Across Appalachia: News Briefs

Clean Water Network Gives Wilma Dykeman River Hero Award

KNOXVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Clean Water Network gave its Bill Russell River Hero Award to writer Wilma Dykeman this fall. The award honors “those who strive to protect, restore and enhance the watersheds of Tennessee and the communities that depend on them.”
Dykeman, one of Appalachia’s most beloved and best known writers, died late last year.
In the introduction to her book, The French Broad, Dykeman wrote: “…this is the chronicle of a river and a watershed, and a way of life where yesterday and tomorrow meet in odd and fascinating harmony… Dwellers of the French Broad country are learning an ancient lesson in all their natural resources; it is easy to destroy overnight treasures that cannot be replaced in a generation, easy to destroy in a generation that which cannot be restored in centuries.”
Wilma Dykeman has lived all her life near the French Broad River in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Born in Asheville in 1920, she was the only child of a mother whose people had lived in the North Carolina Mountains since the eighteenth century. She traces her interest in writing to the stories her parents read aloud to her when she was a child. By the time she was in elementary school, she was making up her own stories, plays, and poems. After graduating from high school and Biltmore Junior College in Asheville, the author went to Northwestern University for a bachelor’s degree in speech.
In all, she has published more than sixteen books. The French Broad (1955), one of the famous “Rivers of America” series, was completed in a year but represents a lifetime of observation and note-taking. It recounts the history, legend, biography (such as the chapter on Thomas Wolfe), sociology, and economics of a mountain region that draws its life and ways from this river and its tributaries. The work, her first, won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Trophy in 1955.

Solar Christmas Tree: A Symbol of the Season

By Caroline Monday
The holiday season is a time for celebrating family, faith, and good will.
This year, for the 12th season in a row, Appalachian State University’s Sustainable Energy Society will also celebrate energy independence.
Each year the club dresses up the Jones House Community Center of Boone, N.C., by decorating a tree in the yard with solar-powered LED lights.
Four photovoltaic modules charge a battery during daylight hours and that battery powers the super-efficient LED lights at night.
Quint David, president of the Sustainable Energy Society, said the tree symbolizes energy independence in that it depends on no fossil fuels to supply electricity for its lights.
“It shows that energy independence is something you can have,” David said. tree shows that living a more sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to mean giving up creature comforts, like Christmas decorations.
This year will be the 12th year the club has sponsored the tree.
In addition to raising awareness, the lightingof the Christmas tree serves as one of the club’s biggest fundraisers. During the lighting event, usually held the first weekend in December, the club sells raffle tickets for items donated by local businesses

Stream Rule Rankles Appalachian Citizens

HAZARD, KY — Citizens spoke out against a proposed new federal mining rule in public hearings in Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania this fall.
The Office of Surface Mining, a regulatory agency of the Dept. of Interior, claimed that new stream buffer zone rule would reduce the environmental impacts of surface coal mining and give coal operators “clear standards for mining near bodies of water.”
Environmental advocates scoffed, pointing out that the rule would expand mountaintop removal mining. The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition’s Vivian Stockman said OSM should “pull the proposed rule and protect our water by enforcing the current rule.”
Coal industry spokesmen said they would appreciate a clarification of the rule. “The proposed clarification … is necessary in order to put an end to the regulatory uncertainty and litigation spawned in recent years by opponents of coal mining,” said David Moss of the Kentucky Coal Association.
Meanwhile, national opinion is turning strongly against mountaintop removal mining. The New York Times weighed in against the stream rule in an editorial entitled “Ravaging Appalachia,” and the Los Angeles Times called it a “black-hearted” ruling.
Comments about the proposed rule change are due to the Office of Surface Mining on November 23. To learn how you can submit comments, please visit

Utility settles lawsuit Over 1990 Clean Air Act

WASHINGTON DC — A lawsuit designed to spur enforcement of the 1990 Clean Air Act, filed eight years ago, was settled in October. American Electric Power, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities based in Ohio, Michigan and most of Appalachia, agreed to spend $4.6 billion on pollution control equipment that, it agreed, was required by law. AEP admitted no guilt in the consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency. Older power plants were supposed to have upgraded air pollution units when they were overhauled, under the 1990 act, but many utilities had avoided the rule through technicalities.
Government officials declared it a “major victory for the environment and public health,” saying the settlement would save $32 billion in health costs over respiratory illnesses per year. Four other major utilities are also being sued by the EPA, state governments and a number of environmental groups in order to bring pollution control equipment up to the levels mandated in the 1990 law.

Citizens Speak Out Against Cliffside Power

In September, the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved Duke Energy’s new 800-megawatt coal-fired power plant at its Cliffside facility in Rutherfordton, NC. If completed, the power plant will emit 312 million tons of carbon dioxide, the primary pollutant responsible for global warming, over its fifty year lifespan.
“That’s equal to putting an additional one million cars on the roads for the next 50 years,” said Mary Anne Hitt of Appalachian Voices.
The state Department of Air Quality (DAQ) is reviewing Duke’s air pollution permit application — the last significant hurdle for Duke before they start building the new coal plant. Appalachian Voices asked the DAQ to deny Duke’s air pollution permit at a public hearing in September.
“By letting our voice be heard, we can do our part to stop global warming and create a clean, safe energy future for North Carolina, the nation and the world,” Hitt said.


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