Community Center and Museum as they continue their fight to save this historical place they’ve called home for centuries.

To find out more information about this project or to donate, visit:

Blair Mountain Community Center and Museum Opens

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 - posted by jeff

A note from Chuck Keeney, Secretary of the Friends of Blair Mountain:

Since the “March on Blair Mountain: Appalachia is Rising” event, some coal industry executives have claimed that if our preservation efforts succeed and Blair Mountain is spared from mountaintop removal, the “fabric of the community” will be destroyed. We at Friends of Blair Mountain disagree and are putting our words into action.

On September 4, we held the grand opening of the Blair Mountain Community Center and Museum. Located two miles north of the historic battlefield, the facility will serve as a catalyst for community revitalization, education and historic preservation. In addition to museum exhibits, we plan to offer a coal heritage archive for research, a library of relevant books, music collection and films. There will be space for musical performances, activist gatherings, workshops, history tours and some good ole’ Appalachian gatherings of fellowship and fun.

The Blair Mountain Community Center and Museum is a place to display the pride of Appalachian culture and the depth of coalfield heritage while building a healthier, cleaner and more economically diverse Appalachia.

For more information or to learn about how you can help our grassroots efforts, go to or call our Community Center and Museum staff at (304) 369-9800

You can also read the press release here.

Guest Blogger: Chuck Keeney – What’s next for Blair Mountain

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - posted by jeff

Cross posted from

C. Belmont Keeney, or Chuck as most people know him, has a Ph.D. in Appalachian and American History from West Virginia University. His great grandfather, Frank Keeney, was president of the United Mine Workers of America and helped organized the Miners March in 1921. Chuck was one of the principle organizers of the June 2011 March on Blair Mountain.

Since Chuck is an active board member of Friends of Blair Mountain, we asked him to summarize last month’s march and tell us what’s next for Blair Mountain:

Two weeks after the June 2011 March on Blair Mountain, I accompanied Brandon Nida, a doctoral candidate in archeology at U.C. Berkeley and a good friend, on a day long trip back to the community of Blair. It was a Sunday, overcast and rainy, unlike the sunny mid-ninety degree temperatures under which we marched a couple of weeks before. Everyone who marched remembers the heat. But on this day, Brandon and I drove a nice, air conditioned car down 119 South to Six Mile Road and then winded down the curvy Route 17 through the mountains and into Logan County. To be honest, it is difficult to describe what I felt as we drove by so many familiar sights along portions of the March route. We passed by a lovely country home where, during the March, an old lady invited us to stop and eat lunch. As it turned out, this lady was the granddaughter of a woman who fed the miners during the 1921 March and we found ourselves resting under the shade of the very trees where rebellious miners had been ninety years before. We passed by homes where people applauded us and homes where people reviled us. I have lived my entire life in West Virginia, spent years studying the history of Appalachia, and yet I think I only truly saw my home for the first time from June 6-11, 2011 when hundreds of activists and concerned citizens marched the fifty miles from Marmet to Blair Mountain, West Virginia.

The story of the March itself is different for everyone who participated in it. Much has already been written about it as the people begin to tell their stories. No doubt, much more will be written, and I look forward to seeing what tales emerge from this memorable event. For myself, suffice it for the moment to say, I met many incredible people, formed friendships, and renewed some old ones, which have changed my life in ways I never would have anticipated before. I have met union miners, proud mountaineers, environmentalists, lawyers, scholars, and even people who believed so greatly in the justice of our cause that they crossed oceans in order to make their voices heard. To say that the march has been inspiring is an understatement. But in spite of the profound experience of the march and the attention that we have received around the nation and even the world, Blair Mountain is still in danger and we still have to save it. So as I drove from Charleston to Blair with Brandon and revisited so many places burned into my memory, one overarching question emerged:

What do we do now?


[VIDEO EXTRA]: Jimmy Weekley, Paul Corbit Brown, and Blair Mountain

Friday, July 15th, 2011 - posted by jeff

1,000 Rednecks Marched on Blair Mountain!

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 - posted by jeff

The following email was sent to the 51,000+ supporters of To sign up to receive free email alerts, click here.

Just a few weeks ago citizens of Blair, WV climbed to the crest of Blair Mountain with over 1,000 new allies. Movement leaders from surrounding states, union workers, students, archaeologists, activists, and friends from neighboring counties and across the country all came together for Appalachia Rising: March on Blair Mountain.

This rally, this stand, was the culmination of a week long march to save the historic Blair Mountain, end mountaintop removal, strengthen labor rights, and demand sustainable jobs for all of central Appalachia. Click here to see footage of the march!

300 marched the 50 miles through the 100 degree heat to meet another 700 on top of Blair Mountain. Thousands joined us for a virtual march online, and across the nation, people heard our stories from over 300 articles covering the march.

We are proud to have been a part of this historic event with you, it would have not been possible without the growing grassroots presence around the US supporting these efforts. See the video here.

This week opens new doors in Blair and new doors for our movement. We have shown that we can struggle through intimidation, we can forge new alliances, we can overcome obstacles and that we will be stronger in the end.

Let’s move forward together! More details on the event and what’s next for Blair can be found at and

Thank you for your continued dedication: what we accomplished with the March on Blair is representative of what we are doing throughout the entire region impacted by mountaintop removal, and we couldn’t do that without you!

For the mountains,

Matt Wasson