Mountaintop removal is the 800-pound gorilla at the SOAR Health Impact Series

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 | Posted by Erin Savage | No Comments

SOARHealthMountaintop removal's health impacts were the number one concern of eastern Kentuckians that participated in the SOAR Health Impact Series, but the topic was barely addressed at a recent SOAR gathering in Hazard. If they hope to soar beyond political rhetoric, Rep. Hal Rogers and Gov. Steve Beshear must take those concerns seriously, and support more research into the connections between mountaintop removal and health. [ More ]

An activist is born

Monday, August 4th, 2014 | Posted by Marissa Wheeler | No Comments

An Appalachian Voices intern attends her first-ever environmental rally and finds a sense of belonging among other advocates calling for clean energy and climate action. "It’s one thing to wear the pins and stickers; it’s another thing to feel empowered by your peers to take action and work towards a common goal," Marissa Wheeler writes. [ More ]

One fish, two fish … Dead fish

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 1 Comment

onefish_twofishA study from researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) published this month provides strong new evidence that mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia is devastating downstream fish populations. Fortunately, the Obama administration has an opportunity to take meaningful action to protect Appalachian streams. [ More ]

North Carolina “off the sidelines” to fast-track fracking

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | 1 Comment

Greener-Fracking_jpg_800x1000_q100Four months after a massive coal ash spill devastated the Dan River, and before the state’s coal ash problem is remedied, North Carolina is poised to open a new can of worms. On Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory signed the Energy Modernization Act, lifting a moratorium on natural gas drilling in the state. [ More ]

N.C. coal plant neighbors ask: “At what cost?”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

AWCblogNear the beginning of our new video, Stokes County, N.C., resident Annie Brown says, “I love to turn the switch on and have my lights just like anyone else, but at what cost?” It’s a question we should all ask of ourselves. But we also must direct our elected officials and electric providers to consider the question: at what cost do our outdated energy policies and practices come? [ More ]

Study Confirms Air Pollution from Mountaintop Removal

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Meredith Warfield | No Comments

blasting For generations, coal-mining communities in Appalachia have raised questions about local health problems, wondering whether or not they may be linked to pollution from nearby coal mines. A recent study conducted by a group of West Virginia University researchers has confirmed that suspicion, reporting that potentially dangerous air pollution levels are more likely in areas surrounding mountaintop removal coal mines than in mine-free communities. [ More ]

A Watched EPA Never Acts: 5 Years After the TVA Coal Ash Disaster

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Amy Adams | No Comments

coalashTVA

It has been five years since the TVA Coal Ash disaster in Tennessee, which sent 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash into Emory and Clinch rivers. While the nation has watched and petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the agency responsible for issuing federal standards for coal ash disposal, little action has been taken. Perhaps this is similar to the old adage that says “a watched pot never boils.”

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The Clock is Ticking on Coal Ash: EPA Given 60 Days to Set Deadline on Regulation of Toxic Coal Waste

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 | Posted by Brian Sewell | No Comments

This week, a federal court gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 60 days to propose a deadline for rules regulating toxic coal ash. Photo from southeastcoalash.org

This week, a federal court gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 60 days to propose a deadline for rules regulating toxic coal ash. Photo from southeastcoalash.org

After years of delays and setbacks, the clock is finally ticking on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to propose a deadline for federal regulations of coal ash.

On Tuesday, a federal judge gave the EPA 60 days to file a written submission setting forth a proposed deadline for its review and revision of regulations concerning coal ash, along with its legal justification for the proposed deadline.

This victory for clean water and healthy communities came almost month after the court sided with Appalachian Voices and our allies, agreeing that the EPA has a duty to stop the delays and issue federally enforceable safeguards for the toxic coal waste. You can read the memorandum issued this week by the court here.

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A Legislative Lesson in Taking the Easy Way Out

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 | Posted by Brian Sewell | 2 Comments

A North Carolina bill includes proposes allowing groundwater contamination up to a landowners property line, a plan supported by Duke Energy, which is being sued for coal ash pollution at its Riverbend Plant. Photo by the Catawba Riverkeeper.

A North Carolina bill includes proposes allowing groundwater contamination up to a landowner’s property line, a plan supported by Duke Energy, which is being sued for coal ash pollution at its Riverbend Plant. Photo by the Catawba Riverkeeper.

In the midst of allegations against Duke Energy for coal ash pollution at multiple coal-fired plants, a bill in the North Carolina House of Representatives could give polluters a free pass and build a buffer against lawsuits.

Already passed by the N.C. Senate, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 (S 612) proposes a “boundary loophole” that would allow groundwater to be contaminated by toxic chemicals such as arsenic, selenium and mercury, as long as it remains inside the owner’s property line. That terrifying prospect is hardly assuaged by the sponsors’ claim that their beyond-polluter-friendly bill seeks to “provide regulatory relief to the citizens of North Carolina.”

If you’ve been paying attention to the recent exploits of the N.C. General Assembly, you’d assume that the bill goes beyond creating a boundary loophole. You’d be right. The entirely anti-environmental bill includes provisions to fast-track the permitting process for certain environmental permits and to prevent local environmental rules from being stricter than state or federal statutes or regulations.

The legislature already passed a reform bill forbidding new state rules from being more stringent than federal standards last year. Of course, like most of the ill-conceived crusades being waged in Raleigh, that’s easier said than done.

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EPA’s Benefits Greatly Outweigh Costs, According to OMB Report

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 | Posted by Davis Wax | No Comments

A new report shows the EPA's rules, especially on air pollution, are saving money and lives.

During their push to abolish, obstruct and stymie the Environmental Protection Agency over the past few years, House Republicans have beleaguered the agency for regulatory measures they consider “job-killing” or “anti-industry,” hoping to revert federal environmental regulation to state control or make protections obsolete altogether.

Those in favor of federal rules have argued that national standards allow for the most effective and consistent protections and, as a result, will lead to reduced costs in health care directly associated with air and water pollution.

A new report from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget makes a clear case for why the country needs the EPA. The report includes an analysis of the costs and benefits of a number of federal regulations over the past decade and shows EPA rules, especially those pertaining to air protection, to be the most costly among all the rules evaluated but also the most beneficial.

The budget office estimates that the EPA’s rules account for 58 to 80 percent of the monetized benefits of all federal rules, but 44 to 54 percent of the total costs. Out of these benefits, close to 99 percent come from rules that seek to improve air quality. The report claims that the large estimated benefits of the EPA rules following the arrival of the Clean Air Act stem mostly from the reduction of a single air pollutant: fine particulate matter.

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Stop Brushing off the Bad Stuff

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013 | Posted by Brian Sewell | 4 Comments

However complex the causes of the ongoing health crisis in Appalachia, denial accomplishes nothing but the perpetuation of the status quo. Yet every time claims that could negatively impact the coal industry surface, Appalachian legislators throw up a black sheet.

However complex the causes of the ongoing health crisis in Appalachia, denial accomplishes nothing but the perpetuation of the status quo. Yet every time claims that could negatively impact the coal industry surface, Appalachian legislators throw up a black sheet.

West Virginia University professor and public health researcher Dr. Michael Hendryx’s latest article, “Personal and Family Health in Rural Areas of Kentucky With and Without Mountaintop Coal Mining,” appeared in the online Journal of Rural Health a couple of days ago. The study immediately gained the attention of Kentucky media, and supporters of the coal industry have been quick to write off Hendryx’s methods and conclusions — they just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

Hendryx has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles. He’s the director of the West Virginia Rural Health Research Center and after receiving a Ph.D. in psychology, he completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Methodology at the University of Chicago. Little of that seems to matter, however, because much of his research is concentrated on poor health in Appalachian coal-mining communities, especially those where mountaintop removal takes place.

Like other studies Hendryx has conducted, the eastern Kentucky-focused article relies on comparing data gathered in counties with mountaintop removal to data from counties without it. More than 900 residents of Rowan and Elliott counties (no mountaintop removal) and Floyd County (mountaintop removal) were asked similar questions about their family health history and incidents of cancer to those that the U.S. Center for Disease Control uses in gathering data.

After ruling out factors including tobacco use, income, education and obesity, the study found that residents of Floyd County suffer a 54 percent higher rate of death from cancer, and dramatically higher incidences of pulmonary and respiratory diseases over the past five years than residents of Elliott and Rowan counties.

These results should surprise no one, least of all the families in Floyd County that participated in the study. Yet somehow, supporters of the widespread use of mountaintop removal still refuse to consider that blowing up mountains might impact human health.

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Canvassing Against Coal Ash

Friday, March 15th, 2013 | Posted by Matt Grimley | No Comments

The Red, White & Water team hit the streets near Belmont, N.C., to speak with residents who live near Duke Energy's G.G. Allen Steam Station about the threats of coal ash pollution.

Last Saturday, the Red, White and Water team traveled to Belmont, N.C., to the G.G. Allen Steam Station for a day of canvassing. Walking door-to-door, we asked residents of the communities near the coal-fired power plant if they had been impacted by water pollution.

I met Archie Dixon, who was featured in the Gaston Gazette a few months ago. Dixon had complained to Duke Energy, which owns the power plant, about coal ash staining his property and getting into his drinking water. I spoke with him while he and his grandson (also named Archie, or “Lil’ Arch”) waited for a plumber for a broken pipe on their property. In his garage sat a waist-high stack of bottled water. Mr. Dixon said that he still refuses to drink his own home’s water.

The pollution near the plant happens in two ways. One is through coal ash ponds. Coal ash is the waste byproduct from burning coal and it contains contaminants such as arsenic, mercury and chromium. Because the one active coal ash pond at G.G. Allen is an unlined impoundment, these toxics can seep into groundwater. Tests near the plant have revealed exceedances in manganese, iron and nickel in the groundwater.

Effluent is the other form of pollution at G.G. Allen — the plant wastewater that discharges directly into the surface waters of nearby Lake Wylie. Under the Clean Water Act, permits are issued for each of the plant’s discharge points. These permits, however, only set limits for traditional pollutants, including oil and grease, “total suspended solids” and pH. They rarely limit pollutants such as mercury, selenium, and arsenic. And with a lack of federal guidelines, many states don’t set their own permit limits for these toxic chemicals.

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