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Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships

Regional Programs: Central Appalachia

Take action! Sign our petition opposing the destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining.

October 5, 2009
The Sierra Club's Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Program -- along with its partners Coal River Mountain Watch, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment -- submitted a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency. The petition urges the EPA to meet its responsibility under Executive Order 12898 to address the environmental justice tragedy of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.

No War on our Mountains Mining activists in Appalachia are some of the most dedicated people in the world. They live in fear of blasting, flooding, overweight coal trucks, and slurry releases and still they keep hope. There is an old hymn that says, "Just like a tree that's planted by the waters, I shall not be moved." In Appalachia, they have destroyed the trees, polluted our water, cut off the tops of our mountains, and blasted the foundations of our homes, but we will not be moved.

The goal of the Sierra Club's Central Appalachia Environmental Justice site is to support the work of these activists in their struggles against the irresponsible practices of the mining industry. Working on behalf of the Sierra Club are environmental justice organizers Bill Price and Bill McCabe.

The Central Appalachian program began on January 9, 2003. The first year was focused on developing relationships with activist groups throughout the site that encompasses parts of five states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia – as well as all of West Virginia.

Major Win Against Mountaintop Removal Mining in Kentucky

The Sierra Club's first Kentucky MTR challenge produced immediate results. Shortly after we filed suit, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended the permit for ICG Hazard's Thunder Ridge mine in order to reconsider its approval in light of the claims we raised. Sierra Club and co-plaintiff Kentucky Waterways Alliance identified several legal deficiencies with the permit, including the Corps' failure to explain its conclusion that burying several miles of streams would not degrade the waterways because the company would create replacement streams (even though attempts to recreate headwater streams have never been successful).

The Corps also failed to demonstrate that the mining would not have any adverse effect on the environment. This victory will help protect drinking water quality for Kentuckians around the state and it represents the first time that the Army Corps has suspended one of its coal mining permits in Kentucky.

Learn more at the Environmental Law Program's website and the MTR homepage.

Video footage from Pikeville, KY Rally against "Liquid Coal"

At a time when we need to get on the path to achieving an 80 percent reduction in our global warming emissions by 2050--an achievable annual reduction of 2 percent--the level scientists tell us is necessary to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming, business as usual is no longer acceptable.

Liquid coal produces nearly twice the global warming pollution as conventional fuel and does not address supply side concerns about mountaintop removal coal mining. This rally was organized by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.

Film Chronicles Faith Community's Fight against Mountaintop Removal Mining

A film by B.J. Gudmundsson and Patchwork Films, "Mountain Mourning," explores the devastating effects of Mountaintop Removal mining in Central Appalachia. With devastating footage of the battered landscapes, the film also highlights the connection of the Appalachian people to their land. This destructive method for extracting coal by clearning and blasting beautiful mountaintops to expose their minerals is a tragedy. The Sierra Club and other organizations are working to end this practice.

Check out the trailer for "Mountain Mourning."

About the Organizer: Bill Price, EJ Resource Coordinator

Bill Price Bill Price was a resident of the southern West Virginia coalfields for more than 30 years. He has experienced the feelings of anger and helplessness that invariably occur when irresponsible coal-mining methods bring economic and environmental devastation to communities in the coal-producing region of Central Appalachia.

Bill became active in the environmental movement in 2001 after flooding heavily damaged the community where he lives. The failure of a large sediment pond on a mountaintop removal mining operation directly above this small community contributed to the severity of the flood, which destroyed and damaged several hundred homes in the valley downstream. Shortly afterward, he became a member of Coal River Mountain Watch, a local citizens' activist group dedicated to ending this destructive mining practice.

In 2003, Bill had the opportunity to begin working with the Sierra Club's Environmental Justice Program. The program works in coal-producing areas of six states (West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee) with members of grassroots organizations involved in various coal-related issues.

Bill is also involved in co-facilitating diversity and Dismantling Racism workshops. He how resides in Huntington, West Virginia.

For more information:

Mountaintop Removal Mining In this devastating form of mining, hundreds of feet of dirt, plants, and rock above a coal seam are blasted off and dumped over the side of the mountain.

Blair Mountain Despite widespread efforts to preserve this valuable place as a historic site, a mountaintop-removal permit is pending on land where parts of a famous battle occurred here.

Read the profiles of Appalachian activists who are making a difference.

View a slideshow that shows you the mountaintop trouble faced by the people of West Virginia. (You'll need Flash.)

The battle for justice comes to the coal fields of Appalachia. Read the article by Erik Reece on anti-mountaintop removal mining activismi in the January/February 2006 Orion magazine.

More about coal mining in Appalachia.


Contact Us

Central Appalachia EJ Program
Bill Price: EJ Resource Coordinator
922 Quarrier Street
Suite 304
Charleston, WV 25301
304-342-3183 (fax)
304-389-8822 (cell)

Bill McCabe: EJ Organizer
726 Clinch Mountain Road
Eidson, TN 37731
423-944-3221 (fax)
423-327-2820 (cell)

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