The Front Porch Blog, with Updates from AppalachiaThe Front Porch Blog, with Updates from Appalachia


Snake Handlers, Strippers and the KKK: CNN’s Portrait of “Everyday Life in Appalachia”

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 16 Comments

So CNN ran a sensationalized and superficial story built on stereotypes that lacked any news value. Big news, right? Grow up, kid, this is the entertainment business…

That’s an excerpt from the conversation in my head before deciding to write a post about the photo-essay that was posted on the front page of on Monday with the teaser image of a burning cross. The link was titled “Everyday Life in Appalachia.

Teaser Image for CNN's "Everyday Life in Appalachia"Photo Essay

I’ll spare you the righteous indignation and the pages of moralizing that virtually burst from my fingertips and get right to the point of why it’s worth calling attention to this particularly offensive piece of pseudo-journalistic garbage: misleading stereotypes have real world consequences.


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Fact-Checking CNN’s New Documentary about Mountaintop Removal: the “Jobs vs Environment” Frame is Dead Wrong Once Again

Sunday, August 14th, 2011 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 2 Comments

Roaring Fork Headwaters, Wise County, Va.- Photo by Matt Wasson, Appalachian VoicesOn Sunday, CNN premiered an hour-long documentary by Soledad O’Brien on the battle to save historic Blair Mountain in West Virginia from destruction by mountaintop removal coal mining. Blair Mountain, site of the second largest armed insurrection in American history, is also one of the most important historical sites for organized labor in the country.

While O’Brien and her crew were able to tell both sides of the debate in compelling and emotionally powerful ways, the documentary suffered from the same flaw that just about every environmental story CNN has ever done suffers from: it is presented in a “jobs vs environment” frame that is devoid of any actual analysis of whether that frame is appropriate. Following is a brief fact-check of statements made by by mountaintop removal supporters and opponents in O’Brien’s documentary.

Is “Jobs vs Environment” the Appropriate Frame for the Issue of Mountaintop Removal?

There are two conflicting statements made by local residents in the documentary regarding the impact that mountaintop removal has had on jobs and the community around Blair Mountain. On the one hand, in response to a question by O’Brien about when the community around Blair Mountain started to disappear, resident Diane Kish responded:

“[The community began to disappear] when federal judges and the EPA came in and started messing with our livelihood.”

On the other hand, another nearby resident, Billy Smutko, said that the community began to disappear when mountaintop removal started. Fortunately, data are readily available to resolve these two conflicting versions of events and it turns out those data support Smutko’s version beyond a shadow of a doubt.

According to data from a study recently published in the Journal Population Health Metrics , Logan County, WV (the county that is home to both Blair Mountain and the controversial Spruce #1 mountaintop removal mine), saw a 10.7% decline in population between 1997 and 2007. This would at first seem to support the pro-mountaintop removal version of events, as the timeframe roughly correlates with the timeframe in which federal judges and the EPA first began to impose restrictions on mountaintop removal mining. Specifically, the first temporary restraining order on mountaintop removal permits was imposed by Judge Haden in 1999.

However, data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) show that the number of mining jobs in Logan County stayed roughly the same over that period, even as production of coal from mountaintop removal mines declined by a third. But what really blows a hole through the pro-mountaintop removal arguments is the fact that the population of Logan County decreased by a jaw-dropping 14.4% between 1987 and 1997, during which time the EPA and federal judges did nothing to restrict mountaintop removal and production from such mines more than tripled — from less than 5 million to more than 16 million tons.

As shown in the graph below, and in stark contrast to some claims in the CNN documentary, the number of mining jobs in Logan County has more than doubled since 1999 when Judge Haden imposed the first moratorium on mountaintop removal permits, and mining jobs across West Virginia as a whole have increased by a third.

WV Mine Employment,1983-2011


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Kentucky Coal Companies Remind Us Why We Really, Really Need the EPA

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

The latest episode in the saga known as Big Coal’s Watergate began today when environmental and citizen groups filed a second notice of intent to sue the two largest mountaintop removal mining companies in Kentucky. Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper, and Waterkeeper Alliance notified ICG and Frasure Creek Mining of their intent to sue the companies for more than 4,000 violations of the Clean Water Act — these on top of more than 20,000 violations the groups already sued over back in October.

Toxic Runoff from a Valley Fill in Eastern KentuckyAs an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote about the previous lawsuit against these same companies:

The environmental groups uncovered a massive failure by the industry to file accurate water discharge monitoring reports. They filed an intent to sue which triggered the investigation by the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet. Also revealed was the cabinet’s failure to oversee a credible water monitoring program by the coal industry.

In some cases, state regulators allowed the companies to go for as long as three years without filing required quarterly water-monitoring reports. In other instances, the companies repeatedly filed the same highly detailed data, without even changing the dates. So complete was the lack of state oversight it’s impossible to say whether the mines were violating their water pollution permits or not.

This time around, none of the evidence that mines were violating pollution limits is in question. Moreover, the notice of intent to sue came at a particularly bad time for the coal industry and for Kentucky’s regulatory agencies, right when their momentum to hamstring the EPA’s authority was really starting to gather steam. Examples of recent anti-EPA efforts include:

  1. Passage of a bill by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee designed to eviscerate EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Water Act;
  2. Recent calls from at least three Republican presidential candidates to abolish the EPA altogether;
  3. A bill that was introduced in the Senate last February that really would abolish the EPA.

In the midst of Big Coal’s anti-regulatory crusade, however, Kentucky coal companies have given Americans another unmistakable reminder of exactly why it is that we really, really need an EPA — and why polls show that the agency enjoys the overwhelming support of Americans [pdf] from across the political spectrum.

The new evidence that was provided by environmental and community groups of fraudulent reporting of pollution discharges by companies — allegations that were written off by Kentucky regulators as “transcription errors” — is beyond embarrassing for a state that is complaining to Congress, judges, and anyone else who will listen about how the EPA is overstepping its authority to protect waterways. The premise of the most recent anti-EPA bill is that a bunch of jack-booted thugs from the EPA are coming in and mucking things up for the state agencies, who already have their regulatory houses well in order.

In testimony before the House committee that passed the bill last week, Len Peters, the secretary of the Kentucky Environment and Energy Cabinet (the agency that enforces environmental laws in Kentucky), told members of Congress:

“Coal can be and is being mined in an environmentally responsible manner—we continue to make improvements, and the industry has been willing to do things better… We strongly believe the EPA’s objections to recent proposed draft permits for Clean Water Act 402 permits for surface mining operations in Kentucky were arbitrary.”

Furthermore, it was Peters’ agency that refused to sanction one of these same companies for dumping waste into streams without even bothering to obtain a permit [pdf] and called allegations by environmental groups that the state did a poor job of investigating their complaints “bordering on specious“.

But the new analysis of reports submitted by coal companies over the last few years leaves the coal companies and state regulators with a lot of explaining to do.


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Labor and Environment — A Match Made in “Almost Heaven”

Friday, June 10th, 2011 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

Something extraordinary is happening this week in southern West Virginia. For the first time in years, the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA), the largest union representing coal miners, has found common cause with environmental and community advocates who are seeking to end mountaintop removal coal mining.

March on Blair MountainSome UMWA miners have joined hundreds of environmental and Appalachian community advocates who are marching to Blair Mountain on the 90th anniversary of one of the greatest labor battles in American history.
Both groups want to protect this historic mountain from the efforts of coal companies to obliterate parts of the battlefield in order to conduct mountaintop removal coal mining operations.

In fact, the march to Blair Mountain is only one of several recent examples where the interests of labor and environmental advocates are closely aligned. For instance, last week’s buyout of Massey Energy was another recent event celebrated by environmentalists, community groups and organized labor alike. Massey was not only reckless, negligent and probably criminal in last year’s disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, but the company was by far the largest operator of mountaintop removal coal mines in Appalachia and a notorious scofflaw in regard to environmental laws like the Clean Water Act. Massey had also long been known for its union-busting practices.

A third – and by far the most important – factor linking the struggles of these groups is an almost existential crisis they are facing as a result of America’s recent, acute attack of what I like to call “Deficit Attention and Hypocrisy Disorder” (hat tip). The takeover of many state legislatures and governors’ offices by anti-government and anti-union ideologues last November has resulted in bills to strip collective bargaining rights of public employees in states from Ohio and Wisconsin to Florida and Tennessee — all of which, of course, is taking place under the false pretense of reducing the deficit.

Environmentalists got a similar wake-up call when the new Republican majority in the House sought to eviscerate EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts through amendments to the House Budget bill last February. Again, this was all done under the false banner of reducing the deficit.

If we are going to avoid disaster in this next election cycle, then we need to break out of our circular firing squad and do our part to change the narrative – and thus the mandate of whoever controls the reins of government after the next election – away from “Deficit Attention and Hypocrisy Disorder” and back toward creating jobs and protecting the health and safety of workers and the environment in which they live.


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AP Reporter Wins Peeew-litzer for Execrable Reporting on Stream Protection Rule

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

[UPDATE: With the benefit of a little more time to reflect and with the help of a few angels on my shoulder, I’ve come to realize that my criticism of Tim Huber was over the top. While I believe that my critique of the content of the AP story was valid, there are more respectful and less polemical ways to make the point. My apologies to Tim Huber]

PeeewlitzerOK, so I made the bit up about there being a Peeew-litzer prize for execrable reporting, but if there were such a prize, AP business reporter Tim Huber would be a top candidate.

Yesterday, Huber broke a story based on a leaked draft of an environmental impact statement that is part of the Office of Surface Mining’s rule-making process for the “Stream Protection Rule.” This rule would replace the “Stream Buffer Zone” rule that was gutted in late 2008 in an 11th hour giveaway to the coal industry by the departing Bush Administration. The impact and clear intent of Bush’s change to this rule was to make it easier for coal companies to conduct mountaintop removal mining operations in Appalachia.

The lead of the AP story went as follows:

The Obama administration’s own experts estimate their proposal for protecting streams from coal mining would eliminate thousands of jobs and slash production across much of the country, according to a government document obtained by The Associated Press.

Wow, that sounds pretty bad — particularly the day after the President delivered a State of the Union address that laid out a broad plan for creating jobs and supporting American businesses. Of course, given that the leaked document is not available for public scrutiny, you might think that Huber would say a little something about what assumptions went into this calculation of job losses — perhaps even provide a little context about how they were calculated. What baseline assumptions were these “eliminated” jobs compared to? Did the agency use figures for say, 2008 when coal production was at an all time high, or did they compare their impacts to government estimates of future production? This is important because not only has coal production dropped by 10% since 2008, but recent EIA projections are that coal production will drop further in coming years and won’t return to 2008 levels until 2025.

Aside from “eliminating” jobs in the coal industry, would OSM’s rule perhaps also create jobs in other industries that would presumably replace demand for the “slashed” coal production? Was the economic analysis done by OSM mining experts, or did they work with the Energy Information Administration, which has models to address these sorts of questions in the context of overall US energy markets?

Without additional context, there’s no way to understand what these numbers actually mean. By putting them out there in sensationalist terms without any way for anyone else to see the context and assumptions that went into them, Huber has done an enormous disservice to entire debate about protecting streams from the impacts of coal mining. And while reporting on leaked documents has a long and proud tradition, isn’t there some obligation to provide essential information needed to understand what’s reported about them?

Of course, it seems that there were people outside federal and state agencies that already had their hands on the secret draft document because Huber provided a quote from the National Mining Association that could only have been made if they had already analyzed the numbers (wonder who leaked it to Huber?). Worse, Huber reported the NMA’s response without even contacting any supporters of a strong Stream Protection Rule to see if there might be different views on those numbers.

So how would mountaintop removal opponents have responded if they’d had the chance?

I imagine if Huber had asked people impacted by mountaintop removal mines above their homes they would have said that there is no economic justification whatsoever for the continued destruction of Appalachian mountains, streams and communities by coal companies. As my friend Bo Webb at Coal River Mountain Watch told the Charlotte Observer when asked about Duke Energy’s machinations over whether eliminating mountaintop removal coal purchases would be economical:

“Real people that live in communities beneath mountaintop removal sites in southern West Virginia are paying the heavy, hidden costs of coal with their health and lives. An energy company that purchases mountaintop-removal coal is taking advantage of a corrupt regulatory system that allows coal companies like Massey Energy to eliminate entire Appalachian mountains, poison its water and kill its people.”

If Huber had asked my buddy JW at Appalachian Voices he might have pointed out that the coal industry is already in decline, particularly in Appalachia. If jobs are going to be eliminated anyway, why would we want to preserve jobs at mines that destroy streams over jobs that don’t? When I asked him about it, JW, who’s about to have his first child, told me:

“When my daughter enters the workforce, she can either have A) no coal jobs and no streams or B) no coal jobs and streams. We’ll take B please.”

And if I’d been asked? Well, since Huber isn’t prepared to share the leaked document he’s reporting on, it’s tough to get too specific. But even in the unlikely case that OSM did a comprehensive economic study and found that 7,000 jobs really would just vanish off the employment map, let’s put that number in perspective. If those surface mining jobs were eliminated over a 5 year period as existing permits expire, the challenge for legislators like Senator Manchin would be to find a way to create an additional 1,400 non-mining jobs or so per year (perhaps more, as mining jobs pay well) in order to rein in the wholesale destruction of streams in Appalachia by mountaintop removal mining and the pollution of streams across the country with mine waste.

And it’s not like it takes a lot of creative thinking to figure out how those jobs could be replaced: the Appalachian Regional Commission released a study and blueprint for how 15,000 jobs per year could be created in Appalachia every year for the next five years in energy efficiency — if policy-makers would make fairly modest investments in policies to stimulate the creation of those jobs. As a West Virginian who commented on the story at the Charleston Gazette website pointed out,

“It’s called ‘progress.’ We don’t use whale oil for light anymore do we?”

No we don’t. And I bet lot of jobs were lost in the whaling industry after Edison invented the light bulb along with coal-based electricity generation technologies… was that bad for society over the past century?

I recently heard a pretty smart guy say:

“Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age… So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

We should listen to him.

EPA Vetoes Massive Mountaintop Removal Mine — Now Buckle Up for the Backlash

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 2 Comments

Mountain near Rawl, West VirginiaIn the wake of EPA’s veto last week of the largest mountaintop removal mine permit ever proposed in West Virginia, the grandstanding of West Virginia politicians and “sky is falling” rhetoric from the coal industry was not surprising. Every effort to protect streams and communities from the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal has been met with a similar chorus of complaint by coal companies and local politicians.

However, the immediate response of coal industry groups and West Virginia politicians to the news of EPA’s action was a little different this time around. Notably absent was any reference to the so-called “War on Coal,” which had previously been a mainstay of the coal industry’s talking points. Instead, every West Virginia politician and coal industry trade group that issued a response to EPA’s action appeared to be reading from the same script – a new one focused on broad national implications of EPA’s action for all US industries, not just coal. Apparently we are now to believe that the opposition of West Virginia politicians to any and all regulations protecting streams from obliteration by coal companies is not about any provincial concerns or pressure from the most powerful industry in their district, but about “regulatory certainty,” national energy supply, national security and the unemployment rate.

The new narrative about overbearing federal regulators stifling the economy and threatening national security fits nicely with the ideological persuasions of many new members of Congress. They would seem to be the primary target of the coal industry’s new PR strategy, the goal of which is clearly to convince Congress to rein in the EPA and prevent the agency from promulgating new rules or enforcing existing ones. And the centerpiece of this new narrative is EPA’s veto of the Spruce permit, which, it is increasingly apparent, was part of the coal industry’s game plan all along.


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Kentucky’s Investigation into Coal Company Water Violations Should Dig Deeper

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 6 Comments

Toxic Runoff from a Valley Fill in Eastern KentuckyLast Friday the State of Kentucky announced that they had negotiated a $660,000 settlement with three coal companies over 2,765 water quality related violations at 103 coal mining operations in Kentucky. Based on a recent analysis by Appalachian Water Watch team, however, the state’s investigations may not have dug deeply enough.

The long list of violations for which the state did cite coal companies included:

As the office of Governor Beshear announced on Friday, the state initiated its action in response to a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue (NOI) against three coal companies – ICG Knott County, ICG Hazard, and Frasure Creek Mining – submitted by Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance on October 7th. The NOIs detailed numerous examples of the three companies exceeding pollution discharge limits in their permits, consistently failing to conduct the required monitoring of their discharges and, in many cases, submitting false monitoring data to the state agencies.

Appalachian Voices and allies were generally pleased that the state’s investigations confirmed our allegations that mining companies in Kentucky have been irresponsibly monitoring and failing to accurately report their harmful discharges into rivers of the state. But what the state did not hold the companies liable for, indeed attributed to clerical errors, were allegations in the NOI of “falsifying the required monitoring data.” Specifically, the NOIs demonstrated that on many occasions, companies submitted duplicate monitoring reports in which only the dates on the forms were changed. As the Appalachia Water Watch team reported in October:

“The claims brought today may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to irresponsible mining reporting practices and a failure in the state’s monitoring program. A recent trip to Kentucky’s Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement regional offices by Appalachian Voices’ Waterkeeper found stack after stack of discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) from more than 60 coal mines and processing facilities covered in dust on the desks of mine inspectors’ secretaries. They did not appear to have been evaluated for compliance by the regulators for more than three years. A sampling of the reports showed hundreds of repeated violations by coal mine operators in the state.”


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Breaking: Mountaintop Removal Begins on Coal River Mountain — Help Needed Now!

Saturday, October 24th, 2009 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

BREAKING NEWS: Reports are coming in from residents of West Virginia’s Coal River Valley that Massey Energy has begun mountaintop removal mining operations on Coal River Mountain. Sprawling across thousands of acres of diverse and pristine hardwood forests, this mountain is home to the tallest peaks ever permitted for destruction in the state of West Virginia. The mountain also became a powerful symbol of hope for a better future in the Appalachian coalfields after a study showed those peaks and ridges have wind resources as high as “Class 7,” which is the highest rating on the scale.

Take Action here

Local residents have rallied around a proposal for a 328 Megawatt wind farm and put up a website,, to promote their vision. The wind farm would, over the course of a few decades, provide far more jobs in the community than those created during the few years it would take Massey Energy to reduce the mountain to a flat, barren, and toxic wasteland. Just a few days ago, the AP reported that a local organization, Coal River Mountain Watch, has been working with Google Earth to design a presentation that will be shown at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, contrasting the proposed wind farm with Massey Energy’s plans for more than 6,000 acres of mountaintop removal coal mining on the mountain.

A 328 Megawatt wind farm versus a 6,000 acre mountaintop removal coal mine — there could be no better symbol of the crossroads we are at in America’s energy future. Whichever way it goes, the fate of Coal River Mountain is America’s energy future. If the coal companies can mine Coal River Mountain, they can do anything they want. If they can destroy these peaks, we’ll know exactly what the effect that the billions in tax-payer giveaways to the coal industry will have if the climate bill is passed.

What’s at stake

There’s far more than just a wind farm at stake when it comes to the destruction of Coal River Mountain, however, both for residents of the Coal River Valley and for people across the country who believe that a clean energy future is within our grasp.

For local residents, this is the last intact mountain in the vicinity, home to some of the few remaining headwater streams that have not been polluted with heavy metal-laden mine waste. If Massey Energy’s plans aren’t stopped, they know exactly what’s in store – just a few weeks ago, a local Eyewitness News story about 200 families in the town of Prenter who are suing 9 coal companies for contaminating their well water with coal waste began as follows:

“Twenty-two year old Josh McCormick is dying of kidney cancer. Twenty-six year old Tanya Trale has had a tumor removed from her breast; her husband has had two tumors removed from his side and both have had their gallbladders taken out.

Rita Lambert has had her gallbladder removed; so has her husband and both parents.

Jennifer Massey has a mouthful of crowns and so does her son after their enamel was eaten away, and six of her neighbors – all unrelated – have had brain tumors, including her 29-year old brother, who died.

Bill Arden is one of those neighbors. He survived his brain tumor, but Arden’s eight-year old boxer named Sampson did not.

What do all of these people have in common? They all live within a 3-mile radius of Prenter Hollow in Boone County, West Virginia. And all have well water.”

As usual, despite overwhelming evidence that it’s the sludge they have been pumping into underground mine shafts that contaminated the groundwater, the coal companies deny any connection to the problem.

On Coal River Mountain, less than 100 yards from where the mining has begun, lies the Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment, a massive earthen dam holding back 8.2 billion gallons of toxic coal sludge. Were that dam to fail, as several have done in the recent past, hundreds of lives could be lost in a matter of minutes and thousands would be put in jeopardy. Even short of complete dam failure, the risks to local communities are great. The ground beneath the impoundment is riddled with abandoned underground mine shafts, leaving many local residents with little doubt that some of that toxic slurry will end up in their groundwater as the foundation-shaking blasts of ammonium-nitrate explosives begin cracking rock strata and exposing aquifers to the contaminated water.

Outside the Coal River Valley and across the nation there is also a lot at stake — especially for the millions of young people who turned out en masse during last November’s election, believing they could take their country back from the powerful special interests that pulled the strings of government over the preceding eight years. Just this weekend, thousands of students are attending regional “Powershift” conferences, learning what they can do to bring about their vision of a new future and a new energy policy build around efficient use of clean and renewable energy technologies.

Those same young people who came out by the thousands chanting “Yes We Can!” last fall are soon going to learn whether that slogan applies to them, or really just to powerful corporations with a lot of money and political influence. Today, it’s coal companies like Massey Energy that are claiming the “Yes We Can!” slogan:

“Yes we can destroy your mountains, drinking water, and dreams for a better future. Yes we can threaten and intimidate you at public hearings and drown out your voice.
Yes We Can!

Just last week, the same Administration that donned the mantle of “Hope” and “Change” held public hearings on the rubber-stamp permitting of mountaintop removal in which the Army Corps of Engineers allowed mobs ginned up by the coal companies to threaten, intimidate and drown out the voices of people brave enough to speak out against the destruction of their homes, communities and mountains.

But it’s too soon for those young people to return to the feelings of disenfranchisement and cynicism that has characterized their age group for the past few decades. The Obama Administration has begun taking small steps to rein in mountaintop removal mining, and recently threatened to veto the largest mountaintop removal permit ever proposed in West Virginia. For even those baby-steps, they are facing a massive push-back from the coal industry. But its not nearly enough to make tweaks to the permiting process while letting mountaintop removal continue under the industry-friendly rules rigged by the Bush Administration. The Administration needs to hear from us – to hear from you.

It’s time we demand the “change” we were promised, and Coal River Mountain, the most powerful symbol of the difference between the destructive and climate change-denying policies of the past and the promise of a new future, is the line in the sand. Coal River Mountain must be saved.

The Administration has been hearing a lot from the coal industry, but have they heard from you? If not, you can start by calling the White House and making your voice heard. Here’s a link for more information:

Next, sign up to for the e-mail list to stay informed and engaged in the campaign. It’s not a scam, your e-mail address won’t be traded or sold, so get over it and sign up – you can’t stay engaged and make a difference if you don’t stay informed. Here’s the link.

And finally, tell a friend, recruit a co-worker, or post the news to a list or a blog.

The mission is clear; the stakes couldn’t be higher; the fate of Coal River Mountain and our energy future are up to you. The time to act is now.

Cross-posted with

All Hands on Deck for Virginia!

Thursday, May 1st, 2008 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

Larry Bush, Pete Ramey, and Kathy Selvage; Citizens of Wise County and founders of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards

One week from today, citizens of Wise County, Virginia, will deliver a mile-long petition to Dominion Resources opposing their plans for a dirty coal fired power plant in Wise County. If you don’t know the background of this campaign yet, click here to learn more.

As you can see from the petition-meter on the right, we still have a lot of petition signatures to gather, and this is where you come in. We have done our best to make it easy for you to organize your networks in support of the people of Wise County who are fighting this terrible threat. Here’s what you can do:

Put a petition-meter on Facebook

Click here to add the NO DIRTY COAL PLANT! Petition to your facebook profile. But don’t just add it, tell your friends about it and encourage them to sign the petition and put a meter on their own profiles.

Put a petition-meter on a website or blog

Click the “Adopt a Yard” button on the petition meter on the right, and it provides instructions on how to put a meter on almost any website.

Send an alert to your lists or post one to your blog

people can sign the petition by going to:
and they can learn all about the campaign at:

Thanks for your help and we’ll keep you updated on the campaign.

Sign the Mile-Long Petition for Clean Energy in Virginia!

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

You don’t have to be a Virginian to be affected by the pollution from Dominion’s proposed coal-fired power plant in Southwest Virginia, and wherever you’re from, the folks in Southwest Virginia could sure use your help in their fight to save their homes and community from mountaintop removal and (to add insult to injury) another coal-fired power plant Dominion’s proposing to build in their back yard.

So SIGN THIS PETITION – and if you have a blog or Facebook account, click the “Adopt a Yard” link, copy the code and put a petition meter on your site.

We have three weeks to make this a mile long, so y’all pitch in now!

D.C. Circuit Court Declares EPA’s Mercury Rule Illegal

Friday, February 8th, 2008 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

Absolutely tremendous news from the Waterkeeper Alliance who was the lead group on the lawsuit challenging the Bush Administration’s evisceration of mercury control laws in 2005. Here’s the press release from the Waterkeeper Alliance:

Irvington, New York (February 8, 2008) – In a complete victory for public and environmental health, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today invalidated a pair of EPA rules that would have allowed coal-fired power plants to overwhelm waterways, fish and communities with harmful levels of mercury for decades to come. The Court found EPA’s 2005 rules removing power plants from the Clean Air Act’s list of toxic sources and creating an anemic “cap and trade” regulatory scheme to be in violation of the Act.

Waterkeeper Alliance, as part of a coalition of a number of public health and environmental groups, fourteen states and dozens of Native American tribes, launched its challenge of EPA’s mercury rules over two years ago. Today, the Court, in striking down EPA’s actions, found that the Bush Administration’s explanation for delisting power plants “deploys the logic of the Queen of Hearts, substituting EPA’s desires for the plain text of (the Clean Air Act.)”

Power plants, the largest source of manmade mercury in the country, spew 48 tons of the dangerous neurotoxin into the air each year, while a single gram – 1/70th of a teaspoon – of mercury per year is enough to contaminate a 25-acre lake to the point that fish are unsafe to eat. EPA estimates that as many as 600,000 babies may be born in the United States annually with irreversible brain damage because pregnant mothers ate mercury-contaminated fish. Mercury risks also include delayed developmental milestones, reduced neurological test scores, and cardiovascular disease. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of America’s lakes and nearly one-fourth (24 percent) of our rivers were subject to advisories for mercury contamination in 2003.

Despite the devastating impact these emissions are having on the environmental and human health of the nation and clear mandates under the Clean Air Act, EPA has steadfastly refused to regulate power plant mercury pollution, instead coming up with a non-control plan that allowed the energy giants to continue emitting significant amounts of mercury. “These rules represented what was perhaps the biggest sellout to industry in the history of EPA,” said Waterkeeper Alliance Legal Director and attorney on the case, Scott Edwards. “It’s a real tragedy that we’ve had to spend two years getting this industry-scripted scheme struck down while energy companies continue to poison our children with mercury.”

With EPA’s delisting action declared illegal, the Agency is now obligated to develop “Maximum Achievable Control Technologies” standards for power plant mercury emissions. Several U.S. Department of Energy studies conducted over the past few years have demonstrated that upwards of 90 percent of power plant mercury emissions can be eliminated using affordable and available reduction technologies.

“This is a very positive ruling, but we should not forget that no matter how much this industry reduces mercury emissions, coal will never be clean,” added Waterkeeper Alliance President Steve Fleischli. “From mining to burning to toxic ash, ‘clean coal’ is a sham, a dangerous diversion at a time when we must move our national energy strategy to sustainable, renewable energy sources.”

Click here to download the 18-page opinion.

Residents from the Coalfields take the UN by storm

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

Dispatches From UN Commission on Sustainable Development:
Delegates Living On the Front lines of Energy Extraction Speak Out

We went to the Climate change-energy industry blueprint on how to tackle climate change.

One man, Kurt Yeager from Electric power research institute gave a presentation on roadway to a low carbon future. Talking about different 3 phases. The first phase was the only one i was able to write down. By 2015 credible commitment and slower CO2 emissions growth.

So I ask him “How are you accounting for the cost of the full cycle of carbon?” He basically responded saying he could not put a price on it. I told him to tell my daughter he can’t put a price on her health. Then Lauren asked some stuff.

After the meeting was over, Chuck went over to Mr. Yeager and asked him about the extraction of coal and what extraction method he was planning on using to mine the coal. And he said basically that he knows there are problems with mining coal in Appalachian, but more or less he said that was the answer to our energy needs and we cannot put a price on the extraction of coal. Chuck then said what about the people of Appalachia are they going to have to pay the price of this extraction?

He said more or less we have to stick w/ coal and he said he was from Appalachia and he understood the problems that Appalachia faced. Earlier in the dialog Mr. Yeager had said, “I know what you all are talking about, I am from Appalachia and live with this stuff too”. Chuck asked him what part of Appalachia and he said Youngstown, OH. Then Chuck told him he don’t live in the coal fields he more or less lived in the coal fire power plant area. Chuck told him he didn’t know anything about the process of mining coal. Or what the true cost that coal really is. Chuck told him about people loosing their property, flooding out, contaminating water, being blasted out from MTR. He started laughing.

Chuck said “Why are you laughing, you think it is funny having to live like that?” He just had a lack of concern He said he wasn’t throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and Erica said speaking of babies in bathwater. I just found out for 3 yrs I was bathing my daughter in water with high levels of Arsenic in it. He just said that was too bad.

He pretty much said whatever he thought we wanted to hear. I think Chuck did a great job. I was very impressed with the fact that Chuck just walked right up to this man and said what he wanted to say. I was very inspired listening to Chuck.



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