To the Editor:
After 14 years working at Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, it is my honor and privilege to step into the role of Director. Throughout my time at ACLC, it has been meaningful to work in an area of law so closely linked to my family and community. I come from a family of coalminers, and I grew up listening to stories of mine accidents and hearing the rattle in old miners’ lungs. Little did I know, I would soon spend my career working on these issues.
At ACLC, our work encompasses several critical concerns affecting our region. Our attorneys help coalminers receive the black lung benefits they need and deserve, fight for safety protections for current miners, represent communities struggling with poor water quality and toxic waste, and support legislation that will help our coalfield communities for years to come.
In Martin County, ACLC’s Deputy Director Mary Cromer has helped community members hold their public officials accountable in their fight for clean water. In Estill County, Mary has represented community members who exposed illegal dumping near a local school. ACLC’s policy coordinator Eric Dixon brought coalminers to Washington, D.C., twice this year to meet with legislators about the importance of the RECLAIM Act and the Black Lung Excise Tax.
With black lung disease reaching epidemic levels, Evan Smith, Steve Sanders and I have taken on more federal black lung benefits cases than ever before. Though the coal industry has faced rapid decline, an increasing number of miners, some of whom retired decades earlier, are walking through our doors with complicated black lung disease. Complicated black lung is a severe form of the disease that has appeared in unprecedented levels in recent years, making our work as important as ever.
There are ongoing environmental issues impacting this region, and we will continue to advocate for healthy communities, safer working conditions, and the rights of sick miners and their widows. I am very proud of the work ACLC has accomplished this past year and every year before, and I look forward to continuing and expanding our work in 2019
Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center