OVEC: Defending the Mountains and Their People

Members of OVEC participating in the Climate March, Huntington, West Virginia

This year, Radical Joy for Hard Times is honored to partner with nine pioneering organizations whose work inspires and complements our own. Beginning this month, we will profile one of these organizations each month in Radical Joy Revealed. Today, we’d like to introduce the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) was founded in 1987 to halt the construction of a toxic waste dump/incinerator proposed for a low-income community near Huntington, WV. The group won that campaign, and for the past 30 years they have been a leading advocate for Appalachian communities in the Ohio River Valley facing environmental damage caused by the coal and petrochemical industries.

A major initiative since the mid-1990s has been ending the massive, industrialized process called “mountaintop mining.” ” Mountaintop removal,” as local people refer to it, not only takes jobs away from human coal miners and turns it over to machines, it also causes air and water pollution, threatens human health, and causes the kind of community-wide distress that the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht calls solastalgia, “the pain one feels when the place where one lives and that one loves is under assault.”  Over the years OVEC has partnered with attorneys at Appalachian Mountain Advocates to file lawsuits that have stopped or slowed some mountaintop removal permits, reduced the release of toxic pollution into streams, and contributed to the downturn in mountaintop removal by making it less profitable.

OVEC’s more recent efforts are aimed at halting the proposed Appalachian Storage Hub (ASH), a multi-billion-dollar petrochemical project that would expand unconventional oil and gas drilling (fracking) in the region to feed by constructing ethane cracking plants, storage facilities, and regulating stations. To build resistance and demand for renewables instead, OVEC is waging a multi-pronged campaign based on local organizing, media outreach and collaborative efforts with like-minded regional citizen groups.

On September 8, members of OVEC, along with several local partners, sponsored Ohio River Rising, in Huntington, joining people in more than 750 cities worldwide in a People’s Climate Movement march. Robin Blakeman, OVEC project coordinator, said that the event focused both on the hardships that the fossil fuels industry inflicts on land and people and celebrated positive developments, such as the recent increase in solar energy in the region.

Members of OVEC, in collaboration with the Marshall University Native American Student Organization, have participated in two Global Earth Exchanges for the Ohio River, considered the most polluted inland river in the U.S.

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.


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