Central and Southern Appalachia are in a state of profound transition. The challenges of our fast-changing economy and shifting energy landscape are especially pronounced in places most impacted by coal’s legacy and decline, and for those threatened by fracked gas drilling, pipelines and power plants. But these same places may yet reject extractive and polluting industries in favor of clean energy and enterprises that build local wealth, foster community health and defend Appalachia’s unsurpassed natural heritage.
Even in these tumultuous times, Appalachian Voices is gaining traction at the local, state and federal level. In spring 2018, our staff and board began a strategic planning process to refine our work and grow our impact over the next three years. We invite you to join us as we expand our efforts and pursue our vision of a future with a healthy environment and strong local economies that allow communities to thrive.
Appalachian Voices is bringing together local governments, colleges, entrepreneurs and engaged citizens in traditional coal mining communities to advance initiatives that build local wealth through ecologically sound enterprises. In the years ahead, these local partnerships will bring community- and industrial-scale solar energy projects and training programs to the region and open the door to solar growth by advancing needed changes to utility regulations.
We are also connecting Appalachian communities to decision-makers in state capitals and Washington, D.C., and pursuing more than a billion additional dollars in federal investments to restore and repurpose coal-impacted lands and foster sustainable businesses.
In our region, massive, investor-owned utility corporations exercise inordinate control over state governments, bending energy policy decisions to benefit their own shareholders at public expense. Even many rural electric cooperatives, which were created to benefit the communities they serve, lack transparency and accountability to their members who are the true owners of the cooperatives. This imbalance of power favors centralized, fossil fuel-based generation of electricity and creates enormous barriers to environmentally responsible energy policies that serve the public interest. We are committed to righting the economic and environmental wrongs this system creates.
To that end, we are standing with communities burdened by rising energy costs and opposing utilities’ plans to sink billions of dollars into investments that offer little public benefit. And we’re working to secure state-level policies that prioritize energy efficiency and drive significant growth in resources like residential and commercial solar.
Energy giants are pursuing a massive expansion of fracked gas pipelines and other infrastructure in the Southeast. This is designed to generate big profits at the public’s expense, cement our addiction to fossil fuels and prolong an exploitative utility business model. The consequences for thousands of waterways, public and privately owned land, vulnerable communities and the climate would be devastating.
By continuing to stand with and help coordinate widespread citizen resistance to these multi-billion dollar boondoggles, we aim to curtail this wave of gas pipeline development. We will grow the vocal, regional movement opposing new gas infrastructure by deploying grassroots power, data-driven arguments and legal challenges, and channelling widespread opposition to effectively resist future projects.
While market forces continue to push Central Appalachian coal toward the economic margins, regional advocates must remain vigilant to defeat new mountaintop removal mine permits and hold mine operators accountable for the environmental and human toll of extraction — especially as the Trump administration works to dismantle rules that protect streams, drinking water supplies and the health of people living nearby.
Appalachian Voices will defeat efforts to prop up the coal industry while working to fight new mountaintop removal permits and increase enforcement of laws that have so far survived President Trump’s anti-regulatory crusade. We are also demonstrating the urgent need to reform mine bonding systems to protect taxpayers and the environment, laying the groundwork for progress as soon as Trump leaves office.
Appalachian communities are on the front lines of America’s energy transition. Our success at advancing these complementary objectives will put us on the path to a clean energy economy with justice for citizens impacted by extraction and pollution. Appalachian Voices’ mission, credibility and innovative approach are vital in this moment. Our ambitious plans reflect our institutional knowledge, our record of success and the belief that committed individuals will join us in the pursuit of our vision. Stand with us today at appvoices.org/join
Join us for our annual membership meeting on Dec. 13 to hear more and discuss the work ahead. Gatherings will be held at our offices in Boone, N.C., Charlottesville, Va., Norton, Va., and Knoxville, Tenn. Visit appvoices.org/membership-meeting