Event Recap

Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining and Alternative Energy (Switzer Foundation Webinar Series)

Topic(s): Air Quality

This webinar will be presented by Switzer Fellows Evan Hansen and Jen Osha, who are working together under a Switzer Collaborative Initiatives seed grant to produce a multimedia website and community guide to organize local wind campaigns. Evan and Jen, both based in West Virginia, are each working at the forefront of the call for alternative energy practices in Central Appalachia, Evan through his consulting firm, Downstream Strategies, and Jen through her PhD research and through her advocacy organization, Aurora Lights.

In this webinar, Jen and Evan will present:

  • the context of mountaintop removal coal mining, how extensive it has become, the environmental and community issues associated with this practice;
  • an introduction to Coal River Mountain, the location of their collaborative work, where mountaintop removal mining is occurring and where the community is mobilizing to propose alternatives;
  • Evan’s and Jen’s experiences in the technical and advocacy work involved in creating the website and community guide, including Jen’s work with the communities of Coal River Mountain and Evan’s economic analysis of wind power versus coal mining;
  • an update on the regulatory issues involved in mountaintop removal mining;
  • observations and challenges for the work ahead.

Webinar participants and other interested parties are encouraged to review the multimedia website, Journey Up Coal River (www.journeyupcoalriver.org), prior to the webinar for background and information on the issue. There will be limited time in the webinar to get up to speed on mountaintop removal coal mining and all of the specific issues involved at Coal River Mountain. The website provides an excellent overview.

About the Presenters:

Evan Hansen consults on environmental science and policy issues with an emphasis on water resources, energy, and climate change. In 1997, he founded Downstream Strategies, which offers clients an alternative to mainstream environmental consulting by combining sound interdisciplinary skills with a core belief in the importance of protecting the environment and linking economic development with natural resource stewardship. He earned a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jen Osha is the founder and President of Aurora Lights since 1998. She currently is “all but dissertation” in the geography department at WVU, where her research is focused on the impacts of mountaintop removal on the communities surrounding Coal River Mountain in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Jen received her B.A. in English with Honors from the University of Virginia and her Masters in Forestry from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Jen worked as a volunteer English teacher for WorldTeach, and then as an environmental educator through Aurora Lights in Ecuador for two years. Upon returning to the United States, Jen produced the benefit CD Moving Mountains: Voices of Appalachia Rise Up Against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining from 2000-2003. She has taught at the university level since 2003 at Salem International and West Virginia University, and has brought two groups of college students to the Ecuadorian highlands and amazon. Jen was the producer for the second MTR benefit CD, Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home which was released in June of 2009, and the project director for the multimedia website Journey Up Coal River.