Aerial images of mountaintop removal coal mining in central Appalachia have circulated widely in outlets including CNN, 60 Minutes, and the BBC as a result of SouthWings flights. Viewing the practice from the air is a powerful experience; one passenger remarked that seeing “the might of the machines that literally reshape colossal mountains is jaw dropping.”
Through our partnerships in West Virginia, we supported the successful effort to designate Blair Mountain on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, protecting the site from mountaintop removal.
Along the Gulf Coast, our partners keep a watchful eye on chronic and intermittent oil leaks from abandoned and improperly maintained offshore oil platforms through the support of our volunteer pilots.
SouthWings flights confirmed an ongoing oil leak at the Taylor Energy Wells, and indicated underestimating in reports of the spill’s severity. With these findings published in the Washington Post in 2018, the industry is under new pressure to contain and manage the impacts of the spill, following a trend toward increased compliance among energy companies in the region resulting from our efforts with the Gulf Monitoring Consortium.
Our flights support our Waterkeeper Alliance partners in monitoring threats to Southeastern waterways from urban development, livestock waste, coal ash, and other pollution sources. In 2017 alone, SouthWings flights enabled over 180 pollution reports to be filed with state and federal agencies to hold polluters accountable, and coverage of our flights in Rolling Stone and NPR have brought these issues to national attention.
According to one Riverkeeper, “To see the watershed from the air gives a great perspective. We can clearly see how the land, streams, and rivers are all connected.”