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Public Lab Research note


Announcing our newest Fellowship Team project!

by stevie , junior_walk1337 | August 19, 2021 17:19 19 Aug 17:19 | #27602 | #27602

Photo by Junior Walk

Read more about Public Lab Fellowship Teams here

The Project Issue: Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in West Virginia

For well over a century the coal industry has exploited the people and natural resources of West Virginia. The technology they have developed over the past four decades specifically has allowed them to destroy and poison the environment to an almost unbelievable extent, all in the name of maximizing profit. Large scale surface mining, also known as mountaintop removal not only deforests thousands of acres per mine site, but completely destroys the landscape leaving behind only bare rock and rubble. The biologically diverse forests that used to set where these mines now exist can never be replaced, the topsoil that allowed them to exist is now buried under valley fills. The bedrock that once formed some of the oldest mountains on the planet is blasted apart and turned into toxic dust clouds that settle on the communities below.

The state regulatory agency, the West Virginia Department of Environmental protection has been in the pocket of the coal industry since its conception. This makes it difficult to hold the industry accountable to the relatively lax environmental laws, but not impossible. Over the years, Coal River Mountain Watch has discovered a handful of methods in the pursuit of chipping away at the profit margins of coal companies. One of the most successful tactics has been in observing, documenting, and monitoring mining activity and reporting on them to the DEP. The intent behind this fellowship team is to support our continued work against the coal industry using drones and other forms of observation to document violations of environmental law, and pressure the DEP to take appropriate action. The fines incurred by the coal company are a pittance and are factored into the cost of doing business.

The main goal of this work is to make the companies pull workers and equipment away from actively mining coal in order to fix the problems they created.

In this project, we aim to:

  • Monitor active mine sites from the ground and via drone.
  • Research environmental regulations and identify tactics that concerned citizens in communities around surface mines can use to document illegal actions and permit violations by the mining companies.
  • Communicate our findings to the Department of Environmental Protection and follow up with them to raise the pressure on the agency to take action.
  • Create a videos examining the state of abandoned and active mines in the area on and around Coal River Mountain, and describe the tactics that can be used to hold the industry accountable.

Community Organizing Fellow and Project Lead: Junior Walk

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Junior Walk is an environmental activist who lives in Boone county West Virginia. Since 2009 he has worked with various anti-surface mining organizations in the Appalachian region. In that time his work has taken various forms, including lobbying on federal and state levels, gathering data for lawsuits against coal companies, and even getting arrested doing direct action on surface mines and corporate offices. Junior now serves as the outreach coordinator for Coal River Mountain Watch, a role in which he spends his time monitoring coal mines in his community for environmental violations, as well as educating people on the effects surface mining has had on the state of West Virginia.

Join this Fellowship Team!

This Fellowship team is seeking:

A Documentation Fellow

This fellow will join the team to work closely with the Community Organizing Fellow to document the project on PublicLab.org and produce videos with materials from the community.

  • Commitment Period: roughly 6-8hr/week September - May
  • Fellowship Stipend: $6,600USD in total over the commitment period.
  • Where: This fellowship is open to anyone and is remote; phone in team meetings will be held on EST and be grounded in community efforts in West Virginia.
  • Requirements for the position: This fellowship will require remote work abilities, comfortable working across diverse stakeholder groups, and strong communication skills (verbal/written).

An Environmental Policy Fellow

This fellow will join the team to 1) Investigate surface mining permits in West Virginia and create clear documentation around permit statuses. 2) Research state and federal environmental regulations in order to find new and innovative ways to hold the coal mining industry accountable. And 3) Identify tactics that concerned citizens in communities around surface mines can use to document illegal actions and permit violations.

  • Commitment Period: roughly 6-8hr/week September - May
  • Fellowship Stipend: $6,600USD in total over the commitment period.
  • Where: This fellowship is open to anyone and is remote; phone in team meetings will be held on EST and be grounded in community efforts in West Virginia.
  • Requirements for the position: This fellowship will require remote work abilities, comfortable working across diverse stakeholder groups, and strong communication skills (verbal/written).

Local Field Technician Fellows

These fellows will join the Community Organizing Fellow on short term basis in the field hiking and act as another set of eyes on the mine sites. These Fellows will also record observations and take photographic evidence of anything concerning around the mining sites.

  • Commitment Period: 1 day
  • Fellowship Stipend: $120USD per day out in the field (limited to 25 total stipends)
  • Where: Raleigh/Boone counties in West Virginia
  • Requirements for the position: This fellowship will require you to be able to hike through rugged mountain terrain both on and off a trail for anywhere between 2 and 5 hours. A willingness to hold the coal industry accountable to the bare minimum legal standard is a must.

If you're interested in joining the team as a Local Field Technician Fellow, please email junior.walk1337@gmail.com


1 Comments

Looking forward to seeing more about your project!

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