Appalachian Citizens' Law Center (Whitesburg, KY)


  • Name:Ms. Stephen Sanders
  • Title:Director

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Appalachian Citizens' Law Center
  • Address:317 Main St
    Whitesburg, KY 41858
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:606-633-3929
  • Main fax:606-633-3925

Organization Web

User Web and Email


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  • Mission:
  • The Appalachian Citizens' Law Center is a nonprofit law firm that fights for justice in the coalfields by representing citizens who have been adversely affected by the mining industry. We handle individual cases and engage in strategic litigation and policy work in the areas of mine safety and health; environmental protection; and sustainable energy. This includes miners seeking safer working conditions; victims of black lung seeking the benefits they have been promised; and residents struggling to protect clean drinking water and a healthy environment. All of our work is provided at no cost to our clients.

  • Overview:
  • The Appalachian Citizens' Law Center is at the forefront of the on-the-ground legal response to the multiple impacts of coal mining in Appalachia. We are the only law firm in the country that combines direct legal work with advocacy on the multiple fronts of occupational health, mine safety, and environmental impacts. We have secured millions of dollars in black lung benefits for coal miners and their survivors; represented hundreds of Appalachian citizens in defense of safe, clean drinking water, and partnered with a broad coalition of activists and organizers to further all of our work. All our legal work is provided completely free of charge.

    Coalfield communities bear the brunt of the hidden costs of coal and ACLC’s work holds the industry accountable; shifts policies that hurt Appalachian communities’ well-being; connects local issues with national energy policy; and works across multiple issues and with a variety of community organizations. Through this work we have addressed some of the root causes of inequality in Appalachian and have helped achieve long-term change in the region.

    Our service area is the rural coalfields of Appalachia, primarily eastern Kentucky, and extending to southern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia. The region is one of the nation’s poorest areas and our home county has a poverty rate of around 30%. Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District, home of ACLC, is dead last (435th out of 435) in life expectancy, physical health, emotional health and overall well-being. ACLC provides effective, accessible legal representation to this population.

    The devastating effects of coal mining on the human and ecological communities of Appalachia can’t be overstated. Nearly 1.2 million acres of land in Appalachia have been surface mined and more than 500 mountains have been severely impacted or destroyed. Mining companies detonate approximately 2,500 tons of explosives daily, equal to a Hiroshima-strength bomb on a weekly basis.

    As the coal industry declares that it is the victim of a “war on coal”, it manipulates coalfield residents by pitting the most directly impacted individuals against one another. The industry uses the old narrative of jobs v. the environment to sow discord among coalfield citizens and to ensure that none of the anger and frustration the miners and residents feel is directed toward the industry.

    ACLC is in a unique position to counter these tactics. Because we work with miners, landowners, and environmentalists we are able to focus on a commonality that fights the difference that the industry exploits. The commonality, the focus of all of our work, is simple: coal mining places many of the costs on its workers and those who live near mining operations and misrepresents the true costs of mining.

    Without our Coal Miners' Health and Safety Project, coal miners would have no place to turn for effective legal help. For the past 10 years, attorneys with ACLC have litigated Black Lung and mine safety cases; have successfully promoted passage of mine safety legislation in Kentucky; have commented on proposed regulations; and have initiated conversations surrounding the day-to-day human costs of coal mining.

  • History:
  • ACLC was founded in 2002 in direct response to a funding mandate offered by a private trust as a spin-off of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, eastern Kentucky’s legal services provider. The conditions of the grant were to create a non-profit public interest law firm devoted solely to providing free legal services to Appalachian citizens adversely impacted by the coal industry.

    Since our founding in 2002, ACLC has been involved in a number of significant legal challenges to the coal industry. We have represented regional groups in challenging the most harmful types of coal mining practices through strategic litigation against the Office of Surface Mining and the Army Corps of Engineers for permitting massive mine sites that bury Appalachian headwater streams with toxic mine waste. At the same time, we have represented individuals whose land and whose wells have been destroyed by careless coal mining practices in the region. Our work impacts the coal industry’s ability to destroy streams and release greenhouse gases at the most fundamental, regulatory level.

    ACLC is in an unusual position among law firms doing this work. We are located in the center of the coalfields in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and we have daily working relationships with the grassroots groups and ordinary citizens of this area who are concerned about the abuses of the coal industry. We are client-centered attorneys who listen closely to the concerns being expressed by our community. Coal companies have the resources to pay for vigorous legal representation, and we provide experienced representation to help to level the playing field for coalfield residents who otherwise would not have an attorney. ACLC is proud to be the only organization located in the Kentucky coalfields that offers free legal representation for people who care about protecting the worker and community health from destructive coal mining practices.

    In the coalfields of Appalachia, over a century of coal mining has yielded a region facing complicated challenges to the health and well-being of those who mine coal. From deadly disasters like Sago and Upper Big Branch, to the insidious quiet deaths of miners stricken with black lung, coal mining takes an enormous toll on the citizens of Appalachia.

    Appalachian Citizens' Law Center provides an essential service to the coal mining communities of Appalachia, filling a void in the legal and community landscape. The Coal Miner Health and Safety Project tackles the dangerous side effects of mining coal on two fronts: protecting workers’ rights to safe mine conditions and ensuring miners have access to the federal black lung benefits they have earned.

    The risks of coal mining include not only catastrophic disasters, but the deadly occupational disease black lung. Black lung is a preventable, occupational lung disease that is contracted by prolonged breathing of coal mine dust. Coal dust accumulates in the lungs of a miner, eventually causing scarring and congestion that inhibit airflow. It is incurable and it often gets worse over time. Treatment is limited to relieving symptoms and preventing complications. Black lung disease can be difficult to live with. Sick miners often cannot walk a city block or climb a flight of stairs or engage in any physical activity without becoming winded or needing to rest. Black lung disease often gives miners a smothering sensation when they lie down, making it extremely difficult to sleep through the night. Death by black lung is slow and painful, the equivalent of drowning over a course of months.

    Like all occupational diseases, black lung is man-made and can be prevented. In fact, the U.S. Congress ordered black lung to be eradicated from the coal industry in 1969. Despite years of decline in the number of cases and regulations designed to eliminate the disease, the incidence of black lung in Appalachia is rising dramatically, more than doubling in the last ten years. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently released a study identifying eastern Kentucky as the site of the highest incidence of black lung cases. Today, it is estimated that 1,500 former coal miners each year die an agonizing death in often isolated rural communities, away from the spotlight of publicity. The black lung epidemic is a community and public health crisis in eastern Kentucky.

  • Year established:2002
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Executive / Trustee board size:7
  • Advisory board size:
  • Staff size:6


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:None
  • Tax ID:61-1401589

Other Organization Web

IRS Business Master File Information

  • EIN:611401589
  • Sort (Secondary) Name:
  • Care Of Name:% JOHN ROSEBERG
  • Organization Address:317 MAIN ST
  • Organization City:WHITESBURG
  • Organization State:KY
  • Organization Zip:41858-7316
  • Group Exemption Number:0000
  • Subsection Code:03
  • Classification Code(s):1
  • Subsection/Classification Desc.:Charitable Organization
  • Affiliation Code:3
  • Ruling Date:February, 2002
  • Deductibility Code:1
  • Foundation Code:15
  • Foundation Code Desc.:Organization which receives a substantial part of its support from a governmental unit or the general public 170(b)(1)(A)(vi)
  • Activity Code(s):
  • Activity Code Desc.(s):
  • Organization Code:1 (Corporation)
  • Exempt Org. Status Code:01 (Unconditional Exemption)
  • Tax Period:December, 2016
  • Filing Requirement Category:01 (990 (all other) or 990EZ return)
  • Accounting Period:December
  • NTEE Code:I80
  • Asset Amount:$1,699,155
  • Asset Code:6 ($1,000,000 - $4,999,999)
  • Income Amount:$572,447
  • Income Code:5 ($500,000 - $999,999)
  • 990 Revenue Amount:$572,447
  • Last Updated:2/19/2018 9:46:01 pm

This information is directly from the IRS Exempt Organization Business Master File at Exempt Organizations Business Master File Extract. This information is not under the control of the Common Grant Application and is collected and compiled and can only be changed by the IRS.