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Matt Wasson's Posts

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Who Owns West Virginia’s Water? A Cautionary Tale

It took a few days after a state of emergency was declared across nine West Virginia counties and one-sixth of the state's population was told not to drink or bathe using their tap water for the national news media to discover there is a story of national importance occurring in the political backwaters of Appalachia. But most haven't yet picked up on what may be the most interesting and important part of the story: why so many people in this water-rich state depend on a single, privately owned treatment system and distribution network that sprawls across nine counties for their …

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WATCH: Appalachian Kids Give Science Lesson to President Obama

Children in Appalachian coal mining communities are 42% more likely to be born with birth defects and have a life expectancy that is almost 5 years lower than the national average. As this short video shows, they understand why: Dozens of scientific studies have linked mountaintop removal coal mining to high rates of cancer and other diseases in nearby communities. But as these children explain, you don't need to be a scientist to understand the devastating impact that mountaintop removal has on the health and quality of life of people living nearby. Thanks to thousands of people who have spoken …

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Electoral math for ‘all you climate people’

During a campaign season in which climate change featured most prominently as a laugh line at the Republican National Convention, the low point was when CNN's Candy Crowley addressed "all you climate people" in her explanation of why climate didn't come up during the presidential debates. Who knew that human disruption of the global climate had become such a narrow, provincial concern?

But there's important information in the fact that a senior reporter for a major network could dismiss climate change as essentially a special interest issue. It's evidence, if more were needed, that "all us climate people" got our butts kicked in the battle for the narrative in the 2012 election.

And like the Republican Party, which is now undergoing the usual soul-searching that follows a big electoral defeat, those of us who believe that inaction on climate is the greatest threat facing our civilization (never mind the economy) have some serious soul-searching to do about our own defeat, which occurred long before any votes were counted.

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WATCH: Happy Birthday Clean Water Act!

On October 18th, 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed by Congress on an overwhelming bipartisan vote. Now, forty years later, our rivers, lakes and bays are in far better condition and nobody is yearning for the days when the Cuyahoga River repeatedly caught on fire and Lake Erie was pronounced "dead." Yet, it's hard not to feel some nostalgia for an era when such a sweeping piece of legislation, which was viciously opposed by big polluting industries, could pass the House of Representatives on a vote of 366-11. The early 1970s were a time when politicians of both parties …

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Big Coal Wins Latest Battle to Blast Historic Blair Mountain

Is nothing sacred to coal companies in Appalachia? In a jaw-dropping display of contempt and disregard for the communities and landscapes where they mine coal, three coal companies back in 2009 challenged the listing of West Virginia's Blair Mountain on the National Register of Historic Places. The companies, including mining behemoths Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, opposed the listing of Blair Mountain as a historic site because it could interfere with their plans to conduct mountaintop removal mining operations on the Spruce Fork Ridge battlefield, site of the "largest organized armed uprising in American labor history," and the most …

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Obama administration can still protect streams from mountaintop-removal mining, despite setback in D.C. court

Mountaintop-removal mine above homes in Eastern Kentucky. (Photo by iLoveMountains.org.) Environmental and community advocates got some jarring news Tuesday when a federal judge rejected EPA's "guidance" on surface mine permitting in Appalachia -- the centerpiece of its three-year effort to curtail the environmental damage caused by mountaintop-removal coal mining. While it was unwelcome news, it was not as devastating as portrayed in the initial round of news stories, which appeared to be heavily influenced by the coal industry's false narrative about an "out-of-control" EPA issuing regulations willy-nilly while going out of its way to trample on the Constitution and kill jobs. …

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Kentucky coal companies remind us why we really, really need the EPA

Photo: iLoveMountainsThe latest episode in the saga known as Big Coal's Watergate began Tuesday when environmental and citizen groups filed a second notice of intent to sue the two largest mountaintop-removal mining companies in Kentucky. Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper, and Waterkeeper Alliance notified ICG and Frasure Creek Mining of their intent to sue the companies for more than 4,000 violations of the Clean Water Act -- these on top of more than 20,000 violations the groups already sued over back in October. As an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote about the previous lawsuit against these …

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Labor and enviros join up in W.Va. to fight mountaintop coal mining

Protestors march on Blair Mountain.Photo: Appalachian VoicesSomething extraordinary is happening this week in southern West Virginia. For the first time in years, the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA), the largest union representing coal miners, has found common cause with environmental and community advocates who are seeking to end mountaintop-removal coal mining. Some UMWA miners have joined hundreds of environmental and Appalachian community advocates who are marching to Blair Mountain on the 90th anniversary of one of the greatest labor battles in American history. Both groups want to protect this historic mountain from the efforts of coal companies to obliterate parts …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Coal

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Nasty, Brutish, and Short

Life under the leadership of budget axe-man Hal Rogers

In case you haven't heard, dozens of proposed amendments to the House Budget Bill would strip EPA of funding to update and enforce safeguards for mountaintop-removal mines, coal ash storage ponds, and emissions of hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants. If these amendments are approved, House Republicans would successfully turn back the clock on all of the clean air and clean water safeguards put in place over the past two years and bring back the polluter-friendly rules of the Bush administration. Photo: Appalachian VoicesThe man overseeing the budget is Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, whose district is home to …

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The Madness of King Coal

EPA vetoes massive mountaintop-removal mine — now buckle up for the backlash

Photo: iLoveMountainsIn the wake of EPA's veto last week of the largest mountaintop-removal mine permit ever proposed in West Virginia, the grandstanding of West Virginia politicians and "sky is falling" rhetoric from the coal industry was not surprising. Every effort to protect streams and communities from the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal has been met with a similar chorus of complaint by coal companies and local politicians. However, the immediate response of coal industry groups and West Virginia politicians to the news of EPA's action was a little different this time around. Notably absent was any reference to the so-called …