The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: appalachian voices

 

Ask your representatives to support the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act!

Coal miners in Appalachia are getting black lung disease at record rates, even as the amount of coal being mined is declining. It’s past time to make sure they get the care they need.

Because they can no longer work, coal miners who get the disease are promised certain benefits, like health care and a living stipend. But current laws and processes make it incredibly challenging for miners and their families to access those benefits. And the current benefit levels are not even sufficient to support the miners who are out of work because of their illness. 

Pennsylvania Congressman Matt Cartwright and Senator Bob Casey have introduced a bill to make it easier for miners with black lung to access vital healthcare and financial support. Importantly, the bill would also tie benefit levels to inflation. With inflation rising, benefit levels are increasingly inadequate, and this change is needed urgently.

Ask your representatives to support the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act!

Published in News
Thursday, 22 September 2022 12:23

Enviros to TVA: Retire the fossil-fuel pacifier

Cumberland FPTVA’s Cumberland Fossil Plant near Clarksville is the subject of a suit filed by environmental groups, including Appalachian Voices and Southern Environmental Law Center.  Tennessee Valley Authority

SELC, others file suit in hopes of dissuading TVA from future fossil options

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

CLARKSVILLE — On behalf of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices, the Southern Environmental Law Center asked TVA to prepare a supplemental environmental statement to address concerns with TVA’s draft environmental impact statement, which details the agency’s plans to retire the Cumberland Fossil Plant.

The Cumberland Fossil Plant, about 22 miles southwest of Clarksville, is TVA’s largest coal-fired power station and was built between 1968 and 1973. TVA plans to retire each unit of the two-unit, coal-fired steam-generation plant separately: one unit no later than 2030, and the second unit no later than 2033. But the plant will need to be replaced, and TVA is currently considering three alternatives to fossil fuel, including natural gas and solar energy, according to its draft EIS.

(Tennessee Valley Authority already plans to close down the Knoxville-area Bull Run fossil plant in Claxton next year).

Published in News

TVA 1 2048x1365A hopper car on a train filled with coal to be delivered to a TVA coal-fired plant. John Partipilo/Tennessee Lookout

Climate bill designates TVA as a potential recipient of clean energy investments and loans

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

KNOXVILLE  Clean-energy advocates are urging the Tennessee Valley Authority to use funds provided through the Inflation Reduction Act to deliver environmentally friendly energy to Tennessee customers. 

The massive bill Congress passed Friday includes $370 billion for clean energy investments and listed TVA as an entity that is eligible to take advantage of clean energy credits and loans to significantly reduce the cost of energy-efficient infrastructure. 

On Aug. 12, the Clean Up TVA Coalition, including the Sierra Club, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Appalachian Voices, urged TVA to take advantage of the legislation and make funds available to its affiliated local power companies, which can then offer energy-efficient options for customers.

Published in News

Gray’s lily, photograph by Ben BrewerGray’s lily  Courtesy Appalachian Voice/Ben Brewer

Rare plants flourish on Tater Hill

This story was originally published by Appalachian Voice.

BOONE For Gray’s lily, 2021 was both the best of times and the worst of times.

The vulnerable lily, which grows only in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee, is a species of particular interest at the Tater Hill Plant Preserve in Watauga County, North Carolina. Here nearly 1,600 acres of land, including a rare mountain bog, are devoted to the study and protection of rare and endangered plants.

Published in News

kingstonThe Kingston Fossil Plant in Kingston, Tennessee is shown in this file image from the Tennessee Valley Authority.

TVA denies lobbying or cronyism, cites need for “expertise and analysis”

Editor's Note: This report is a collaboration between Hellbender Press and Hard Knox Wire.

A coalition of environmental groups who joined forces to stop the Tennessee Valley Authority from using ratepayer money to fund trade groups who lobby against the Clean Air Act and other environmental protections filed a federal lawsuit against the utility.

The environmentalists claim the practice potentially raises conflicts of interest and throws into doubt TVA’s willingness to comply with clean air laws even as the utility retires its coal plants in order to transition to a mix of fossil gas and nuclear power.

The 20-page lawsuit was filed Sept. 9 in federal court in Knoxville by a half-dozen groups, including the Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). The groups aren’t seeking monetary damages other than court costs and legal fees.

TVA has invested millions of dollars in measurable air quality improvements as it prepares to divest from coal as a main electricity source. Nevertheless, TVA paid membership dues to interest groups such as Edison Electric Institute (which is headquartered five blocks from the U.S. Capitol) and Energy and Wildlife Action Coalition, according to the plaintiff’s suit.

“TVA has not been officially served with the lawsuit, so it would be inappropriate to comment on its specifics,” TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said early Thursday.

“As the nation’s largest public power provider and a federal agency, the Tennessee Valley Authority needs to demonstrate leadership by halting the financing of groups propping up the fossil fuel economy,” said Howard Crystal, legal director at CBD’s Energy Justice program. “Instead it funds these groups to do its dirty work while it moves forward with building new fossil gas plants. TVA can and must do better.” 

TVA contends it merely wants to get input from multiple stakeholders with multiple perspectives.

“As a federal agency, TVA is prohibited from participating in lobbying activities, and the TVA Board has directed that any dues, membership fees, or financial contributions paid to external organizations not be used for purposes inconsistent with TVA’s statutory mission or legal obligations.   
“Like other major utilities, TVA’s membership in a diverse array of external organizations allows TVA access to specialized expertise and analysis that directly benefits all of our customers at a cost significantly lower than if TVA were to undertake such work alone.”

Maggie Shober, director of utility reform at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said TVA has a special responsibility to support environmental protections.

“TVA is unique in the power industry in that environmental stewardship and economic development are codified in the agency’s founding mission,” she said. “It is imperative that the largest public power utility operate with accountability and transparency, stop funding anti-environment and anti-green jobs work, and invest in clean energy that will support the health of the Valley and the people who depend on it.”

Daniel Tait, chief operating officer of plaintiff Energy Alabama, said: “TVA has forced its customers to make political speech by taking money from their utility bills and using it for anti-clean energy advocacy. We have repeatedly called on the TVA inspector general to investigate this misuse of customer funds but after hearing and seeing nothing, we felt compelled to act.”

The path to the lawsuit began when the groups used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that TVA paid $200,000 in 2018 to the Utility Water Act Group, which lobbies against parts of the Clean Water Act. They also learned the utility was paying $500,000 a year to join the Edison Electric Institute, a group that represents all private, investor-owned utility companies in the country.

Published in News

IMG 4207Alex Pulsipher holds a sign demanding that TVA transition to 100 percent renewable energy at a rally Wednesday in Market Square in Knoxville. Courtesy Amy Rawe/Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Varied environmental groups offer unified plea for clean energy, coal ash management and accountability from TVA

It was people power generating energy at Market Square in downtown Knoxville on Wednesday.

A coalition of civic and environmental groups and their representatives met at the bottom of the two Tennessee Valley Authority towers urging the public utility to reopen meetings to public comment; swear off all fossil fuels by 2030; and carefully tend to the needs of those affected by coal ash and devise a plan to contain it for the safety of current and future generations.

Published in Air

RepairingTheDamage ModernMines RA Infographic1024 1

Report: Cascading bond forfeiture threatens surface mine cleanup

A new report from Appalachian Voices warns that mining companies will increasingly abandon reclamation bonds as the coal industry continues to decline in the Southern Appalachians, adding to already extensive public liability for cleanup costs.

Cleanup and reclamation with a price tag of nearly $10 billion must be still be done on 630,000 acres across seven states, according to the report, Repairing the Damage: The costs of delaying reclamation at modern-era mines.

Reclamation of lands and waters destroyed by coal surface mining could create some 40,000 jobs across the affected regions, virtually replacing, at least temporarily, all the mining jobs that have been lost during the past decade.

“The coal industry has declined precipitously in the last decade, raising the question of whether adequate regulations are in place to ensure that mined land is properly reclaimed,” according to a summary of the report, which was released July 7.

“As more coal companies declare bankruptcy, fewer companies remain to take over mines, so the number of companies forfeiting mining reclamation bonds and deserting their cleanup responsibilities will only increase. In many states, the funds generated by bonding programs may fall short of the actual reclamation costs that are passed to state agencies and taxpayers,” according to Appalachian Voices.

 

Published in Earth

Make your voice heard for environmental justice

The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council is seeking public input on a series of recommendations to the Biden Administration to address environmental justice issues across the United States. Air and water pollution caused by coal mining, toxic coal ash spills, and natural gas pipelines are a few examples of such problems in our region. These issues often impact low-income people and people of color the most, and there is a strong need for communities impacted by fossil fuels to build vibrant, diversified economies. 

This is a chance for you to communicate your concerns about how these environmental issues impact disadvantaged communities while important policy decisions are under development! 

The council will meet on May 13 to discuss:  

  • Environmental justice policy recommendations to Congress and the Biden Administration;

  • A new Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, which will help identify disadvantaged communities and target federal funding; 

  • Updates to a Clinton-era Executive Order (EO 12898) which directed federal agencies to address environmental justice issues in Black and Brown communities and among low-income populations. 

Public comments will be accepted in writing until May 27. To submit a written comment, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Register to attend the meeting or submit your comment today!

Public comments will help to inform the future work of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and they will be incorporated into the record for federal agencies’ consideration. 

Published in Voices