Front Porch Blog

Another successful week for Appalachian Voices on Capitol Hill

Appalachian Voices, as part of the Alliance for Appalachia, has been organizing monthly mini-lobby weeks to Washington, DC since our last big lobby week in March. These mini-lobby weeks have become an integral part of our work, as they increase our power on Capitol Hill, empower citizens from the Appalachian coalfields and beyond, and sends a message to the coal industry that we are not going away any time soon. These mini-lobby weeks are one of the main reasons the Clean Water Protection Act in the House has a record 156 cosponsors and the Appalachia Restoration Act was introduced in the Senate earlier this year. This lobby week was a little bigger than usual, as we had some citizens from key Congressional districts from as far away as California & Oregon join us.

An exciting part of this lobby week was the unveiling of the new Appalachian Voices’ DC office as a headquarters for the lobby week. This office, located in the Eastern Market neighborhood will be allow to be even more effective on the Hill.

Another highlight of the week was a briefing that Appalachian Voices organized for congressional staff to talk about why the time is now to end mountaintop removal coal mining through passage of the Clean Water Protection Act.

Featured speakers were Dr. Matt Wasson, Program Director for Appalachian Voices and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth member Mickey McCoy. Mickey McCoy lives in Martin County, KY, where a huge toxic coal sludge spill destroyed aquatic life for miles in 2000. At the time, the EPA considered it “one of the largest environmental disasters east of the Mississippi”. Mickey talked about growing up in Martin County and his personal view on why mountaintop removal needs to end. His basic message: “Mountaintop removal is an assault on the Appalachian Mountains, its people, their environment, and generations to come. It is not right for our government to allow the dismantlement of an entire culture for the sake of the greed of the coal corporations.”

Matt followed up with a presentation of how crucial it is for the Congress to take action now to protect future mountains and communities from being destroyed by mountaintop removal mining. Administrative advances on reining in mountaintop removal is highly needed, but only serves as short-term solution, and ultimately can be overturned by a future administration. Despite encouraging news from the Obama administration on how they are currently dealing with the issue, the only truly permanent solution is going to literally take an act of Congress.

Matt’s presentation made the case that state regulators have failed communities, requiring strong action on the federal level, and refuted the coal industry’s claim that mountaintop removal is good for the region. He also demonstrated how coal’s relevancy is slipping both in terms of supply and demand. Coal is providing an all time low, percentage-wise, of the nation’s electricity needs and in fact how most of the easily recoverable coal is left to mine in the Appalachian coalfields. His main point was, “Without strong congressional action through passage of the Clean Water Protection Act, the coal industry will continue to use our mountain streams as dumping grounds for their mining waste.”
Watch a video excerpt of Mickey McCoy’s statement at the congressional briefing here.

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