“Iowa City resident Julia Wasson, publisher of Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), recently spoke with Dr. Matt Wasson, Director of
Programming for Appalachian Voices about the fallacy that is ‘clean coal.’ Matt Wasson and Julia Wasson are first
In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned that the United States needs “continued investment in…clean coal technologies.” According to Matt Wasson and other experts, when you look at the entire process, from mountaintop removal through burning and coal ash disposal,there is no such thing as clean coal. Here is the interview:
BPGL: What sparked your interest in the environment?
WASSON: I am someone who loves being outside. When I was living in the Pacific Northwest in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the old growth forests were being cut at a phenomenal rate. I just loved forests, and that was a huge motivating factor to go down that path. Then I fell in love with the mountains in the east, when I came out here for grad school.
BPGL: You were involved in the cleanup of Prince William Sound after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. How did you get involved in that?
WASSON: I didn’t actually work to clean up the spill, but worked on a team studying its aftermath — specifically, the spill’s impacts on sea bird populations. I got the job through one of my professors at the University of Washington. After the first summer working on a remote island out in the Gulf of Alaska, I was pretty much hooked on biology.
BPGL: After you earned your Ph.D. in ecology from Cornell University, what did you do then?
WASSON: I actually started at Appalachian Voices several weeks before handing in my dissertation, and I’ve been working here ever since. I knew I wanted to do environmental work, and I really fell in love with the eastern mountains when I was doing my dissertation work out in the middle of the Adirondacks in New York. As it turned out, my research on air pollution’s impacts on birds and other wildlife provided an excellent background for working at Appalachian Voices — at that time, fighting air pollution in the mountains was our signature issue.
BPGL: What is the nature of your work at Appalachian Voices?
WASSON: I have been at Appalachian Voices for the last eight years. Currently, I am the director of programs. I oversee our campaigns to reduce air pollution, protect water quality, end mountaintop removal coal mining, and promote energy efficiency and renewable energy development in the mountains.
I am blessed to have my dream job here. I can focus on the things I really love doing and that I am really good at.
BPGL: There is no mountaintop mining in North Carolina. Why did Appalachian Voices choose that location for your main office, with all the mountaintop removal going on elsewhere?
WASSON: Mountaintop removal is a very small part of what Appalachian Voices worked on back in 1998, when the organization first formed. We’ve been building this national campaign over the years and really found our niche because nobody else was focused on passing federal legislation. We started doing it because we knew it was the right thing to do; over time, it has become our signature issue.
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~Julia Wasson is a resident of Iowa City, Iowa and the publisher of Blue Planet Green Living. Email Julia Wasson.