The Appalachian region boasts a long, proud history of resistance by individuals, organizations, and alliances working to stop strip mining abuses in the region, beginning in the 1960s. The Appalachian Coalition Against Strip Mining formalized some of these efforts in the 1970s by working with a national coalition of groups from coalfields across the country for federal legislation to ban the destructive practice. Groups fought against the inclusion of a mountaintop removal variance in the federal law and also worked for steep slope limits to mining and other protections for communities.  Despite those efforts, the final bill that passed, the Surface Mining Regulation and Enforcement Act (SMCRA) of 1977, included a mountaintop removal variance and did not include other provisions like a steep slope limit. Experience told activists that coal companies would take full advantage of this loophole and so many coalition groups called on President Carter to veto the legislation, to no avail.

Regional coalitions and alliances are hardly new for the region, but rather past collaboration provides a framework for political change that can be modeled on the successes and failures of the Appalachian Alliance, Save the Land and People, the Council of the Southern Mountains, and other similar bodies.

Over the past decade, organizations in Appalachia have picked up where these groups have left off, working together to fight the abuses of mountaintop removal made possible through SMCRA through grassroots organizing and leadership development, state and national policy work, state and federal litigation, extensive use of the media, and technical assistance.  In many instances, the joint work has been informal, but because of the extreme political and economic power of the coal industry, groups fighting this battle agreed that no single organization could win alone. Thus, The Alliance for Appalachia was formed.

The first years of our Alliance were spent building trust across organizations and across state lines with groups who brought different strategies, perspectives, relationships, and histories to the table. From 2007-2010 we took on a federal-level campaign to pass the Clean Water Protection Act--that would ban the dumping of  mining waste into our valleys and streams and significantly curtail mountaintop removal. We also used our collective strength to pressure the new administration to take a stand against coal-industry abuses by ending the issuing of destructive permits.With this effort came our largest national victory as a movement  and one of the most significant environmental justice victories in our region in decades. The Obama Administration released the “Interagency Action Plan to Address Strip Mining in Central Appalachia,” a Memorandum of Understanding between the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Interior, and Council of Environmental Quality.  The plan resulted in the  suspension of 86 permit applications, 79 of which were held for further review. In the years that followed, many of these permits were withdrawn, expired, were vetoed, or remained suspended--gumming of the wheels of the coal industry’s efforts. During 2009 and since, our coalition  has become  more rounded.  As Congress  turned to gridlock, we turned to our states, and began to offer trainings and collaborative opportunities that would strengthen  relationships and work on the cross-state level. By way of example, we’ve brought together economic transition experts and leaders to map our regional landscape and discuss strategies for community based growth. We have also created opportunities for local leaders to participate at the forefront of historic movement events such as Appalachia Rising in Washington DC and the march on Blair Mountain. We’ve developed a regional citizens water-monitoring project and we’ve offered trainings for emerging leaders. And all the while, we have kept up relationships in Washington so that we are primed for a new window of opportunity for acting on the federal level.

During 2009 and since, our coalition has become more rounded. As Congress turned to gridlock, we turned to our states, and began to offer trainings and collaborative opportunities that would strengthen relationships and work on the cross-state level. By way of example, we’ve brought together economic transition experts and leaders to map our regional landscape and discuss strategies for community based growth. We have also created opportunities for local leaders to participate at the forefront of historic movement events such as Appalachia Rising in Washington DC and the march on Blair Mountain. We’ve developed a regional citizens water-monitoring project and we’ve offered trainings for emerging leaders. And all the while, we have kept up relationships in Washington so that we are primed for a new window of opportunity for acting on the federal level.