Participation Type


Session Abstract or Summary

Mountaintop Removal (MTR) coal-mining continues to impact the central Appalachian region in important and devastating ways. The energy preferences of the current market have shifted largely towards natural gas, and renewable energy is slowly but surely gaining market share. Nonetheless in the areas of Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee where MTR is occurring, local community members and regional activists are still fighting it.

Volunteer monitoring of water contamination and other impacts of these mines are an important tool in these individuals' toolkits. Both the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) impose numerous parameters on mining operations that are routinely violated. Unfortunately, the state agencies tasked with enforcing these regulations often don't due to lack of resources, political pressure to capitulate to the coal industry, or both. When community members document regulatory violations and bring this information to the appropriate regulatory agencies and/or courts however, the state apparatus is compelled to act.

In recent years, such activity has contributed to numerous regulatory interventions, and in some cases has been key in shutting down surface mining operations altogether.

Presented by grassroots activists and residents of Appalachian mining communities, this workshop will provide an overview of pertinent regulations, explain the process of water monitoring for conductivity, dissolved solids, pH, and specific contaminants, and introduce participants to the Appalachian Community Enforcement Network through which community members gather and share data that is used in regulatory interventions and litigation opposing MTR permits.

Presentation #1 Title

Surface Mining Regulation Overview

Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary

Mr. Dodson will provide a brief background and overview of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act, the Clean Water Act, and some of the particular components thereof that provide opportunities for grassroots intervention in the process of permitting MTR and other surface mining operations.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

Willie Dodson is the Central Appalachian Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices. He was raised in the Virginia towns of Altavista and Blacksburg, and he currently lives in Wise County in the far southwestern portion of the state. Willie graduated from Berea College with a degree in Appalachian Studies.

Presentation #2 Title

The nuts and bolts of water monitoring

Presentation #2 Abstract or Summary

Mr. Coker will explain the use of handheld devices in monitoring conductivity, pH and dissolved solids in waterways impacted by surface mining. He will cover protocols for calibration, upkeep, and monitoring itself. Mr. Coker will also go over what the data tells us about potential impacts, and how this informs next steps in campaigns opposing particular mines.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #2

DJ Coker grew up and currently resides in Duff, Tn along the edge of Tennessee's Cumberland Mountain coalfield region. A nature-lover and natural community organizer from a young age, DJ has been volunteering with Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), and a number of other environmental and community organizations for many years. He is currently the co-coordinator of the Citizens Water Project at the Clearfork Community Institute in Eagan, Tn.

Presentation #3 Title

Community Organizing for Water Monitoring

Presentation #3 Abstract or Summary

April Jarocki will describe the backstory of the Clearfork Community Institute's Citizens Water Project which performs regular water monitoring streams impacted by numerous mining operations in Campbell and Claiborne Counties of Tennessee. Ms. Jarocki will explain the ongoing organizing work involved in keeping this project going, and explain how workshop participants can get involved in this or other water monitoring projects through the Appalachian Community Enforcement Network.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #3

April Jarocki grew up in Ohio, but returned to her family homeplace in the coalfields of Tennessee early in her adult life. April currently serves as an Americorps Vista for the Woodland Community Land Trust, a homegrown collective land-holding project that has enabled several local families to stay in their land despite the pressures of political power-brokers and the coal industry. The Land Trust holds 450 acres of land and is involved in housing construction, permaculture, small business development, and education in the community.

Presentation #4 Title

Groundtruthing strip mine impacts

Presentation #4 Abstract or Summary

Junior Walk will explain how, in addition to the monitoring of water, simply observing and reporting the clearly visible impacts of mining operations to state agencies can serve to increase regulatory oversight to slow and sometime stop mining outright. Regulatory violations that can be caught with the naked eye include sediment control violations, insufficient reclamation, off-site impacts, and the upkeep of haul roads. Drone photography and videography is part of this aspect of mine monitoring.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #4

Junior Walk is from and currently resides in the Coal River Valley of West Virginia. After working for a time as a security guard on a Mountaintop Removal mining operation near his home, Mr. Walk became deeply disturbed by the mining practice as well as the oppressive nature of the coal industry in general in his home state. Walk now works as Outreach and Enforcement Coordinator for Coal River Mountain Watch.

Conference Subthemes

Environmental Sustainability

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Surface Mining Regulation Overview

Mr. Dodson will provide a brief background and overview of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act, the Clean Water Act, and some of the particular components thereof that provide opportunities for grassroots intervention in the process of permitting MTR and other surface mining operations.