Rebekah Epling came on board in fall 2008 as our VISTA volunteer to help with administrative duties, and continued with CFTM until summer 2010 when she enrolled in graduate school for Appalachian studies.
Christians For The Mountains was invited to participate in direct actions on mountaintop removal. One of these events was at the entrance to a Massey Coal plant in Raleigh County, WV. Allen Johnson gave a speech citing Jesus overturning the moneychanger tables in the Temple. Johnson and others were arrested. Johnson’s witness to the magistrate judge touched him deeply.
In March, 2011, CFTM partnered with Coal River Mountain Watch and Restoring Eden to conduct a health survey in Boone County, WV, a mountaintop removal region, and Pocahontas County, WV, a non-mining area. This field survey was designed and operated under CDC protocol by Dr. Michael Hendryx, a professor in Community Health at West Virginia University. Restoring Eden provided students during the three weeks of the field surveys, who first were trained to conduct household health histories. The communities accepted the student surveyors well. The survey was incorporated into a published study. The students became highly motivated to the work of advocacy for health and justice in the mountains. Further studies followed, utilizing student surveyors from Restoring Eden during March spring breaks, in Martin County (MTR), and Rowen County, (control) in Kentucky in 2012; Wise County and Smythe County (control) Virginia in 2013; and Mingo County, Fayette County, and controls in Roane, Calhoun, and Jackson counties in West Virginia in 2014. Follow ups in 2014 in summer. In 2015 a smaller study using paid persons was conducted in Fayette County, WV getting blood samples. The entire program was called the Appalachian Community Research Project (ACHSP)
The ACHE Act was introduced in the House in 2012 with about 40 co-sponsors. The purpose of the ACHE Act is to place a moratorium on permitting for mountaintop removal coal mining until health studies are conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, to be paid for by the coal industry. It is introduced every year. For purposes of getting support in Congress, Christians For The Mountains was able to procure a live-in office in the Methodist Building for a modest cost, since CFTM is a religious organization. The office on Maryland Street had free parking, and very close proximity to congressional offices. We held that office for over two years until our funds could not sustain it. Bo Webb and Bob Kincaid were and are the main drivers of the ACHE Act.
During the period between 2015 and 2020, Johnson became active in the fight against the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) that would bring harm to land and water in rugged Appalachian terrain, as well as locking in more greenhouse gas infrastructure, and furthering the environmentally and health hazard of fracking. Johnson has continued to serve on the Steering Committee and as Board chair of Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, a 50-member coalition in Virginia and West Virginia to fight the ACP. Johnson helped organize local resistance with letter writing, meetings, trainings on water and visual monitoring, and conducted drone photography of ongoing construction. In July 2020, the $8 billion ACP project was cancelled, a stunning victory!
In 2012, Larry Gibson approached several people including Owen Owens and Allen Johnson to ask about writing his biography. We agreed to help. This last request was at his Labor Day weekend retreat on Kayford Mountain, a week before he died. Over the next several years, Johnson garnered some interviews including 99 year old Ken Hechler before he died. Finding an author was difficult, with two backing out. In October 2018, Marybeth Lorbiecki agreed to research and write the biography, and is doing an outstanding job. The One Foundation has provided startup funding for the author.