Counteracting Coal’s Dirty Tricks

Friday, April 18th, 2014 | Posted by Tom Cormons | 3 Comments

dirty_stream2Last month, we acted quickly to undermine H.R. 2824, a pro-mountaintop removal bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. While we never expected to prevent the bill from passing the anti-environmental House, our efforts helped to make the perils of mountaintop removal the message of the day. [ More ]

Electricity Costs Tied to Poverty in the South

Friday, March 14th, 2014 | Posted by Tom Cormons | No Comments

povertymapblogFifty years ago, President Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in America, and Congress passed legislation to increase support and economic opportunities for the poor. Appalachia was the “poster region” for this grand endeavor. Today, a “war on wasted energy” makes sense for many reasons, and it would provide a much-needed boost to communities in Appalachia and across the South who are most in need. [ More ]

Coal-related Spills Connect Us All

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 | Posted by Tom Cormons | 4 Comments

moormans_river_va Over the last several weeks, with each report from West Virginia or North Carolina of a coal-related water pollution crisis, I couldn't help but imagine my favorite river, the Moormans, being poisoned by a mysterious chemical called MCHM, choked by toxic coal ash, or fouled by coal slurry. In fact, it is my river that is threatened. And your river, too. But our shared connection to the creeks and rivers running through our lives unites us in the fight to protect our waters, and that’s what gives me hope. [ More ]

West Virginia’s Water Crisis: As Predictable As It Was Preventable

Saturday, January 18th, 2014 | Posted by Tom Cormons | 3 Comments

wv_spill On Thursday, Jan. 9, more than 7,500 gallons of a highly toxic chemical used to process coal spilled into the Elk River -- just upstream of a drinking water intake serving more than 300,000 people in West Virginia. While the spill was making national headlines as a one-time event, our thoughts turned to the much bigger problems with water pollution and politics in Appalachia that don't get enough attention from the media -- and how these chronic problems actually set the stage for this disaster. [ More ]

Reflecting on a Year of Accomplishments

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 | Posted by Tom Cormons | No Comments


It was ten months ago when I wrote my first letter to our supporters as the Executive Director of Appalachian Voices. Looking back on the time that has flown by, I take great comfort in knowing that over this short span we made many impressive advances in reducing coal’s impact on our communities and promoting solutions for a cleaner energy future. With the end of 2013 only days away, I want to personally let you know how grateful we are for your commitment to our work this year. Thank you.

Here are just a few highlights of all that we did with your help.

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Saying “No!” to Toxins in Our Water

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 | Posted by Tom Cormons | 4 Comments

waterfall2 Appalachian Voices works with citizens throughout the region to expose water pollution from mountaintop removal mining, and we’ve been advocating for strong state standards to control this dangerous pollutant. We are pushing back on the EPA’s decision on Kentucky, and we’re ready to hit the ground to fight for responsible, enforceable standards in other states. [ More ]

A Giving of Thanks for Wendell Berry

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Tom Cormons | No Comments

Wendell Berry, image screen capture from Moyers and Company

I know of no wiser or more insightful thinker alive today than Wendell Berry. The work of this Kentucky farmer, author and activist has been a constant source of inspiration for me ever since I read a collection of his essays, “Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community,” in college 17 years ago, so it was a real treat to see his rare television interview with Bill Moyers that aired on PBS earlier this month.

In the interview, we see a man gravely concerned with the state of the world. Yet, despite his acute awareness of the problems we face — including the rampant mountaintop removal mining in his home state — what makes Berry stand out today is his clear, unwavering vision of the good and the beautiful, which is informed and inspired by his own well-lived life. His writing celebrates nature, close families and communities, and the potential for healthy interaction between people and the earth — and, as a farmer who’s devoted his life to caring for the land and his loved ones, he writes with great authority.

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Wielding New Power for Virginia

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 | Posted by Tom Cormons | 1 Comment

I want my three children to grow up in a world where the water is safe to drink, the air is safe to breathe, and the beauty of our natural heritage remains intact. We can achieve this only through making major investments in clean energy, which also provides more jobs, saves money and leads to a more stable economy.

My home state of Virginia, alas, has a long way to go, and that’s why Appalachian Voices and partners have launched the New Power for the Old Dominion campaign.

The Old Dominion is stuck on using dirty energy from fossil fuels like coal, which desecrates our mountains and pollutes our environment. Virginia lags far behind others in taking advantage of clean energy from wind, solar and efficiency. Consider a couple of facts:

  • Virginia has a potential of at least 42000 megawatts of wind and solar energy. Dominion Virginia Power, which provides two-thirds of the state’s electricity, plans to develop less than 1 percent of that over the next 15 years
  • Virginia is ranked 37th in the nation for energy efficiency.

Our kids deserve better. We all deserve better. The bold campaign that Appalachian Voices and the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition recently launched will insist that the state’s utilities, regulators and lawmakers get serious about clean energy. New Power for the Old Dominion lays out a practical, affordable, and morally-imperative plan for Virginia to get on the 21st century clean energy bandwagon. Now.

If you live in Virginia, I invite you to speak up for our state’s future and sign the pledge for clean energy today. And please consider sharing this with your Virginia friends.

Together, we can bring new power to the Old Dominion.

For Virginia,

Bringing A Renewed Sense of Community to our Citizens

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Tom Cormons | 3 Comments


In the latest issue of The Advocate, we feature our intrepid Red, White & Water team, which was on the road in North Carolina over the last couple months meeting with people living near toxic coal ash ponds. The response was tremendous.

Led by our North Carolina campaign coordinator, Sandra Diaz, our team of interns and volunteers made hundreds of phone calls and knocked on dozens of doors. We teamed up with Dr. Avner Vengosh and his graduate students from Duke University to sample drinking water wells and test for the toxic chemicals associated with coal ash pollution.

People welcomed us into their homes, told us their worries about contaminated drinking water, and brought friends and neighbors to our community meetings where we shared information about coal plant pollution. And many of them are now getting involved to tell the government to enforce the laws that are meant to protect water resources and public health.

This is Appalachian Voices at our best — helping citizens get the information and tools they need to voice their concerns to elected leaders and other decision makers, making them powerful advocates for their families, their communities, and the environment.

Toward that end, we’re proud to be a co-sponsor of the first Southeast Coal Ash Summit this fall, where citizens can learn from state and federal officials, scientists, activists – and each other – about this significant threat to the South’s waters.

View images of the meetings and find out how you can get involved in our Red, White and Water campaign.

For our mountains and water,


Reflections on the President’s Climate Change Speech

Friday, June 28th, 2013 | Posted by Tom Cormons | 4 Comments

On June 25, I gathered with my co-workers to watch President Obama unveil his vision for addressing climate change. It was encouraging to hear the president frame the issue in terms of a “moral imperative,” and the fact that he’s ready to take on power plant emissions — the single largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. — shows that he’s serious.

But no energy plan can be built on a moral foundation without ensuring that areas like Appalachia, heavily impacted by the country’s continued over-reliance on fossil fuels, don’t get left behind. The devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining has no place in a 21st Century energy plan.

President Obama must stop industry from pushing the costs of doing business off on communities and our environment. More than 20 health studies have shown that residents of Appalachian coal counties, particularly those living near mountaintop removal sites, suffer higher cancer rates, more birth defects, and have shorter life spans than other citizens.

The administration needs to address these immediate issues while also doing more to invest in energy efficiency and renewable sources — particularly in Appalachia. Such investments will go far to create jobs, economic security and environmental health for our region.

I applaud the president’s determination to make the issue of climate change a top priority on the national agenda. Appalachian Voices stands ready to work with his administration to achieve a new energy future, for Appalachia and America.

Stand Up For Clean Streams And Healthy Drinking Water

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Tom Cormons | No Comments

Dear friends and members,

I was outraged to learn last month that a handful of U.S. senators were again trying to shred the laws that protect Appalachia’s waters — but I wasn’t surprised. They were mostly the same folks who continuously criticize and accuse the Environmental Protection Agency of waging a so-called “war on coal” for simply fulfilling its mandate to protect America’s natural resources.

Appalachian Voices and many others mounted an immediate and vigorous citizen backlash, and the senators’ plans were fortunately defeated. But it reminds us that many aww of our “representatives” on Capitol Hill and in our state capitals don’t always represent our best interests, and that we need to look out for ourselves.

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Welcoming Our New Energy Savings Program

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 | Posted by Tom Cormons | No Comments

Dear friends and members,

Fighting the bad stuff isn’t enough. As Appalachia begins to transition away from destructive sources of energy like mountaintop removal coal, we need to work toward a future where our energy comes from clean sources and Appalachian communities prosper with jobs that respect our natural heritage.

We waste an astonishing amount of electricity in this country. The Southeast has the largest untapped energy-efficiency resource of any region, with 29 percent of the nation’s total potential. With homes and businesses that are less energy-efficient than average, the largely rural area of Appalachia holds an abundance of wasted energy.
Consider some of the benefits of energy efficiency. A recent report from the Appalachian Regional Commission found that energy savings programs could create more than 77,000 jobs throughout Appalachia, including energy auditors and weatherization experts. Energy efficiency also saves money for consumers, keeps more money at the local level creating a ripple effect in the economy, and reduces the tremendous environmental harm associated with fossil fuels — including mountaintop removal.

I am pleased to announce Appalachian Voices’ new program, Energy Savings for Appalachia, which aims to tap into this rich potential for improving the quality of life for citizens in the region. To head up the program, we’re delighted to welcome Rory McIlmoil, who brings a wealth of experience, insight, and good vibes to this exciting endeavor.

For the mountains,

Tom Cormons
Executive Director

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