The Status and Impact of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (September 20, 2022; updated May 17, 2023)
Despite false assertions by Mountain Valley Pipeline backers that construction is nearly complete, substantial work remains. The work ahead includes nearly 429 water crossings — among the most difficult parts of a pipeline to construct — and the project still lacks authorizations from four federal agencies. This report explores the current status of the pipeline, the scope of the remaining work, and the harms that local communities have already experienced, including degraded drinking water, damaged farmland and harm to Indigenous sacred sites.
Benefits for Coal Miners with Black Lung Falling Behind (March 15, 2023)
Tens of thousands of coal miners across the country are disabled by or have died from black lung disease. These miners and their families rely upon black lung benefits to pay for their healthcare and provide monthly compensation as the miner can no longer work. In 1969, when the federal black lung benefits program was created, a miner received $144.50 each month to help support their cost of living. In today’s currency, adjusting for inflation, that would equate to $1,204.70. Unfortunately, the monthly benefit rate has not kept up with the cost of living. Today miners receive nearly 40% less than the value of the original amount, $738 a month. Miner benefit levels have not kept pace with inflation and the cost of living. This report was developed by Appalachian Voices and Appalachian Citizens Law Center.
Pressing Pause on Utility Shutoffs (November 14, 2022)
This report details how Virginia’s current shutoff policies for electric, gas, and water utilities do not adequately protect vulnerable Virginians from being disconnected from these essential services for nonpayment, even during public health emergencies, extreme weather events (including temperature highs and lows), or in other life-threatening situations when debts to their utility companies trigger a disconnection.
Save Energy, Grow Jobs: How investments in renewable and efficient resources could bring thousands of jobs to the TVA region (July 14, 2022)
The Tennessee Valley region is facing a potentially transformative moment as the Tennessee Valley Authority plans to close its remaining coal fired power plants by 2035. In our report, we examine the total jobs that would be created if TVA committed to consistent goals and investments in energy efficiency over a 14-year period. We also compared jobs outputs in TVA’s plans to convert the retiring Cumberland Fossil Plant to methane gas against three clean energy portfolio alternatives.
GOT FIVE ON IT: Economic Impacts and Observations of the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program Five Years In (June 8, 2022)
The Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program was established in 2016 to return abandoned mine lands to productive use through economic and community development. Finally, after six years, there are sufficient data and case studies to evaluate the program’s progress towards its goals. This report explores the achieved and potential benefits of the AMLER program and other observations.
Why West Virginia Needs the Black Lung Excise Tax
Rates of black lung disease have hit a 25-year high in Appalachian coal mining states and have reached epidemic levels in coal communities across the nation. On January 1st, 2022, the sole source of revenue for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was cut by more than half after Congress failed to extend the Black Lung Excise Tax before the end of 2021. Our report shows why the trust fund must be restored at least to its former level.
Moving forward at warp speed: Abandoned mine reclamation over the coming years
As Congress continues to negotiate the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, delays are sidelining both the reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund and the investment of $11.3 billion in AML funding included in the package. Newly-updated research from West Virginia-based Downstream Strategies indicates that the expiration of the authorization of the AML fund and the failure to secure the bipartisan bill’s large AML investment is jeopardizing jobs and economic growth in three Appalachian states: West Virginia, Virginia, and Ohio.
Repairing the Damage: The costs of delaying reclamation at modern-era mines (July 7, 2021)
Central Appalachia may be facing a new wave of abandoned mines as more companies declare bankruptcy and desert their cleanup responsibilities. Despite a federal law, some states have not set aside enough money to guarantee mine reclamation in the face of widespread bankruptcy. The report has determined that over 633,000 acres of coal mines across seven eastern states require cleanup, with an estimated price tag of $7.5 to $9.8 billion. This report, produced by Appalachian Voices, is the third paper in the Repairing the Damage series.
Central Appalachian Mine Reforestation Assessment Tool (May 26, 2021)
The Central Appalachian Mine Reforestation Assessment tool uses satellite imagery and a new mathematical model to monitor and characterize the state of reclamation and the growth of trees and other vegetation on surface coal mines in Central Appalachia from 1984 to the present. The data set and tool will help regulators, researchers and the general public understand the current level of mining and surface mine cleanup in the region. The report includes links to a webmap, GIS data and algorithms used in the creation of the model. This tool was developed by Appalachian Voices, SkyTruth, 4E Analytics, Green Forests Work and Downstream Strategies.
Restoration and Renewal: The New Appalachian Economy (January 14, 2021)
This regional report released by the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition in January 2021 is the third in a series and further seeks to spur innovative economic development throughout Appalachia in communities where the landscape has been irreparably changed by coal mining. The report highlights successes from 2019-2020 and provides case studies of projects that advance community development amidst abandoned mine lands, or in some cases by reclaiming abandoned mine features as part of the project. The report is a collaborative project from Appalachian Voices, Coalfield Development, Downstream Strategies and Rural Action.
A New Horizon: Innovative Reclamation for a Just Transition (October 31, 2019)
This regional report released by the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition in fall 2019 follows last year’s report and further seeks to spur innovative economic development throughout Appalachia in communities where the landscape has been irreparably changed by coal mining. The report highlights successes from 2018 and provides case studies of projects that advance community development amidst abandoned mine lands, or in some cases by reclaiming abandoned mine features as part of the project. The report is a collaborative project from Appalachian Voices, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, Coalfield Development, Downstream Strategies and Rural Action.
Analysis of the Mountain Valley Southgate Pipeline Project (August 1, 2019)
This report finds that neither the builder nor the anchor customer of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate extension project have provided “convincing evidence of a need for MVP Southgate.” The report exposes the flimsy assumptions used by MVP, LLC and PSNC Energy to justify a proposed 73-mile fracked-gas pipeline, and points out existing, cost-effective alternatives to new pipeline infrastructure.
Many Voices, Many Solutions: Innovative Mine Reclamation in Central Appalachia (November 13, 2018)
This regional report released by the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition in fall 2018 seeks to spur innovative economic development throughout Appalachia in communities where the landscape has been irreparably changed by coal mining. Specifically, the report provides case studies of projects that advance community development amidst abandoned mine lands, or in some cases by reclaiming abandoned mine features as part of the project. The report is a collaborative project from Appalachian Voices, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, Coalfield Development, Downstream Strategies and Rural Action.
Solar Roadmap for Southwest Virginia (November 29, 2017)
The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia has released a report detailing a multi-faceted strategy for establishing a vibrant solar energy hub in the coalfields of far Southwest Virginia. “The Roadmap to Accelerate the Solar Industry in Far Southwest Virginia” explores the fundamental issues of accessing capital and financing options, promoting policies that support the solar industry, building workforce development and solar value chain opportunities, and maximizing community education.
Inclusive Energy Efficiency Financing for Members of the French Broad Electric Membership Corporation (May 2, 2017)
As many as 11,000 households in the service are of the French Broad Electric Membership Corp. in western North Carolina need energy efficiency improvements such as insulation and new heating/cooling systems. This report examines how a financing program that pays the upfront costs for home improvements can reduce families’ energy bills, improve the health and comfort of their homes and create local jobs, and calls for the rural electric co-op to offer such a program.
Healing Our Land, Growing Our Future (November 1, 2016)
A report highlighting the economic development potential of more than a dozen abandoned coal mining sites in Southwest Virginia that could be repurposed into solar farms, community parks, sustainable farms or other innovative projects with federal investment.
A collaborative project from Appalachian Voices, Coal Mining Engineering Services, LLC, and Downstream Strategies.
Communities at Risk from Mountaintop Removal (April 28, 2015)
An examination of the proximity of mountaintop removal mining to communities in Appalachia. The study was conducted using maps and census data to detect differences in demographic and economic trends that correlate with recent encroachment of surface mines on these communities, and determined the communities most “at risk” from the practice.
Poverty and the Burden of Electricity Costs in the Southeast:
The Case for Utility Home Energy Efficiency Loan and Tariff Programs (February 27, 2014)
An analysis of the relationship between poverty and electricity costs in the Southeast and promotion of stronger electric utility investment in residential energy efficiency. To supplement the report, we have published three maps as part of Google’s new Maps Galley illustrating the need for programs that finance comprehensive home energy efficiency investments throughout the Southeast.
Google Maps: Electricity Cost Burden in the Southeast | Poverty Rate by Electric Utility | Loan Programs in the Southeast
Growth of U.S. Coal Jobs (April 9, 2013)
An analysis of governmental data showing that coal mining jobs have increased since 2009 despite the coal industry’s claim that pollution limits on coal-fired power plants and oversight of mountaintop removal have threatened American coal production and coal mining jobs.
The Impact of Coal on the Virginia State Budget (December 12, 2012)
This report by Downstream Strategies analyzes the costs and benefits of the coal industry to Virginia’s state budget, and finds that the coal industry and coal-related activities cost Virginia $22 million more than was paid by these businesses in taxes, fees and other revenue to state coffers in fiscal year 2009. The single largest cost to the state in supporting the coal industry is roughly $37 million a year in tax breaks, a substantial subsidy for an industry that has been in decline for two decades. Appalachian Voices served as a consultant for the report.
Mapping The Human Cost of Coal (November 8, 2012)
A special 8-page report mapping 21 peer-reviewed studies that conclude mountaintop removal coal mining contributes to significantly higher rates of birth defects, cancer, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases among individuals living in the region where it occurs.
The Clean Water Act at 40:
Real People, Real Successes, Real Threats (October 2012)
Released the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, this report looks at the threats to the clean water protections during the 112th Congress, as well the people who have improved water quality in their communities thanks to this landmark legislation.
Dirty Money, Dirty Power:
How Virginia’s Energy Policy Serves the Interests of Top Campaign Contributors (October 2, 2012)
A report by Appalachian Voices, Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter and Chesapeake Climate Action Network that analyzes more than a decade of publicly available data to draw the connection between state campaign contributions and corporate gifts from electricity utilities and mining companies in Virginia and the and the poor record of Virginia in advancing energy efficiency and renewable programs compared to other states.
Analysis of Negligent Water Quality Reporting by Certain Kentucky Coal Companies and the State’s Response (December 10, 2010)
An analysis of negligent water quality reporting by certain Kentucky coal mine operators and the state of Kentucky’s regulatory response to the investigation.
Technical Comments by Appalachian Voices and the WaterKeeper Alliance submitted to the EPA concerning EPA Guidance on Appalachian Surface Mining (December 1, 2010)
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0315 Improving EPA Review of Appalachian Surface Coal Mining Operations Under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Environmental Justice Executive Order.
State of Coal Ash Regulation in NC (Sept 9, 2010)
The EPA recently identified 49 coal ash ponds that have a high hazard potential rating, 12 of which are in North Carolina. In addition, Duke and Progress Energy recently tested groundwater surrounding coal ash ponds for contamination. Of the 13 ponds tested, all 13 were found to violate NC groundwater standards. This report examines the need for federal regulation of coal ash and makes recommendations concerning two proposed regulations being considered by the EPA.
In Harm’s Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and Their Environment (August 26, 2010)
An investigation building on the February 2010 report (below) identified 39 more coal combustion waste disposal sites in 21 states where the groundwater or surface water has been contaminated with toxic metals and other pollutants. Added to the 67 cases acknowledged by the EPA, that brings the total to at least 137 sites polluted by coal ash or scrubber sludge.
Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites (February 24, 2010)
This report explores 31 coal combustion waste sites that are known to have contaminated groundwater, wetlands, creeks, or rivers in 14 different states. At almost half of the sites, contamination extends off the power plant property at levels that exceed drinking water or surface water quality standards. In addition, 22 of the 31 sites are located in communities with high poverty rates. According to the EPA, residents near coal ash dump sites have a higher risk for cancer as well as damage to the liver, kidney, lungs, and other organs.
Mountaintop Removal – Reclamation FAIL
Two new studies by Appalachian Voices and NRDC reveal that 1.2 million acres, including 500 mountains, have been demolished by coal companies in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee. Over 89% of sites are not currently being used for economic development.
NC Coal Ash Pond Groundwater Contamination Analysis (October, 2009)
An analysis of ground water samples surrounding 13 coal ash ponds operated by Duke and Progress Energy revealed that all 13 ponds are leaking toxic heavy metals and other pollutants into the surrounding aquifer. Exceedances were found for arsenic, boron, cadmium, chloride, chromium, iron, lead, manganese, pH, sulfate, and total dissolved solids.
Preliminary Summary Report from Water, Sediment and Fish samples collected at the TVA Ash Spill (May 15, 2009)
On December 22, 2008 a coal ash retention pond at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant broke, releasing over one billion gallons of toxic coal ash. Preliminary analysis of samples collected near the spill site revealed elevated levels of toxic elements in the water, sediment, and fish tissues from the Emory River.
The Financial Risks to Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s Consumer-Members of Building and Operating the Proposed Cypress Creek Power Station (April 22, 2009)
This assessment finds a number of significant risks to ODEC’s consumer-members associated with the proposed construction of the Cypress Creek facility. Risks range from financial uncertainty to greenhouse gas emissions to the capture and disposal of combustion waste.
Assessing the Economic Impact of Dominion Virginia Power’s Coal-Fired Power Plant in Wise County, Virginia, Compared to Investments in Energy Efficiency (March, 2009)
Analysis of an energy efficiency alternative finds that energy efficiency would be less costly than the 585 MW coal-fired power plant in Wise County, Virginia. It would be less expensive for ratepayers and substantially more beneficial to the Virginia economy in terms of Gross State Product (GSP) and job effects. The beneficial effects of energy efficiency are even more pronounced when a likely federal carbon emissions regulatory program is taken into account.
Economic Impact Analysis:
Old Dominion Electric Co-op (ODEC) Power Plant: Town of Dendron, VA and Surry County, VA (Sept, 2007)
This report is a review of the estimated economic impact of the proposed 1500 megawatt (MW) coal fired plant in Surry County, Virginia. The study considers local economic resources, labor force, commuting patterns, and regional industry and finds that money and jobs are expected to flow away from such a large infrastructure project rather than into the community.