Appalachian Restoration Act Gets Boost from Grass Roots.

Cross-posted from Appalachian Voices

November Mini-Lobby Week.
Guest Author: Daniel Hawkins, Southwest Virginia

“I love you and I’m gonna miss you.” The somber tone in my wife’s voice told me she was dreading my trip to Washington, DC. I took her into my arms “I’m gonna miss you too. I love you so much…” It isn’t very often that I take a trip and leave my family behind. A few years ago I had worked a job that required me to be on the road constantly. Since then I have made every effort to avoid going anywhere without them, but this trip was going to be different.

I would be joining a group of people from the coalfields to promote the Appalachian Restoration Act, a bill in the United States Senate that would protect our streams and ultimately our mountains.

I climbed into the car and joined a group of soon to be close friends. Our quartet would represent three of the coal producing states of Appalachia. David Beaty and Vickie Terry hailed from Tennessee, Carl Shoupe from Eastern Kentucky, and I was to speak for Virginia. Each of us had a story to tell and Washington was about to hear them.

This was to be my first time lobbying and I would have been lying to say I wasn’t nervous. Still, I don’t believe I could not have been with a better group to learn the ropes. David, Terry, and Carl had done this on several occasions and the staff of the Appalachian Voices was there in full support, not only legislatively but emotionally as well. After we were briefed on what to expect we set out to plead our cases in a dozen senate offices.
In every meeting, stories of mountain top removal and its negative impacts to the health and welfare of Appalachian people was echoed.

By the time we reached Virginia Senator Mark Warner’s office I was starting to get the hang of it. In some ways I became blunt while also pleading for help. “How can anyone be willing to poison our children for money?” I said. “Mountain top removal isn’t about jobs; it’s about making extremely high profits. Do you know what it’s like to worry if your children have cancer every time they get sick?”.

The next day I woke early and put on my running shoes. The air was crisp and the sun was out, a perfect morning for a good run around an unfamiliar city. With each building I passed along the way I couldn’t help but think of the money that courses through the city and how it is spread throughout the entire country. I felt small and insignificant amongst all the marble columns, but, simultaneously, I became strengthened in my resolve. If we didn’t come here and try to stop mountain top removal, the fate of the Appalachians would certainly be sealed. We must continue to do everything we can.

The amount of time and effort the people at Appalachian Voices put into these lobbying trips deserves the highest praise. People like Kate Rooth, JW Randolph, Austin Hall, John Humphrey, and the interns worked very hard to put the trip together. Without their help our voices would be diminished within the rhetoric that envelops our federal government. As we set off for home early Thursday morning we each felt a sense of accomplishment and looked forward to rejoining our families.

I would like to thank everyone who made the trip possible.

Daniel Hawkins is former underground coal miner who lives in the coalfields of Southwest Virginia.

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Appalachian Restoration Act Gets Boost from Grass Roots.

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