The ACHE campaign is dedicated to the late Judy Bonds’ charge of “Fight harder”
to end mountaintop removal.
Julia “Judy” Bonds passed away at the age of 58 on January 3, 2011, of the cancer so prevalent in communities near mountaintop removal. She joined Coal River Mountain Watch in 1998, serving first as Outreach Coordinator and later as Executive Director. In 2003, she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Judy appeared in several documentaries, including Black Diamonds, Mountain Top Removal, Burning the Future, and On Coal River; books such as Coal River, Plundering Appalachia, Crimes against Nature, Mountain Justice and Something’s Rising; and numerous magazines including People, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Utne Reader, and O. In 2009, Utne Reader named her as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World,” along with such influential people as the Dalai Lama. Judy was in constant demand as a speaker, and always eloquently and passionately told the story of her community’s struggle, whether to a handful of visitors, an academic convention, or an audience of thousands.
When Judy began her fight against cancer, she urged us all to fight harder against mountaintop removal. That is why we formed the ACHE campaign, because we are fighting for our lives and the lives of our families and neighbors.
A lifelong resident of Boone County, West Virginia, Maria Gunnoe
is an organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Council. Maria is internationally recognized for her work to end Mountaintop Removal, receiving both the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize and the 2012 Wallenberg Medal. She comes to the A.C.H.E. team knowing that the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency (A.C.H.E.) Act is the single best (and perhaps only) opportunity Appalachia has to put an end to the cancer, heart disease, birth defects and deaths that Maria has increasingly seen in her community. Frustrated by the way her own elected representatives ignore both the science and suffering associated with Mountaintop Removal, Maria has committed to seeing the ACHE ACT passed and signed into law because of the many lives it will save in the impacted communities where she works and lives.
Vernon Haltom has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical/aerospace engineering and a bachelor’s degree in English education. He served as an Air Force officer for six years, including work as an explosives safety/nuclear surety officer. After working in industry and teaching high school, he had the opportunity to move to the beautiful Coal River Valley of WV. Vernon is now the executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch. He lives in Athens, WV, and considers himself a refugee from the health crisis of mountaintop removal. He works for the day that he and his family can return to the Coal River Valley without fear of breathing carcinogenic air.
Debbie Jarrell is a lifelong resident of the Coal River Valley in West Virginia and knows what it is to live in the shadow of Mountaintop Removal and all its attendant dangers. She is a founding member of the Pennies of Promise program whose relentless advocacy led to the construction of a new school for the children of Marsh Fork Elementary, who had to try to learn in the looming presence of a toxic waste dam and a Mountaintop Removal site, as well as a coal preparation plant. Debbie is a Co-director at Coal River Mountain Watch.
is a co-founder of Christians For The Mountains (CFTM), an initiative to summons Christians to act responsibly to God’s creation. The focus is the central Appalachian Mountains region. The first objective is the end of mountaintop removal extraction. Johnson has decades of involvement in religious environmental advocacy, including the startup of the Evangelical Environmental Network, a six-year stint producing CreationSong radio, and continuing board service with the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care. Johnson has degrees both in Science and Theology. CFTM has been facilitating students from Christian colleges conducting community health surveys in communities in mountaintop removal communities. The mounting evidence that pollution from mountaintop removal contributes to serious and significant health disparities led Johnson to be a founding member of the A.C.H.E. campaign. Johnson has lived in West Virginia for 40 years
is a co-founder of the A.C.H.E. Campaign. A nationally known broadcaster whose network has devoted more time than any other broadcast medium to educating people about the imperative to end Mountaintop Removal, Bob is a resident of Fayette County, WV, where his ancestors have lived since the 18th
century. He is the father of four and grandfather of three of Appalachia’s coming generations. Bob has travelled the country and across the ocean to build awareness of the self-sacrifices imposed on Appalachian people by foreign corporations, and serves as the President of the Board of Directors of Coal River Mountain Watch, where he strives to help people understand that the crisis in Appalachia isn’t merely an “environmental” one, but a full-scale human rights disaster unfolding before people’s very eyes.
Born and raised in West Virginia, seventeen year old Robin (“Ferg”) Kincaid Welch
is the A.C.H.E. team’s youngest member. He has been present since the very beginnings of the A.C.H.E. Campaign and was present on the day the A.C.H.E. Act was proposed in a Congressional office. Ferg has been involved in the struggle for Appalachian human rights since he was a child, attending rallies and protests in conjunction with Coal River Mountain Watch. His goal is to end Mountaintop Removal so he can see his friends and neighbors stop being sickened; so his niece and nephews can have a hopeful future instead of the toxic one West Virginia’s politicians and coal corporations have planned for them.
, a retired high school English teacher and former Mayor from Inez, Kentucky, has been an activist for the health and safety of the land and people of Appalachia for more than a decade. He now operates Metrobilly’s , a sandwich shop/ Art gallery in his home town, when he’s not away lobbying for the ACHE Act or speaking at rallies and with groups of students and adults about the serious health crisis facing the Central Appalachians due to Mountain Top Removal.
, a national board certified teacher, has taught high school Biology, AP Biology and Anatomy and Physiology in Martin County, Kentucky for the past 30 years. She has sponsored the Environmental Club at her high school since the late 1980’s and has testified with her students from her local county government to a Senate subcommittee hearing at the state capital in Frankfort. Years ago she became appalled at the high cancer death rates within her community and believes that passage of the ACHE Act is the key to lowering this epidemic.
is the Director and founder of Climate Ground Zero, an organization dedicated to the practice of non violence to end mountain top removal and address climate change, which has been based in Rock Creek, West Virginia since 2007. Roselle cofounded Earth First! in 1989 the Rainforest Action Network in 1983, and in 1996 founded the Ruckus Socity, an organization that teaches non violent civil disobedience. Mike is presently involved in the A.C.H.E. Campaign to bring his work ending Mountaintop Removal to complete fruition.
is a 6th generation resident of the Coal River Valley, West Virginia. He is the former board president and current member of Coal River Mountain Watch. He has organized numerous events calling for the abolition of mountaintop removal, recruiting speakers such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Dr. James Hansen. He is a co-founder of Mountain Justice Summer and was a lead organizer in Appalachia Rising Washington DC 2010. He received the 2010 Purpose Prize in recognition for his successful work to build a new school in a safe location for the children of Marsh Fork Elementary after the school had become surrounded by mountaintop removal and a 2.8-billion-gallon toxic coal sludge dam. In 2011 he assembled a team to conduct cancer research in the Coal River Valley, resulting in a scientific, peer-reviewed publication of which he is co-author. This work confirmed his personal observation of elevated cancer rates in his community, leading him to collaborate with close colleagues to advance a comprehensive campaign calling upon federal intervention to address the growing health crisis of mountaintop removal; thus the ACHE team was founded.
’s family has been in what is now West Virginia for centuries. Her father was a coal miner in the days of hand-loading and payment by the ton. A mother of four with a background in nursing, she has both a mother’s concerns and a clinician’s for the health and welfare of Appalachian people forced to unwillingly be poisoned by Mountaintop Removal. She has been an active member of Coal River Mountain Watch for the last eight years and comes to the A.C.H.E. Team as a natural outgrowth of that activism.