Chapter: Harlan County

In Harlan County and eastern Kentucky, we have a rich culture, natural beauty, valuable resources such as mountains, forests and water, and a history worth preserving. We are a chapter of KFTC because we believe that these assets and characteristics define who we are, and in preserving and protecting them we are defending a way of life and leaving what is most special about this place for future generations.

Harlan County residents helped create KFTC, and we are one of its earliest chapters. Our local chapter was built on the dedication and struggles of many who came before us, and since 1981 we’ve continued their efforts. Through the years, we have been involved in successful campaigns to save the upper elevations of Black Mountain (Kentucky’s highest peak) from strip mining and logging, help communities win water lines and a new bridge, and so much more.

Today we are working to build new power in the mountains to protect the water and a way of life threatened by destructive mining methods, while  supporting KFTC’s broader efforts to make coal mines safer for miners, fully fund schools and keep college affordable, bring clean energy jobs to this area and expand voting rights.

Recent Activities

Eastern Kentuckians work to guide Promise Zone process

“The idea of the Promise Zone is encouraging,” said Elizabeth Sanders, Letcher County Steering Committee Rep., back in January. “We have a vision for a future for eastern Kentucky and know we have a lot of promise here in the mountains. If the resources from the federal government through the Promise Zone will coordinate with things like the SOAR Initiative and other existing and future programs, we may begin to see some steps toward the change the people of eastern Kentucky have been ready for and working toward.”


Since KFTC’s Appalachia’s Bright Future Conference in Harlan nearly a year ago, some big announcements and initiatives have surfaced to build wider support for a just economic transition in eastern Kentucky.

Governor Steve Brashear and 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers worked together to launch the SOAR initiative with a well-attended summit last December, and in January we welcomed the declaration of eight eastern Kentucky counties as federal ‘Promise Zones’. Since then, KFTC members have worked hard throughout the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly to lift up our best opportunities for statewide legislation and stay connected to all these efforts to guide the economic future of eastern Kentucky.

Last week KFTC members of the Harlan and Letcher chapters turned out for listening sessions to guide the regional plan of the federal Promise Zones. On Tuesday evening in Harlan, local members represented nearly a third of the 70 or so people who turned out at the Harlan Center. In the same room that hosted large group discussions at Appalachia’s Bright Future conference, Harlan countians shared a vision of hope and possibility.

Federal Promise Zone listening sessionVisions of parks, small businesses, trails and renewable energy made their way to large newsprint at the front of the room as a microphone was passed from table to table. Much of this spoken feedback was from young SKCTC students who traveled from the nearby community college campus with their entire evening class for the listening session.

Benham’s City Manager and longtime KFTC member Roy Silver shared the outline of an evolving "Benham Energy Project" collaboration between the city, Benham Power Board, COAP (Christian Outreach with Appalachian People) of Harlan, and KFTC. 

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Shining a light on Benham Power

Benham Power Project -- March 2014On Tuesday, March 4, the City of Benham in Harlan County took a big step forward in charting its energy future. KFTC, along with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) and MIT, presented research and proposals on how the municipally-owned electric utility in the town can save money on their power bills to their wholesale power provider, as well as help local residents and businesses save energy and money, and help stabilize the town's distribution grid. After the presentations, the town leaders were asked if they were interested in continuing forward with the design and implementation of the project and the response was an overwhelming "yes," with lots of great questions and suggestions shared that evening.

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Lifting our voices from Home during the General Assembly

It’s a long drive from eastern Kentucky to Frankfort; a full day’s work, to say the least. That’s why members of the Letcher County Chapter of KFTC are getting creative to lift their voices around important issues this Legislative Session. 

The chapter is wrapping up a solid week of terrific work around Kentucky’s General Assembly, right here at home. Last Wednesday, several members hosted a Mountain Talk program on local community radio station WMMT 88.7 FM. The program’s theme of Voting Rights in Kentucky followed up on a recent radio news piece covering a lobby day and rally at the State Capitol in Frankfort organized by the Kentucky Voting Rights Coalition. The Mountain Talk featured clips from that rally as well as commentary from former felon Kristi Kendall in Floyd County,WMMT Mtn Talk on HB 70 retired judge Jim Bowling in Bell County, and the father of a former felon/ coal miner, Carl Shoupe in Harlan County.  

Besides the too often told story of firsthand disenfranchisement of themselves or family members, Judge Bowling gave powerful testimony of his experience sitting on the bench, forced to hand down harsh felony convictions for offenses that once were misdemeanors.

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KFTC members respond to Promise Zone designation

KFTC members welcomed today’s announcement by President Barack Obama designating eight counties in eastern Kentucky as a "Promise Zone."

The designation will give the counties priority in applying for federal funding for programs that increase job training, access to affordable housing, educational opportunities, and more.



“The idea of the Promise Zone is encouraging,” said Elizabeth Sanders, a KFTC member from Letcher County, one of the Promise Zone counties. “We have a vision for a future for eastern Kentucky and know we have a lot of promise here in the mountains. If the resources from the federal government through the Promise Zone will coordinate with things like the SOAR Initiative and other existing and future programs, we may begin to see some steps toward the change the people of eastern Kentucky have been ready for and working toward.”


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Groups challenge EPA decision allowing Kentucky officials to gut clean water protection

Spinal deformities in fish resulting from selenium exposure. Photo: Wake Forest University.

On Friday, community and environmental groups took legal action against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a recent decision allowing Kentucky to weaken its water quality standards for selenium, a pollutant common to mountaintop removal coal mines.

"KFTC and our allies have worked for years to make EPA fully aware of the systemic failures of Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet to protect our commonwealth’s people, waters and environment,” said Doug Doerrfeld, a member of KFTC’s litigation team. “In light of this history it is disgraceful that EPA would approve a weakened selenium standard that will not only leave aquatic life at risk but will make citizen enforcement all but impossible."

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Chapter Feature:

DSC_0931"Many of us are working to create a better future for our children and grandchildren - and we've got lots of possibilities and real ideas about how to do that. We've got a bright future if we want it."

- Carl Shoupe, Benham, KY

 

Visions from Black Mountain coverVisions from Black Mountain

Residents of Benham, Lynch and Cumberland share their visions for the unique Tri-Cities area.

Regular Meetings:

We meet every other month on the second Monday at 6 p.m. We move our meeting locations around the county.  Check the calender!

Chapter Organizer:

Tanya Turner
Whitesburg, KY 41858
606-632-0051

Upcoming Events:

June 23

Harlan County Annual Chapter Meeting

107 N 3rd St
Harlan, KY 40831

Our annual chapter meeting is the one time a year we get to provide feedback and nominations for KFTC statewide platform, committees, and elect chapter officers. Hope you will join us!