Grassroots Progress Report Evaluates Obama’s Legacy in Appalachia

Grassroots Progress Report Evaluates Obama’s Legacy in Appalachia

The report discusses the Obama Administration’s successes and shortfalls in addressing the impacts of mountaintop removal and investing in a just and sustainable economy in Appalachia.
Read the report here : (Grassroots Progress Report)

 

Following a tumultuous year for the coal industry, including the disastrous coal-chemical spill that left 300,000 without access to clean water in West Virginia, and increasing layoffs as coal mining continues to decline, a coalition of Appalachian citizen groups are demanding increased action from the Obama Administration.

 

The Alliance for Appalachia is releasing a Grassroots Progress Report that assesses the work the Obama administration has done in the region and provides recommendations for the final two years of Obama’s tenure. The coalition feels it is a critical time for the administration to seriously engage in the extensive health and environmental costs of coal in the region, as well as address the urgent need for economic transition.

 

In addition to presenting suggested actions for the administration, the report outlines repeated failures by state agencies to enforce the law. This report comes on the heels of accusations from local groups that a Kentucky mining company has violated the Clean Water Act nearly 28,000 times, likely the largest non-compliance of the law in its 42-year history, while state regulators continue to give only slaps on the wrists.  The lack of accountability for rampant violations of the Clean Water Act and other laws are one reason that citizen groups are calling for urgent federal attention to the issue.

 

The quiet cut-off of funding for a USGS Study on the health impacts of mountaintop removal and continued delayed in rule-making processes, indicate that the administration is ignoring the issue, despite new studies linking mountaintop removal to increased rates of cancer and growing national concerns over climate change and water shortages.  Groups want the administration to address serious lapses in regulation, enforcement, and oversight of mountaintop removal mining operations, and to engage in collaborative dialogue around solutions and mitigation for adverse impacts caused by mountaintop removal mining operations, as well as to discuss what’s next for the region.

 

“The coal industry is never going to be like it was in the 30s. The jobs have been on a decline since the beginning.  We need to realistically think of the future of Appalachia, and fix this mess,” said Teri Blanton, a volunteer with The Alliance for Appalachia and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.  “We could employ ten times the number of workers just fixing the toxic pollution mountaintop removal has left behind. We need reinvestment in Appalachia – not just clean energy, but cleaning up the messes left behind by dirty energy.”

 

In addition to planning for an Appalachian future with fewer and fewer coal jobs, the coalition is seeking more permanent protections and concrete commitments for what the agencies can accomplish by the end of 2016.  In September, leaders from mountain communities attended an interagency meeting with representatives of the Obama administration.  The goal of this meeting was to address this progress of the administration towards promises made in a 2009 memorandum. In June, 2009, the Obama administration created a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among federal agencies responsible for protecting Appalachian communities from the extreme damage of mountaintop removal coal mining.  Groups were disappointed with the lack of initiative shown by agency representatives in the five years since the memo was created.

 

“The meeting we thought we were going to have wasn’t what happened at all. The administration representatives said they wanted to ‘start a dialogue,’ but we thought the dialogue had started years ago in 2009.  This meeting should have been the culmination of years of work, not the beginning,” said Davie Ransdell, a former coal reclamation technician who now volunteers with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Alliance for Appalachia.

 

The grassroots report is one way community groups are following up with meeting attendees. Suggested administrative changes include a Conductivity Rule and strong Selenium Standard from the US Environmental Protection Agency and a strong Stream Protection Rule and Mine Fill Rule from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation Enforcement.

 

“Now is the time to get these policies on the books so future administrations can have something to work with,” said Ann League of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment.

 

Mountaintop removal and other coal industry abuses have long compromised the waters of Central Appalachia. Over 2,000 miles of stream have been buried by mountaintop removal alone and mountaintop removal has destroyed 10% of the land in central Appalachia – more than 500 mountains. The severe impacts of mountaintop removal show the urgent need to end this practice as well as to begin building towards reclaiming the land and water for a healthier future.
The Alliance for Appalachia is a coalition of groups across the Central Appalachian region working to end mountaintop removal and other destructive coal technologies, as well as to create a just and sustainable future for Appalachia. Members include Appalachian Voices, Coal River Mountain Watch, Gainesville Loves Mountains, Hands Off Appalachia, Heartwood, Highlander Research and Education Center, Keepers of the Mountains Foundation, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Sierra Club Environmental Justice, The Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, SouthWings and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

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AppalCEED’s first Harvest workshop a success!

On Saturday, November 8th, a group of about 30 people gathered at Mountain Rose Vineyard in Wise, VA for The Harvest: Wise County Apple Days, an event focused on Apples, Hard Apple Cider, and the potential for new economic engines in our region based on these industries. The event was hosted by Appalachian Communities Encouraging Economic Diversity, or AppalCEED.

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The group gathered for a potluck lunch, and started by getting to know eachother. In attendance were local apple growers, small business owners, brewers and people enthusiastic about building a more diverse economy in Southwest Virginia.

After lunch, Suzanne Lawson, owner of Mountain Rose Vineyard, took the group on a tour of the Vineyard. She explained some of the difficulties they’ve had in remediating the soil on the property, a former strip mine, to make it suitable for successful grape growing. They’ve tried everything, she explained, dozens of different cover crops, compost, horse manure. Despite set backs over the years, their grapes are growing well now, and they are producing tons of grapes for wine production.

During the tour, Lawson described some of the difficulties that face small producers of any agricultural product, but especially those involved in selling alcohol. Federal, State  and local laws create a web of paper work to track every grape involved in making their wine, and every bottle, once produced.

After the tour, the group sat down for a presentation by Jeff Irvin, instructor and Brewmaster at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Asheville, NC. The school has the first program in the country to offer an accredited program and associate’s degree in brewing, fermentation and distillation.

The engaging presentation focused on the basic how-to’s of Apple Cider brewing, from picking the right apples at the right time, to learning to develop a taste pallet for testing ciders and apples, to the equipment and materials needed for commercial cider production to  the need for unique and creative marketing. Perhaps one of the most exciting moments of the day came when Mr. Irvin pointed to the rapid growth of the apple cider business.

Since 2012, volume of Apple Cider sales have risen by 70%, and in the last two years, big players in the beer and wine business, like Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Sam Adams have all purchased large Hard Cider companies. This interest from large corporations shows that they believe the recent rapid growth in Hard Cider sales is destined to continue. Just in the Asheville area, six new cideries have opened in the last few years.

Especially relevant to Wise County and Southwest Virginia, where the climate is beneficial to growing apples, the rise in demand for Hard Cider, and for the apples needed to make it, could be a boon for a return of the apple industry which once flourished in our area.

The event wrapped with up with the giving of door prizes, including Wise County Historical Society’s book, Wise County’s Apple Blossoms of Yesteryear, which highlights the many many small apple farms that once dotted the hills and hollers of our area.

The next AppalCEED event is not yet set, but stay tuned, and get in touch if you’d like to get involved in building new economies in Southwest Virginia!

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The Harvest: Apples, Cider, and Apple Cideries for Economic Diversity

Harvest Poster

 

Wise County, Virginia was once among the top apple producing counties in the United States and a local group, AppalCEED, which stands for Appalachian Communities Encouraging Economic Diversity, would like to see apples become a viable part of our economy once again.

Our first AppalCEED workshop, in early spring of this year, focused on grafting apple trees and included a spirited panel discussion made up of local apple growers.

On Saturday, November 8th, from 12pm to 4pm at the MountainRose Winery in Wise, VA, AppalCEED will host a second event, “The Harvest”, focused on creating hard apple cider breweries, which have proven to be successful businesses in other parts of Virginia and surrounding states.

The event will begin with lunch at noon followed by a tour of the Mountain Rose Winery and Vineyards. 

Our guest speaker is Jeff Irvin, Brewmaster and instructor in the Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation Department at AB-Tech in Asheville,

Producers, potential producers, eaters and lovers of apples are all welcome.

The event is free, though donations are welcome.

For Questions, you can call AppalCEED at 276-565-2073
Or you can email Jane at <janeluvsmts@gmail.com>.

See you at the Harvest!

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SAMS Mourns the Passing of Judiana Stines

While the last few months have been marked by success and victory, our hearts are heavy with the recent loss of one of our beloved board members, Judiana Stines. Jude went to be with her Lord on Tuesday September 30th after a long and painful struggle from complications with diabetes.

Judiana is remembered by us all for her unshakable optimism and joy. I remember the first time that she walked through the door of the SAMS office after having been urged by a friend to go to the top of Black Mountain to have a look at what was going on up there. Of course, what Jude saw was the devastation of mountain top removal being played out on the hollers that she had known since childhood. Most people, including myself, are hit with an intense sadness and hopelessness when they first see what a few bulldozers and explosives can do to our mountains, but not Judiana. She came into the office that day so sure that if we all worked together- diligently, intelligently, and with hope- that we could turn the tide.

Judiana went home as a peacemaker. She never said anything bad about anybody and always looked for the good in people. When there was disagreement within the SAMS family, Jude was always able to hold a space for that disagreement without getting wrapped up in it, and in doing so helped us to move toward consensus and unified action. Looking back on it, even the worst or the worst- the men that most of us consider the “bad guys”- I think that Judiana looked at them and saw their humanness, that light that lives in us all and binds us together. That light shined so brightly in her.

Even as her health was failing, Judiana never stopped working for what she believed in. She always found ways to contribute to SAMS, even from her hospital bed. At a time in her life when most people would become wrapped up in their own pain, Judiana remained outwardly positive and engaged in the things she cared about the most. Though she would have had every right to seek sympathy, she only looked for ways to keep helping.

I believe that Judiana’s passing has forced all of us in the SAMS family to look deeply into why we keep showing up to the work that we do for our mountains and our people. Judiana’s life stands like our mountains as an unshakable example of what is good and worth fighting for. Her work, faith, joy, and love will live as a benchmark for us to judge our own lives against. And we know that she lives with us in spirit to help us as we strive to joyfully fight the good fight and work for what is good. We will miss her dearly.

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