Tag Archives: Appalachian Preservation Project

JAM: ‘Building Community One Tune at a Time’

Inspiring program is preserving music, history and communities of Appalachia

By Michael M. Barrick

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Strictly Strings. Photo by Martin Church.

LENOIR, N.C. – The Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program says on its website “We’re building community one tune at a time.”

That’s a fact, as I saw it on display last night here at the 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase. There, among many other great musicians, we saw and heard the group Strictly Strings, which was born out of the Boone, N.C. JAM affiliate. (Learn more here: Strictly Strings Carrying on the Old-Time Tradition).

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Strictly Strings on stage. Photo by Lonnie Webster.

Below each photo are statements from JAM’s website. We hope these photos and insights will motivate you to click on the links above and learn more about this vital educational music program that is preserving the history, traditions and communities of Appalachia. If you have a chance to see Strictly Strings or any JAM shows of the roughly 40 affiliates in southern Appalachia, do it! You’ll see and hear history come alive. 

JAM at Merlefest

Members of Caldwell JAM at MerleFest 2016

We envision a world in which all children have the opportunity to experience community through the joy of participating in traditional mountain music together.”

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Strictly Strings as seen on the cover of their album, ‘High on a Mountain.’ Photo by Martin Church.

Our mission is to provide communities the tools and support they need to teach children to play and dance to traditional old time and bluegrass music.”

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Caldwell JAM musicians perform for North Carolina’s legislators on ARTS DAY

 

We believe that children who are actively engaged in traditional mountain music are more connected and better prepared to strengthen their communities for future generations.”

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Strictly Strings photo by Martin Church.

Read about Caldwell, N.C. JAM here. 

© Michael M. Barrick, 2017

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Applying the Pope’s Ecological Encyclical in West Virginia

A good start would be the resignation of WVDEP Secretary Randy Huffman

By Michael M. Barrick

ALUM BRIDGE, W.Va. – About a month ago, I was asked by a well-known environmental group to speak to the relevance of the ecological encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home” by Pope Francis as it applies to West Virginia.

I prepared 25 discussion questions, knowing most would have to be considered later. As it turned out, I could have asked just one, as it was the one we spent the better part of the time discussing. And, it wasn’t even my question; it was the pope’s. In paragraph 57 of the encyclical, Pope Francis asks, “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”

We concluded that it was the most important question we had to answer for West Virginia if we are ever going to free ourselves of the fossil fuel mono-economy that keeps the state’s residents mired in poverty. Then I offered a specific example of a person in state leadership who I think should resign – West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Secretary Randy Huffman. For those not familiar with West Virginia government, Huffman is a cabinet level political appointee. As such, he is clearly a leader, one entrusted by our governor with the environmental (and by default, human) health of West Virginia. He is the subject matter expert on the environment in West Virginia.

Randy Huffman

Randy Huffman

I was highly critical of Huffman for remarks he made following a question I asked him in mid-July in Doddridge County (more about that in a moment). Some of those who have worked directly with Huffman over the years said I was being too hard on him. Others agreed with me. Some defended Huffman, arguing that he was doing his best. “If he resigned on principle, he would just be replaced by someone worse,” one person offered. “You can only do so much in Charleston,” added another.

While I appreciate the sentiment expressed by these folks and can understand them to a degree, I am unmoved. It is time for Mr. Huffman to resign.

Why? Well, let’s review the exchange I had with him in Doddridge County.

Huffman and several WVDEP staff members accompanied local residents throughout the day to visit those impacted by fracking in Doddridge and Ritchie counties. Later that evening, he and the staff met with members of the Doddridge County Watershed Association. After he answered questions for about an hour, I asked, “Are you willing to recommend to the governor and legislature that the state employ the Precautionary Principle and place a moratorium on fracking and related activities?”

The Precautionary Principle, according to the Science & Environmental Health Network, asserts, “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.” It is a philosophy embraced by public health and environmental advocates across West Virginia regarding many aspects of the energy extraction industry.

Huffman, not exactly engendering confidence in his leadership skills, took three shots at the question. His first answer was to repeat much of what he had said to previous questions. When challenged by an audience member, “You didn’t answer his question,” Huffman shot back, “He didn’t ask a question, he made a statement.” I then said, “Mr. Huffman. It was a question. Let me repeat it for you.” I did.

As an aside here, I will say that I’ve been reporting on politicians for a quarter of a century. I have heard that answer more times than I care to remember. It is a sure sign that the subject doesn’t want to or can’t answer the question.

In any event, after I restated my question, he still did not answer it. Instead, he alluded to progress made in the legislature to regulate fracking after his last visit to the area. The Horizontal Well Act, passed into law in late 2011, did impose higher fees and some minor regulations on the industry. However, West Virginia’s laws on fracking are still considered some of the weakest in the nation by environmental groups. So, it isn’t surprising that when Huffman alluded to that law, the well-informed audience responded with sighs and even laughter (though one audience member did defend Huffman).

So, after sitting there for a few moments, Huffman stood up and said he needed to take another shot at an answer. He then admitted, “If I start pounding my fist, it is going to be a fruitless effort. I would become ineffective. There are too many entities at play in Charleston. If I did that, they’d laugh me out of the capitol building. It would limit my effectiveness.”

He also said, “That is above my pay grade.”

So, we are still left with many questions for Mr. Huffman.

First, since so many states have banned fracking or placed a moratorium on it, why would he not consider the precautionary principle a sensible approach to protect the health and safety of the people of West Virginia?

Second, if recommending to the governor and/or legislature about environmental matters is above his pay grade, just exactly what does the Secretary of DEP do except to rubber stamp permit requests from the energy extraction industry?

And, as Pope Francis asked, “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”

As it stands now, history will not judge Mr. Huffman kindly. He is in the position to take action, but instead has decided to punt. If he is serious about the environment, he could resign on principle and warn the people of West Virginia what awaits them if they don’t stand up for themselves and elect some real leaders. Such an act would get far more attention than lamenting his lack of influence among the people who are supposed to listen to his expertise.

The people of West Virginia don’t have another 125-year reign of the energy extraction industry to await replies. As the pope says, action is “urgent and necessary.” So, the next action Mr. Huffman should take, since he has openly declared he will not fight for the environment in the current political climate, is resign.

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.

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Related Articles:
WVDEP Secretary Randy Huffman Acknowledges Political and Business Climate in Charleston Limits Agency’s Effectiveness

West Virginians and Pennsylvanians Standing in Solidarity Against Natural Gas Industry

Communities in midst of fracking boom to hold ‘Hands Across Our Land’ events

By Michael M. Barrick

WEST UNION, W.Va. – Here, where the odors, sights, sounds and overall destruction of fracking is most felt, residents are participating in “Hands Across Our Land,” a national action being held in locations throughout Appalachia and beyond in opposition to fracking and the related development of the natural gas industry.

According to Wayne Woods, president of the Doddridge County Watershed Association (DCWA), that group “ … and concerned citizens from all over North Central West Virginia will meet Tuesday August 18th at 6 p.m. for the Hands Across Our Land event. It will be held at the West Union Park in West Union.”

Meathouse Fork in Doddridge County with heavy sediment resulting from pipeline construction

Meathouse Fork in Doddridge County with heavy sediment resulting from pipeline construction

Woods explained the significance of the location, noting, “The park is located along Middle Island Creek that has been impacted by gas drilling in the Doddridge County area. We are conducting this solidarity action to let the fossil fuel industry and community leaders know that while we are separate grassroots organization we stand with each other in opposition to the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Autumn Long, a resident in neighboring Harrison County intends to participate. She shared, “This day of action brings together communities that are geographically dispersed but united by exploitation suffered at the hands of the oil and gas industry. Fossil fuel development is destroying our environment, impacting our health, and degrading our quality of life. By publicly linking hands across our land, we are demonstrating opposition to this exploitation and solidarity in our shared struggle.”

Stonewall Gathering Pipeline construction as seen from a hilltop in Doddridge County, W.Va.

Stonewall Gathering Pipeline construction as seen from a hilltop in Doddridge County, W.Va.

Meanwhile, further north, Pennsylvanians and West Virginians will join hands at Point Marion, Pa., near the boundary between the two states. Southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia are situation in the heart of the Marcellus Shale boom and thus are experiencing public health and safety threats associated with the industry, as well as ecological destruction.

Duane Nichols is the Hands Across Our Land coordinator for the Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition. He said, “We will be meeting on the Monongahela River Bridge in Pt. Marion at12:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. Private citizens and members of other organizations from northern West Virginia will join those from Greene, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties in Pennsylvania. We will form a chain across the bridge, thus joining ‘Hands Across Our Land.’”

Learn more:
For the Doddridge County event, visit the DCWA Facebook page or its page for this event.
For the state line event, contact Nichols at Duane330@aol.com.

Related Articles:
Appalachian Residents Joining Hands in Opposition to Pipeline Development and Fracking
A Dirty Dozen Reasons to Oppose Fracking
Fracking Poses Threats to Public Health

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.

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Environmental Scientists, Activist Applaud Mountain Valley Pipeline Ruling

Judge concludes proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline does not benefit the people of West Virginia as required by state law

By Michael M. Barrick

UNION, W.Va. – This village barely more than a block long is customarily quiet and peaceful, serving as the seat of government for Monroe County, which is framed by the Greenbrier River and the high peaks that form the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia in the Jefferson National Forest. As such, it is a mixture of breathtaking valley farms, soaring mountains and historic structures.

For months, though, it has been the scene of turmoil as local citizens have been battling with companies seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The 42-inch diameter MVP would be approximately 330 miles long, running from North Central West Virginia and through Monroe County into south-central Virginia.

At issue is whether or not West Virginia’s eminent domain law allows MVP to access private property to survey prospective routes prior to FERC rendering a decision. MVP argued so; local residents said otherwise.

Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons concurred with the citizens here on Aug. 5.

After a morning trial, Irons ruled that MVP had not demonstrated that the proposed pipeline provided sufficient public use for the people of West Virginia, as required by West Virginia eminent domain law. Irons issued a preliminary injunction sought by Bryan and Doris McCurdy of Greenville, who were represented pro bono by lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

Natalie Cox, the Corporate Director of Communications for EQT, a company seeking approval to build the pipeline, said, “While we respect the Court’s bench ruling, we will review the written order once it is received and consider out options going forward.”

Nevertheless, Irons’ ruling was applauded by two environmental scientists and a Monroe County resident that have visited northern West Virginia – where construction of the Stonewall Gas Gathering pipeline is underway and fracking is widespread. After visiting the Marcellus Shale fields of northern West Virginia, the three have been warning their communities about the human health risks and ecological destruction that accompanies the gas companies’ extractive processes.

Laurie Ardison, who has been active in grassroots efforts in Monroe County, said, “I believe it is time for citizens’ rights to emerge again. This ruling is absolutely appropriate. Property owners should never have to live in fear of uncontrolled, unfettered, unethical gas industry intentions.”

Dale McCutheon served as a county sanitarian in seven West Virginia counties at different intervals. He is a registered sanitarian with a Master’s in Environmental Science. He has conducted surface and ground water studies for federal, state, and county governmental agencies as well as local organizations.

A resident of Union, he said, “Water-related issues are of special concern to me. Of particular concern to Monroe County residents is the potential impact to the county’s water resources. The proposed routing of the pipeline through areas of steep terrain and karst topography – which provides the majority of the county water supplies, both public and private – threatens the most precious and essential resource. Monroe County does not, as many adjacent counties do, have a river to provide a continuing water source, so the loss of water resources due to an impact of a pipeline would have an unalterable effect on the health and well-being … of the residents.”

Autumn Bryson is an environmental scientist who recently concluded a Sediment and Erosion Control Assessment of the Stonewall Gas Gathering construction activities in northern West Virginia (soon to be published on the Appalachian Chronicle). She works out of neighboring Greenbrier County. She remarked, “As an environmental scientist, I am very concerned that these companies want to be above the law when it comes to our land and resources. We need more judges and people in leadership roles to have the courage to stand up to the oil and gas industries and let the corporate employees know that they need to abide by the laws like every other responsible human being.”

McCutheon, whose ancestry goes back six generations to the original settlement of the area in the late 1700s, and who has spent his professional life working on environmental and health concerns, pointed out, “Monroe County has, heretofore, primarily due to the lack of coal, oil and gas reserves, not been subject to the degradation that has taken place in much of the state as a result of exposure to the activities of the extractive industries.”

He continued, “Its mountains are unscathed, its streams are still pure and free-flowing and its farm fields remain verdant and green. The people of Monroe are strong-willed, independent folks who highly value their rights to privacy and full enjoyment of their properties, and strongly resist efforts by anyone, including government or private entities, to encumber or diminish those rights.”

Ardison concurred, saying, “This is why we have a constitution in the first place. I urge anyone reading this to speak up and claim their rights.” She concluded, “We’re strong and proud people in this state. Let’s work together to keep it wild and wonderful.”

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.

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Appalachian Residents Joining Hands in Opposition to Pipeline Development and Fracking

Hands Across Our Land is a grassroots gathering scheduled for August 18

By Michael M. Barrick

NELSON COUNTY, Va. – A grassroots uprising among people from across Appalachia opposed to the development of further natural gas infrastructure and the related extractive process of fracking will culminate on Tuesday, Aug. 18th at communities in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and beyond in an event being called “Hands Across Our Land.”

Proposed Route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Proposed Route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Sharon Ponton, co-chair of Free Nelson, a grassroots group in Virginia fighting the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), says her organization is one of many planning events for that day. “The purpose of Hands Across Our Land is to show solidarity and unity among the hundreds of grassroots groups fighting new fossil fuel infrastructure, whether it’s a pipeline, a well pad, an export terminal or a compressor station,” said Ponton.

In addition to opposing the proposed ACP, Free Nelson and other groups – especially in Virginia and West Virginia – are also opposing the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Ponton explained, “By participating together on this one day, we believe we can gain national media attention to the plight of thousands upon thousands of landowners and communities across the country fighting these same battles. We want others to be part of the first nationwide grassroots action against new fossil fuel infrastructures.”nopipeline-e1419984524674

The action, which is being promoted by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Beyond Extreme Energy, is intended to be a collection of local actions. “We need to all stand together, in our own communities, literally holding hands with our neighbors but also symbolically holding hands with those in other communities and states. We are asking that local groups gather at a fracking site, pipeline site or some local monument that symbolizes a community’s value and hold signs saying that they stand with their neighbors in other communities and states. Perhaps they can stand at a county line and join hands with their neighbors in that way.”

In Nelson County, Va., where Ponton lives, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Virginia’s Skyline Drive join to form one of the most scenic drives in all of the United States. “We are standing up for our heritage and culture in rural America,” said Ponton. “We are uniting to stop the industrialization of our communities from companies that put profit before people. Our streams our being polluted, our homes and land are being taken through the misuse of eminent domain, and the health and lives of our families and communities are at risk.”

The Stonewall Gas Gathering pipeline construction is less than 100 feet from this home near Weston, W.Va.

The Stonewall Gas Gathering pipeline construction is less than 100 feet from this home near Weston, W.Va.

She continued, “The fossil fuel industry will destroy thousands of acres of forested land, pollute water and the air, harm our local economies, degrade our national treasures such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail and historical Native American areas. All of this destruction would occur in the name of profit.”

Ponton calls upon local groups to plan an event, promote it through social media, send any plans or comments to her for distribution to national media and use the hashtag phrase #HandsAcrossOurLand.”

To learn more, contact Ponton at freenelson3@gmail.com.

Related Articles:
A Dirty Dozen Reasons to Oppose Fracking
Fracking Poses Threats to Public Health
Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry
Pipeline Lawsuits Threaten Sacredness of Appalachia
FERC Challenged to be Truly Independent
Natural Gas Industry Moves from the Absurd to the Profane

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.

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The Flower Walk

Through the eyes of a six-year-old, the world is beautiful, fascinating and wonderfully fragrant

By Michael M. Barrick

ALUM BRIDGE, W.Va. – On a table calendar that belonged to my folks before they passed, there are brief, positive statements to read as one starts the day. Today’s is “A smile happens in a flash, but the memory of it can last a lifetime.” If that is true – and I believe it is – then I have many lifetimes of memories just from one short weekend with our granddaughter, Atleigh.

I learned from her, that from the perspective of a six-year-old, the world is beautiful, fascinating and wonderfully fragrant.

A field of flowers in a quiet West Virginia valley

A field of flowers in a quiet West Virginia valley

She was in, along with other family members, visiting over the holiday weekend. They arrived on Friday evening about supper time. With some neighbors on vacation, I was making evening trips to their farm to check on the chickens. I figured Atleigh would get a kick out of that, so I asked her if she wanted to tag along. She was in the car for the two-mile drive over the “bumpy” (gravel) road before I could change my shoes.

She chattered non-stop for the 10-minute ride, asking me all sorts of questions about the mist hanging in the hills from the rain that had quit just minutes before she arrived, about what kind of animals lived in the woods, and some other things that were spit out so rapidly that I still don’t know what she said.

I didn’t need to. Her eyes said it all.

I had barely stopped the car before she bounded out of it and ran towards the chickens roaming around the yard. Laughing at their gait, her eyes were wide and as full of joy as was her belly laugh. Since other family members have chickens, she was soon telling me what I needed to do. I, of course, did exactly as I was told.

Later, as we meandered around the farm, checking things, she noticed the nearby field of flowers that covers much of the valley floor in the hollow where we live. Immediately, she asked – exclaimed – “Can we go on a flower walkl!?”

Several deer, including a fawn, graze in a field in a West Virginia hollow

Several deer, including a fawn, graze in a field in a West Virginia hollow

I promised that we would, but pointed out it would have to wait until the next day, as we needed to get back and have supper. In a startling display of delayed gratification, she agreed to wait a day. Her patience was rewarded, for the time we would have spent walking through the field was instead filled with one deer sighting after another. By the time we had finished our short drive back, this time taking 20 minutes so that we could look for and count the deer, Atleigh had seen 20 deer, including five fawn.

After pointing out the passenger window at several just before we reached the farm where we are living, she turned to me, eyes as wide and as bright as they could possibly be and held up her hand with her fingers spread wide, saying, “Five! We saw five fawn and 20 deers!” As soon as we parked, she hopped out, ran into the house and announced our discoveries. Her smile not only filled the room, it was instantly contagious, and all were smiling, even though we were all exhausted – some from a day of moving, others from a long drive.

The next morning, before we “officially” began our flower walk, Atleigh waited – not too patiently – for me to finish my coffee. While waiting, she walked out through the front yard and went directly to the lavender. It drew her in like a magnet. She demanded that everybody smell it. With genuine, appreciative innocence, she blurted out, “It is so beautiful!” Again, her eyes danced.

The Flower Walk had begun. We each had our own vase, though I soon discovered that my job was to pick the flowers that she chose. She arranged them. With each addition, she would hold the vase up to me and ask, “Isn’t it beautiful?” She repeatedly insisted that I smell her latest selection. In time, after a very leisurely and meandering stroll, both vases were filled; we returned to the farm house and put them in water.

Atleigh returned home yesterday. This morning, I noticed that the flowers we had picked have faded. What has not faded, though, is the memory of those dancing, sparkling eyes – that smile full of wonder and sheer joy. How sweet our memories are, that we can take a moment – a flash of a smile – and live off of it forever.

I can’t wait for our next adventure. I have plenty of room for more memories, at least once I delete some baseball statistics from the 1960s.

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships. Learn more.

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Fracking Poses Threats to Public Health, Say Experts

Insight revealed at Marcellus Academy of West Virginia Sierra Club

By Michael M. Barrick

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. – Fracking poses clear, serious and even deadly public health risks said two experts on the topic at the Marcellus Academy, an educational initiative of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. The event – held June 27th and 28th at West Virginia Wesleyan College – was the fifth such gathering said Liz Wiles, the chairperson of the Sierra Club in West Virginia.

Dr. Mike McCawley, of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences at the West Virginia University School of Public Health, and Dr. Jill Kriesky, of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (EHP), discussed public health research and assessments regarding the health threats associated with fracking; each also touched upon policy challenges and suggestions.

Breaking the ‘Pathway to Exposure’ the first step; multiple diseases identified
Kriesky said that her organization’s objective is to provide accurate, timely and trusted public health information and services associated with natural gas extraction.EHP Logo

Hence, the EHP first focuses its response on breaking the pathway to exposure, explained Kriesky. This is done by warning the vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, children and those with asthma and respiratory diseases.

The group monitors air and water quality and is beginning to do the same with soil. It offers community outreach through partnerships with watershed groups, community groups and those concerned about the placement of gas wells near schools.

They also conduct health assessments, though, revealed Kriesky, “We don’t recruit people. They find us. People know when they’re sick.” Health assessments include gathering a full health history of the client, vital signs and symptoms, determination of exposure (including researching the potential of occupational or household source exposure), and recommendations for further medical consultation, and cutting off the pathway of pathogens.

The group has had enough clients now to predict when people will begin presenting with symptoms. Noting that the agency does not have a “control group” for research purposes, she said, “All of Washington County (Pa.) is within one mile (of fracking activity). The whole county is essentially a control group.”

Kriesky said that 113 people have met the screening criteria, meaning “they have to have a plausible exposure.” Illnesses of the respiratory, dermatological, eye, nose and throat, gastro-intestinal, cardiac, neurological, psychiatric, endocrine and ear systems were documented.

Kriesky pointed out that 60 percent of the 113 people reported nose and throat illnesses, 58 percent neurological symptoms, 57 percent psychiatric illnesses and 53 percent had respiratory symptoms.

Kriesky said, “A skeptic might ask, ‘How many people have you seen,’ but we ask, ‘How many does it take?’ There is pretty decisive evidence that these are health impacts – chemical and non-chemical – from fracking.”

Policy proposals
She encouraged attendees to challenge elected officials. “This is about policy. It is worthy of action. We need to do something about it.”

In fact, EHP has put forth some specific proposals.

It is proposing a health registry which would provide data for long-term research that would inform public policy. The group prepared a white paper on the health impacts of fracking, data on emissions and a compilation of existing health registries. It also held a national workshop that proposed the development of registries from NGOs and existing data; proposed a “case definition” of what a person impacted by unnatural gas development looks like.” Kriesky explained, “It would help practitioners understand that if you see this, then you are seeing symptoms related to Marcellus shale development. That does not exist now.”

Kriesky said immediate steps can and should be taken, such as requiring that fracking activities be moved a safe distance from places where there are vulnerable populations, such as schools.

McCawley challenges EPA, tells about fracking research station
McCawley, meanwhile, called for improved and expanded monitoring of dust and other particulates by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), such as those emitted by diesel engines.

Those people most vulnerable to the damaging effects of fracking – those living closest to it – are showing signs of pediatric asthma, cardiopulmonary disease and cancer, said McCawley. He argued additional research must be conducted, but accused the EPA of being an impediment to further and refined studies. “They know about it. They aren’t doing anything about it,” asserted McCawley. He added, “It’s the not regulated part we should be concerned about.”

McCawley argued that even though disease rates are increased in fracking areas, the EPA does not measure particulate matter associated with fracking – for instance dust and diesel fuel – at small enough levels to accurately assess their impact upon people. Researchers, for instance, are finding people experiencing inflammation that is association with any number of diseases. “That’s a problem,” McCawley insisted, adding, “Anything that can cause inflammation in the cell can cause disease.” So, he said, he looks for opportunities to metaphorically “kick the EPA in the shin.” He did here.

The EPA, said McCawley, is not measuring appropriate dose levels of particulate matter that cause cancer, affect auto-immune and neurological systems, and pass through the placenta, causing birth defects and diseases. He asked, rhetorically, “Should there be regulations for this? I think so. Maybe I’m out on a limb on this.”

In the interim, WVU is measuring particulate matter from its own experimental gas well in Morgantown. McCawley said the university will monitor exposure levels, health records from hospitals, and medical symptoms, in particular those associated with cardiopulmonary diseases.

Potential response
Wiles said the information was valuable. “I was surprised to learn that the EPA is doing monitoring in a way that does not give the correct picture on particulate levels.” She hinted at some action in response. “This could be an initiative for us this year. It is yet another example of how fossil fuels in general are bad not just for the environment, but people. They go hand-in-hand.”WV Sierra club

This one issue is an example of the work facing the Sierra Club, said Wiles. “We are very much about grass roots, local people working on local issues. We want the people of this state to know the consequences from Marcellus development.” She concluded, “Then, go out and educate folks in their communities.”

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships. Learn more.

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Unity the Theme at ‘Preserving Sacred Appalachia’ Conference

Interdisciplinary and interfaith gathering helps strengthen collaboration on environmental issues

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Approximately 40 ecological preservationists joined together in Charleston at the St. John’s XXIII Pastoral Center from April 19-21 to champion responsible environmental stewardship in the context of understanding that Appalachia – and all the earth – is sacred. Among those at the “Preserving Sacred Appalachia” conference were people of faith, activists, artists, scientists, politicians, and educators.

Ben Townsend, a West Virginia native and traditional Appalachian musician, teaches at the conference. Photo by Keely Kernan

Ben Townsend, a West Virginia native and traditional Appalachian musician, teaches at the conference.
Photo by Keely Kernan

The unprecedented interfaith and interdisciplinary gathering was sponsored by St. Luke’s United Methodist Church of Hickory, N.C. In-state partners included the Sierra Club – West Virginia chapter and West Virginia Interfaith Power & Light (WVIPL). The Appalachian Preservation Project handled public relations, planning and logistics for the conference.

It was an intentional interdisciplinary and interfaith outreach by and to people that are devoted to preserving the eco-systems which support life in Appalachia. It brought together the region’s rich collection of seasoned, experienced preservationists. While several organizations provided speakers, the event also included numerous attendees from West Virginia and other Appalachian states determined to identify fundamental areas of agreement regarding the immediate core challenges to Appalachia’s eco-systems and key strategies for addressing them.

Bob Henry Baber, an Appalachian poet, writer and educator, speaks at the conference. Photo by Keely Kernan

Bob Henry Baber, an Appalachian poet, writer and educator, speaks at the conference.
Photo by Keely Kernan

The gathering concluded with a roundtable discussion of the topics discussed over the course of the conference. From those discussions, participants will issue a white paper – scheduled for release this summer. The white paper will be a unified, decisive statement identifying the core challenges threatening the people and environment of Appalachia; explaining what makes Appalachia – and all the earth – sacred; and to equip the people of Appalachia with practical, effective methods to help preserve the region’s water, air, soil, habitats and natural beauty.

The keynote speaker was Tierra Curry, the senior scientist and a conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. The conference kicked off with an extended trailer of the feature film, “In the Hills and Hollows,” a documentary by Keely Kernan, an award winning freelance photographer and videographer. The documentary, which Kernan is presently filming, investigates the boom and bust impacts that mono-economies based on fossil fuel extraction have on people and their local communities.

Tierra Curry with the Center for Biological Diversity discusses the impact of climate change upon Appalachia. Photo by Keely Kernan

Tierra Curry with the Center for Biological Diversity discusses the impact of climate change upon Appalachia.
Photo by Keely Kernan

Other speakers included Susan Hedge with the Catholic Committee of Appalachia; Bill Price, the organizing representative for the Sierra Club – West Virginia Chapter; Allen Johnson of Christians For The Mountains; Angie Rosser, the executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition; Ben Townsend, a West Virginia traditional musician; Carey Jo Grace and Tuesday Taylor with Our Children, Our Future; Robin Blakeman, the Special Event and Membership Committee Organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; Mike Manypenny, a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates; Bill Hughes, the West Virginia Community Liaison for the FracTracker Alliance; Bob Henry Baber, a widely published Appalachian poet, novelist, creative writing teacher and mosaic artist; Barbara Ann Volk, a Lewis County landowner; Liz Wiles, the chair of the Sierra Club – West Virginia chapter, as well as Aurora Lights and the Mountain SOL school; Lindsay Barrick, an artist and the Director of Programs at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church; Mel Hoover and Rose Edington with WVIPL; Autumn Bryson, an environmental scientist; Michael Barrick, the founder of the Appalachian Preservation Project and publisher of the Appalachian Chronicle; and, all of the conference attendees.

Topics addressed include Appalachia’s sacredness, climate change, water quality, the role of art and music in telling Appalachia’ story, mountaintop removal, fracking, natural gas pipeline development, child health, politics and policy. It also included times of meditation, reflection and sharing.

Bill Hughes with FracTracker Alliance teaches about the harms associated with fracking. Photo by Keely Kernan

Bill Hughes with FracTracker Alliance teaches about the harms associated with fracking.
Photo by Keely Kernan

As the conference completed, several presenters commented on its value. Wiles shared, “The Preserving Sacred Appalachia conference was a great opportunity to re-connect with familiar faces in West Virginia’s environmental movement as well as meeting members of the faith community who are working on environmental issues in their congregations. This was a good step in bringing together all kinds of communities who care about the health of their families, their neighbors, and their local, natural environment.”

Manypenny said, “I found it very inspiring that so many came out to participate in this event, both as speakers and as advocates, in the ongoing struggle for environmental justice, our Appalachian way of life, and for our love and appreciation of nature.” Barbara Volk echoed his remarks, adding, “I found myself so inspired by the diverse group of people that are ready to shift the paradigm regarding how we affect change in this culture of waste.”

Tierra Curry (L), Susan Hedge and Allen Johnson lead a discussion on the sacredness of Appalachia. Photo by Keely Kernan

Tierra Curry (L), Susan Hedge and Allen Johnson lead a discussion on the sacredness of Appalachia.
Photo by Keely Kernan

Price added, “I’ve been thinking about how the conference will benefit the work that all of us are doing. I think that the faith community can help to convene spaces where people of various opinions and perspectives can come together to get to know each other, to figure out those common values, and to work together for a better future.” Blakeman said, “The conference was a great opportunity to network with and learn from like-minded individuals.”

Hoover offered, “This partnership demonstrates that we are at a crossroads in the Mountain State. We have always known that we must work together to address the many environmental issues impacting the people and ecology of West Virginia. This conference, by joining together people of faith with scientists, educators, artists and others, sends a clear message that cannot be ignored – we are united in purpose.”

St. John's XXIII Pastoral Center. Photo by Allen Johnson

St. John’s XXIII Pastoral Center.
Photo by Allen Johnson

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. The Appalachian Preservation Project is a social enterprise committed to preserving and protecting Appalachia. If you wish to support our work, please consider becoming a member.

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West Virginia Church Earns Award for Solar Energy Use

Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church earns top award from Interfaith Power & Light

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va.Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church has been honored by Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) as a first place winner in its annual Cool Congregations Challenge. The award, which was announced to coincide with Earth Day, is given to exemplary faith communities modeling climate solutions and earth stewardship in dozens of inspiring projects across the nation.

Photo courtesy of Solar Holler

Photo courtesy of Solar Holler

The winning faith communities represent many different religious backgrounds, but all share a common mission – to respond to the threat of climate change by taking concrete actions with tangible carbon reductions. The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder and president of IPL, said, “It’s very inspiring to see so many congregations stepping up in response to climate change, especially this year as global leaders prepare to meet in Paris to discuss the reduction of global carbon pollution and the climate crisis. IPL’s Cool Congregations are leaders. They’re not waiting until 2030 or 2050 to make a difference – they’re showing us that cutting emissions by 50 percent or more is not only possible now, but many have even gone carbon neutral.”

On average, winners and runners-up saved $8,000 a year on their energy bill, and prevented 58 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere (per congregation). All first place Cool Congregations Challenge winners receive a $1,000 cash prize.

Challenge winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions have been awarded in five categories that include: Energy Saver, Renewable Role Model, Sacred Grounds Steward, Community Inspiration, and Cool Planner. Final entries were received in January and judged by a panel of experts from IPL, EPA’s Energy Star, the U.S. Green Building Council, and Nature’s Friends Institute. Judges favored projects with well-defined and measurable objectives for climate benefit; creativity and resourcefulness in executing the project; congregant and/or community engagement; and inspirational stories.

Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church earned its award for being the top renewable role model in the nation for, among other reasons, having the largest community-supported solar system in West Virginia.

According to the IPL website, “In a first of its kind project, residents and businesses in this small town in Jefferson County, W.Va. came together to do what was once seemingly impossible – making solar power affordable for any church or non-profit in one of the most coal-dependent states in America. Nearly 100 families and businesses in and around Shepherdstown made the project possible through an innovative crowd funding campaign. Working with Solar Holler, the Church was able to go solar with no cost – upfront or in the future. Instead, funding for the project was raised through the installation of demand response controllers on community members’ electric water heaters. The water heater controllers were installed and operated by Mosaic Power, a smart grid technology company in Frederick, Md. Mosaic Power manages water heaters as a virtual power plant – responding to the electricity grid in real time to make it more efficient and balance supply and demand. Through this demand response service, Mosaic Power reduces blackouts and pollution. Mosaic Power pays property owners $100 per tank per year for participation. Rather than taking the money themselves, project supporters agreed to have their payments support the Church’s solar project. And by using Mosaic controllers as the funding source, the Church drastically scaled up its climate impact – each Mosaic controller eliminates as much carbon pollution as 6 solar panels.”

Interfaith Power & Light was formed at the beginning of this century. It was established to draw together the religious community and spiritual people to provide a voice of conscience to address the dangers to people and the environment associated with climate change. The national organization began as a single state chapter; it now has not only a national outreach, but also 40 state chapters.WV IPL Logo - 2015

A core group of West Virginia faith community leaders have joined to foster formation of the 41st state IPL chapter, West Virginia Interfaith Power & Light (WVIPL). The Rev. Mel Hoover, a WVIPL steering committee member said, “Global warming is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today. The very existence of life – life that religious people are called to protect – is jeopardized by our continued dependency on fossil fuels for energy. Every major religion has a mandate to care for Creation. We were given natural resources to sustain us, but we were also given the responsibility to act as good stewards and preserve life for future generations. We are very pleased for Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church and thank them for serving as an inspiration for the faith community throughout West Virginia as we work to launch the Mountain State’s IPL chapter.”

He added, “We are excited about forming the nation’s newest IPL chapter. The rapidly growing movement has more than a decade of success in shrinking carbon footprints and educating hundreds of thousands of people in the pews about the important role that we play in addressing the threats to public health and the environment.”

Hoover concluded, “As people of faith, our mission includes being advocates for vulnerable people and communities. It is poor people who are being hit first and worst by environmental degradation. We also aim to make sure that all people can participate in and benefit from the growing clean energy economy.”

In its submission to IPL, Shepherdstown Presbyterian explained the background of how this initiative came to be. “In West Virginia the true costs of cheap energy are impossible to ignore. This year (2014) thousands suffered through the loss of their drinking water due to a coal chemical spill. Communities in the coalfields are being exposed to carcinogenic mine dust. And hundreds of mountains and streams have been devastated. We see this as an environmental and public health emergency.

“Electricity in this state remains highly subsidized, relatively cheap, and predominately generated from coal, providing 95 percent of the state’s power. Although energy prices here are increasing, and the costs for solar are dropping, the distance between these still presents an important barrier for solar. In some states, solar leasing provides a solution to this problem, but that is currently not an option under West Virginia law.”

It continued, “The Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church (SPC) community has long recognized the importance of solar power. When a fellowship hall was added to the church 15 years ago, the planners discussed how the south-facing roof would be an ideal location for solar panels. However, the loan debt from the annex project made it necessary to put the prospect of solar on hold.”

Eventually though, “We helped develop an innovative crowdfunding campaign to solarize the church. This approach did not depend on state or federal incentives programs, nor did it require a loan or capital campaign. Instead, we partnered with Mosaic Power and Solar Holler to harness energy savings from homeowners’ electric water heaters, bundle them together, and use them to finance our solar project.

“Already, the approach we helped pioneer has been adopted by the Harpers Ferry Public Library. We’ve also received requests from other churches in town about how to do this. We believe this approach is powerful not only for its financial design but also because it connects to our core belief that our individual actions can be magnified when in concert with others.

“We set out with three fundamental goals for this project: (1) reduce our greenhouse gas emissions; (2) improve our financial stewardship of SPC; and (3) empower our congregation and the Shepherdstown community to make positive change for clean energy. We believe we have met these goals, and feel blessed to be able to share the good news.”

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. The Appalachian Preservation Project is a social enterprise committed to preserving and protecting Appalachia. If you wish to support our work, please consider becoming a member.

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The Conflict between Dominion Theory and Stewardship

The earth’s resources are not unlimited

By S. Tom Bond

All we eat, much of what we wear, much of our buildings, and much of our quality recreation depends on the biological world. In the biological world, energy is supplied by sunlight, and materials are recycled over and over. What dies and decays is recycled by microorganisms and used by the next, over and over. We don’t find dead, undecayed dinosaurs.

The same is true of humans, at least until lately. An early Western explorer observed that when you got to a Native American village you might think, “Here is the dump, where is the village?” But in the Stone Age, the volume of trash consisting of animal and plant remains would disappear in a decade or so and go back to the earth. About the only remains from the Stone Age are arrowheads, scrapers, a few trinkets, and, in protected locations, things that haven’t decayed yet.

When the proto-industrial age began, a new system became the rule: extract a mineral, process it into something useful, use it, and discard the remains. No decay! The extraction stage took something out of the earth, destroying what lay over it and around it. The processing stage required energy, at first supplied by wood and charcoal, but when the industrial age began in earnest about two hundred years ago, fossil fuel use began to operate much like extraction of raw materials, destroying the biological world around where it takes place. The final step is to discard the used products, which don’t decay.

The consequences of this last step are very significant. Solid waste is everywhere. I pick it up out of my meadow where it is thrown by passersby. Little dumps used to be up every hollow, (the remains are quite common through the countryside) but now trash is hauled to a few central locations where it is carefully contained between layers of earth and plastic to extend its life. Much is dumped in the ocean, making great deserts on the bottom in some places. The ocean has many places where it is full of plastic – hundreds of pieces per cup of seawater, down to microscopic bits, that sea creatures eat and which kill them.

Soluble and suspended industrial byproducts enter water and are carried away to enter municipal water intakes and poison creatures that live in and near the streams. Even fish that live deep in the ocean are being affected by chemicals used for medicines, cosmetics, solvents, plasticizers and other compounds that microorganisms do not degrade. Geologists have given a name to the new layer we humans are forming on the earth, which will be quite conspicuous to researchers in the future – the Anthropocene.

When the first copper, bronze and iron were made, the earth’s population was relatively small and the human “footprint” was also small. As the population grew, industrial waste became more abundant. The Romans, 2,000 years ago, found some areas contaminated and degraded, but added considerable more to it. The lead from the Romans is more conspicuous in the geological record than anything until the Spanish began to smelt silver in the 1600s in Peru. The Romans used lead for pipes for water and lined their cooking pots with it; those rich enough to afford these luxuries poisoned themselves, slowly and unknowingly.

Today, the problem is that the new cycle that sustains huge and growing populations is weak at every point. There are limits to what can be extracted. The term “extractivism” has been defined to describe the belief that this new, non-biological paradigm can go on forever without breaking down. It is popular with corporations, some economists and some others. In religion it takes the form of belief it is God’s intention for man to dominate the earth. The opposite view is that man is a caretaker of the earth that God made “and found good.”

Naomi Kline expresses it this way, “Extractivism is a nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with the earth, one purely of taking. It is the opposite of stewardship, which involves taking but also taking care that regeneration and future life continue.”

In addition to depletion and pollution, extractivism can be blamed for colonialism and war, as western nations determined that outsides have as much right to a nation’s resources as to that nation’s citizens. The other consequence of extractivism is climate change. Despite clear scientific evidence of it, politicians funded by the fossil fuel industry continue to deny its existence. As a result, we end up with policies formulated in the halls of Congress that essentially ignore the consequence of imperialism and global warming.

The resources of the earth are not limitless. Capitalism can work in a climate of cooperation and consideration of the needs of others. It doesn’t have to be dog-eat-dog process based in the politics of elimination that serves only the top dogs.

Tom Bond is a retired chemistry professor and a farmer in Lewis County, W.Va.

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. The Appalachian Preservation Project is a social enterprise committed to preserving and protecting Appalachia. If you wish to support our work, please consider becoming a member.

The Appalachian Preservation Project is also handling planning for the “Preserving Sacred Appalachia” Earth Day conference scheduled for April 20-21 in Charleston, W.Va. Learn about it here.

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