The Freedom to Choose Clean Water - Now

by Paul Ciavarri


Dustin White of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition posted several important observations about the Freedom Industries chemical spill in West Virginia.


Besides pointing out that the spill crippled residents in both urban and rural areas of the mountain state, he makes this exhortation:


"Let this disaster becomes a wakeup call to others.  West Virginians are already paying the price. If these companies are willing to let this happen to our state, they will let it happen to you.  Water is life and we all live downstream."


I certainly agree. And would add it is our responsibility now to keep water clean, refreshing, healthy. And intact as that symbol of life we know it to be. We have that power.


Not only that, we need to put the nation on notice that we mean business.


It is time we demand (in every way possible) the election of representatives sympathetic with the fight for clean water in Appalachia.


It is also time to demand the presence of regulators who see enforcement of the Clean Water Act as more important than the colonial extraction of coal from Appalachia. And the exlusion of regulators who don't.


In other words, as others have said, we need a bold new agenda for Clean Water.


Because what we have now is merely an attempt to contain the extraction industry's brazen agenda to dismantle the Clean Water Act.


Their goal is clear: is to weaken clean water protections, bit by bit, until the Clean Water Act is a mere shadow of its former self.


The time for a bold new agenda is now. The decision to act is ours alone.


Besides, how many more spills will it take until we know that too much precious, life-giving water has either been lost for the wrong reasons (e.g., TVA ash spill) or handed over for detrimental purposes (e.g., mountaintop removal)?







November actions and ways to support

Hi friends! After some hiatus for traveling and scheming up our next steps, we are back with two quick plugs for the end of November, depending on where you find yourself and how you might be able to contribute to the movement...




This coming weekend, in Stamford CT:


Hands Off Appalachia
Fall Action Camp and Training

In 7 days, Hands Off Appalachia is going to Connecticut to confront UBS, a top funder of mountaintop removal coal mining, at their North American headquarters! Join us for a whole week of intensive trainings and action prep, or come to the Saturday training
in preparation for a public demonstration on Sunday 11/24 in Stamford!

It's not too late to join us! 
Find more information here. And register here
And after Thanksgiving...

(from Appalachian Voices)


The Federal Highway Administration is preparing to seal the fate of the Coalfields Expressway project and they need to hear directly from you that this project is nothing more than a mountaintop removal project being disguised as a highway.

Please join us in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Dec. 5th as we rally in front of Federal Highways and ensure that agency officials hear our concerns.

When: 12pm Thursday, December 5th
Where: Federal Highway Administration,
              1200 New Jersey Ave SE
              Washington, D.C., 20590
               >> RSVP now! <<

The Coalfields Expressway is a Virginia highway project that has been hijacked by the coal industry so that they can seize land through eminent domain, blow up mountains, bury streams with mining waste, and ignore environmental protections while doing so.

Federal Highways will determine whether this project moves forward without any additional review or whether it is put on hold until the environmental impacts are fully considered.

Take action and voice your concerns to Federal Highways Administration now!

The choice is clear to us; we need to make sure it is clear to them. See you in D.C. December 5.





Sighting the New Marsh Fork Elementary

by Paul Ciavarri

Some folks said a new one couldn't be built. Others argued it was unnecessary, while a vocal, persistent, optimistic group of courageous souls said, yes, students needed - and could obtain - a new Marsh Fork Elementary School.


As you may recall, Marsh Fork is the elementary school that first entered public consciousness in 2006 as the only elementary school in the nation sitting right next to gigantic 2.1 billion gallon coal slurry impoundment - right in the Coal River Valley of central Appalachia.


After protests, marches, government inaction, and coal industry opposition, a new school opened for students in 2012, miles away from the danger of the slurry dam. And the students have much more than just a new school.


When I made a trip through the area in late April 2013, I saw the new school from outside. I hadn't planned on a visit, so all there was time for was a few photographs. The building has a sleek, compact design. It's miles away from the sludge impoundment. And I'm told its technology is up-to-date, including smartboards in classrooms.


And one thing this school has that was inconceivable in the other building: a health clinic. According to Debbie Jarrell, a representative of Coal River Mountain Watch, a fully staffed clinic is soon to be built next to school.


The irony is likely not lost on anyone following this story. A major reason for re-locating the school, beyond the danger of the impoundment dam, was that students were regularly sick when attending classes, which was attributed to coal dust from the large coal silos a football field or two away.


So today, because residents spoke out in the face of demands for conformity; because fellow Americans cared enough to inquire after their mountain dwelling neighbors; and because the force of love overtook the government's and industry's brute strength, students in this corner of America can live happier, healthier lives. And look to the future, instead of a giant impoundment dam that could have swept away their dreams in a moment's notice.




Classes Begin at New Marsh Fork Elementary


Marsh Fork's Main Page


Marsh Fork Elementary Dedicated


A Few of Fracking's Inconvenient Truths

Paul Ciavarri

During Gov. Cuomo's January State of the State addresss, hundreds rallied in Albany for a ban in New York State on horizontal hydraulic hydrofracking. There was interesting coverage from WSKG.


Cuomo avoided the topic in his address, without explanation. We do know public opinion is sharply divided. And a recent poll shows greater opposition than before.


But we need a broader public discussion. Silence plays to the power of the gas industry - as media silence plays to the Appalachian coal industry. And one puzzling notion worth confronting is that fracking, while polluting in places like Texas, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania, won't harm New York State.


This notion butts heads with several of fracking's inconvenient truths:


1) Air pollution from fracking near Forth Worth, Texas, has increased dangerously as gas drilling in the Barnett Shale has expanded.


2) The Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that fracking fluids were found in an underground aquifer and drinking water in Pavillion, Wyoming, (or see this detailed report; interestingly, public comment on the findings extends until September 30, 2013.)


3) In Pennsylvania, a study by the New York Times (NYT) indicates that the gas industry in 2008 and 2009 polluted Pennsylvania drinking water with radioactive waste by trucking wastewater to treatement plants unable to filter out the radioactivity.


    How many people drank water with radioactivity?  We don't know. But now, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has decided to study Marcellus Shale radioactivity.


One of the wise sayings attributed to Albert Einstein is that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over, and expect a different result.


Given hydrofracking's track record, including anger in communities, air and water pollution, and ill-advised forest destruction, should a sane person expect anything different from the process for New York State?


Promised Land: Art Imitating Life?

Paul Ciavarri

A new mainstream film worth paying attention to is Promised Land, starring Matt Damon. The film takes hydrofracking as a jumping off point for what Damon told NPR is the film's exploration of American identity and our way of making decisions.


Before the film's debut on December 28, the gas industry PR machine was seeking to re-frame the film as a fake and a fraud. Meanwhile, many New York residents hope the film expands awareness of fracking's severe ethical problems, such as water pollution.


However, the film should also remind us of something as fundamental as water. Namely, the land. After all, Matt Damon plays a corporate land agent seeking drilling rights.


The great Appalachian writer Harry Caudill had some insight about land agents. He pointed out in Night Comes to the Cumberlands how coal and timber land agents influenced the fate of Appalachia. They either purchased for a song or wheedled away power, resources, and land from unsuspecting Appalachians, transferring vast amounts of wealth and political control to what were, or became, socially reckless corporations.


Focusing on the land should also spark discussion about the great Appalachain land study, "Who Owns Appalachia? Landownership and It's Impact." (scroll down for the NY Times' review) As of 1981, 53 percent of the land surface was owned or controlled by 1 percent of the local population along with absentee, government, and out-of-state corporations.


Given the power of land in human affairs, who controls the land may very well amount to who governs political decisions, community affairs, and life choices.


Promised Land seems to offer an opportunity to further explore how we want to govern and be governed in the next 10 to 25 years - a potentially fine contribution of art to life. 


The Lure of Fracking in Monroe County

Paul Ciavarri, 12/12/12

Monroe County, home to Kodak and apple farms, and the place where the great Genesee River meets Lake Ontario, is considering the lure of hydro-fracking wastewater.


Specifically, the powerful Republican majority in the 29-member Monroe County legislature has stayed mum since mid-2012 about the County administration's stance on accepting out-of-state fracking wastewater. According to County administration spokesperson Justin Feasal, speaking in July, the county would treat any out-of-state requests from the gas industry about fracking wastewater on a case-by-case basis, "like any other waste water" request.  (See here.)


For those who don't know, fracking wastewater can include everything from salts and dissolved solids in untreatable quantities to dozens of toxic chemicals in harmful concentrations and/or radioactive solids.


Currently, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's environmental review acknowledges there is likely no municipality in the state equipped to handle fracking wastewater. Significantly, the nearby city of Niagara Falls has banned both fracking and acceptance of its wastewater.


In October, a group of break-away Monroe County legislators (all Democrats) called for a ban (scroll down to locate story) on accepting fracking wastewater. And dozens of Monroe County residents have spoken before the Lej in opposition to the lure of frack wastewater.


Also in October, the Monroe County based coalition, R-CAUSE (Rochesterians Concerned About Unsafe Shale Extraction) presented County Exec Maggie Brooks with a petition of over 4,000 signatures from County residents demanding a ban on the importation and experimental treatment of fracking wastewater.


This week and next, Monroe County residents will still go to the podium to oppose the County's stance. Despite all the dissent so far, the county Powers give no indication of changing their minds.

Larry Gibson: An Appalachian Hero, and Great Friend

We were terribly saddened to hear the news of Larry's passing away Sunday night. The mountains have lost a heroic defender, and we must say farewell to a great friend in the struggle.


However, we also want to celebrate Larry's life and legacy, which we know is what he would want. And to allow his spirit to spur us on to climb to greater heights in the battle for not just Appalachia's future, but America's as well.


Please add your comments and remembrances....

Sue Rosenberg's Video of Larry