A Virginia native who now splits his time between Johnson City, Tenn., and Wise County, Va., Willie has organized with environmental and social justice campaigns in the region for more than a decade. He is Appalachian Voices' Central Appalachian Field Coordinator.
Changing the structure of the tax on coal mining that funds federal benefits for miners could bring tens of millions of dollars annually to the cash-strapped Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. Currently, the fund does not receive any revenue from exported coal.
Despite a national coal downturn, mining has not slowed much in Raleigh County, West Virginia, where companies have proposed two new mountaintop removal coal mines.
Virginia regulators initiated bond forfeiture at two coal mines owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. The regulators cited failure to pay penalties and chronic environmental and public safety violations.
Coal company bankruptcies are putting the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund in further jeopardy.
A tax on coal companies funding benefits for former miners with black lung disease was halved at the first of the year.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation to the operators of Collins Fork Surface Mine in February.
Kopper Glo Mining is seeking a second permit to release pollution from its nearly 1,500-acre proposed Claiborne County, Tenn., strip mine into public waterways. Attendees at a public hearing voiced a number of concerns.