Across Appalachia

South Carolina: USC Opens World’s Largest “Green Dorm”

This semester, USC officials and students are celebrating the official opening of South Carolina’s “green dorm,” the largest residence-hall complex of its kind in the world.

The “West Quad” complex was built with the hope that “[students] will realize that comfort and ‘green’ are not mutually exclusive,” says USC Housing Director Dr. Gene Luna.

Built with a significant amount of recycled materials ranging from the cement blocks to the interior carpet, the West Quad uses 45% less energy and 20% less water than similarly sized traditional dorms.

Dr. Luna says he is particularly proud that West Quad, which cost $30.9 million, was built for the same cost as a traditional residence hall, debunking the myth that building green costs more. Furthermore, he says, “We will be operating the complex with significantly reduced utility costs.”

“With West Quad, we’ve again positioned the University of South Carolina as a leader for the state and region on an important issue — sustainable development,” said USC President Andrew Sorensen. “We hope this will serve as a catalyst for community and statewide environmental initiatives.”

North Carolina: State Sues TVA Over Air Pollution

On November 16, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that he intends to sue the Tennessee Valley Authority to force them to reduce air pollution that drifts into North Carolina from TVA’s coal fired power plants. Cooper said that he will file the lawsuit if the utility does not reduce emissions from smokestacks in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama.

Two years after the passage of the North Carolina Clean Smokestacks Act, Cooper said that the state must now address pollution coming from outside its borders. Cooper cited the impacts to both human health across the state and tourism in the mountains, which brings $12 billion in revenues to the state each year.

“It is critical that we all do what we can to make sure that our air is clean,” Cooper told the Associated Press. “What we’ve done now is put the TVA on notice that they need to do the same thing.”

Tennessee: Citizens Group Takes Legal Action Against Proposed Industrial Dairy Operation

A citizens group in Johnson County has announced that it will take legal action to push for changes in the way clean water laws are enforced in the state. This move is the latest in an ongoing struggle by the Johnson County Citizen Committee for Clean Air and Water to fight a proposed industrial dairy operation that would be the largest in the state, with 800 cows.

After a year-long battle that culminated in public hearings this fall, the state granted a permit for the combined animal feeding operation, or CAFO, to North Carolina dairyman Jerry Anderson on September 3. On November 24, the citizens group filed a petition with the US Environmental Protection Agency asking that they revoke the right of the state of Tennessee to administer the clean water laws governing these operations.

The citizen’s group is concerned about the economic and environmental impacts of the CAFO. Problems commonly associated with CAFOs include high concentrations of animal waste that cause air and water pollution, as well as human health problems. Individual family farms are often put out of business by these large industrial operations. For more information, go to

West Virginia: Coalfield Residents Outraged at Massey Energy’s Breach of Privacy Laws

Residents of West Virginia’s coalfields were outraged in early December when Massey Energy, one of the largest companies conducting mountaintop removal operations in the state, illegally obtained names and addresses of school children on free or reduced lunch programs from local schools. The company used the addresses to invite low-income children to a “Christmas Extravaganza”, which, according to some children and parents, was targeted more toward promoting Massey Energy than toward celebrating Christmas. At the event, Massey employees were dressed as elves with large Massey logos on their shirts and there were huge banners on the building that read, “Massey Energy: Doing the Right Thing With Energy.”

According to Maria Gonot of the Whitesville-based citizens’ group Coal River Mountain Watch, “They are using our children for propaganda purposes. There is something wrong with that – our children are not tools of the coal industry.” She was particularly concerned because she is a vocal opponent of the company and its mountaintop removal operations.

“The worst thing that can happen is that the coal companies get information about me and my family,” said Gonot. “Them knowing my financial situation let’s them know how far they can push me.”

The State Board of Education is conducting an “immediate investigation” of this breach of state law.

Alabama: Alabama’s Forests and Farmlands To Receive Millions In Disaster Relief

Alabama will be receiving more than $25 million in federal aid to help restore and rehabilitate the states forests and farms as a result of this fall’s devastating hurricane season.

“Forest Rehabilitation” will receive nearly $20 million to remove and restore thousands of trees that have damaged trails and roads, as well as to restore dozens of recreation and administrative sites. This money will also go towards restoration of endangered species habitat.

The Emergency Watershed Program will receive around $3.5 million for locally sponsored watershed protection projects, including assistance to restore impaired streams, and to provide sound erosion control measures.

$2.75 million will go to the Emergency Conservation Program, which helps farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmlands after severe weather.

Georgia: Fish From Atlanta Grocers Show High Mercury Contamination

A report from the Georgia Sierra Club shows one in six fish bought at big-name grocery stores in Atlanta are contaminated with high levels of mercury – a toxin emitted from coal-burning power plants that poses extreme risks to the neurological health of developing fetuses, newborns, and the elderly.

The Sierra Club bought a half-pound each of salmon, catfish, tuna and bass at three of the biggest grocery store chains in Atlanta. The fish were then analyzed for toxic mercury levels.

The results were alarming with both tuna and bass having mercury levels well above the federally approved standards for safety.

The Sierra Club says the first step in cleaning up the problem is to ask the Bush Administration to enforce mercury pollution rules developed by the EPA during the 1990s. Those rules would have led to a 90% reduction in national mercury emissions by 2008. However, the EPA under the Bush Administration recently moved to weaken that rule by allowing dramatically higher levels of mercury pollution and extending the timeline for those smaller reductions by a decade.

Kentucky: Citizen Group Plans to Introduce Bill Outlawing Mountaintop Removal

The grassroots conservation group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), recently announced plans to introduce state legislation in 2005 that would make mountaintop removal mining and associated valley fills illegal under state law. According to KFTC Executive Committee member Patty Amburgey of Letcher County, “They need to use other ways to take the coal from the earth without destroying the earth. If this continues, there will be no heritage left for our children in eastern Kentucky.”

KFTC is looking for representatives from the eastern coalfields to sponsor the legislation in the state house. Kentucky residents who want to help end mountaintop removal in their state are encouraged to ask their representatives to sponsor the bill. For more information, contact KFTC at (606) 878-2161 or on the web at

Virginia: Richmond Commits to Cleaner Air Sooner

The EPA recently reclassified Virginia’s capital from “moderate” to “marginal” non-attainment status in regard to federal ozone standards. Richmond received the improved designation after showing it could meet ozone control goals three years earlier than required by the federal Clean Air Act – 2007 instead of 2010.
The request to be reclassified was submitted by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) based on trends in emissions data for the Richmond area.
While welcoming the news that Richmond’s air quality is expected to improve quickly, clean air advocates were quick to point out that other areas of the state are not faring so well – a recent report showed that ozone has actually worsened in Shenandoah National Park since 1991.


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