Friday, December 31, 2010

Question of Power : Mother Road 2011
May 21 - June 14, 2011
Stayed tuned for complete details

Best wishes for the New Year. May it be filled with Peace, Harmony, and Beauty for all of you. A BIG thank you to everyone for your support and belief in getting the stories out.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Letters to the President - Bokoshe Oklahoma Elementary School:

In a sixth grade classroom at Bokoshe Elementary School nine out of seventeen students suffer from chronic asthma. Eighty coal ash trucks a day rumble through town carrying loads of toxic coal ash to be dumped 1.5 miles from the Bokoshe Elementary School. Feeling their voices were unheard the six grade class wrote letters to the President sharing their concerns for their community.
I spent a week in Bokoshe on this trip. I met the students, spent time in their classrooms, and listened to their stories. Here is what they shared with me.
(click here to see and hear their stories)

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Monday, December 6, 2010

6th Graders Take on Energy Giant in Bokoshe, Oklahoma:

Fearing for the health of their small eastern Oklahoma town, sixth grade students in Bokoshe are publicly speaking out against a toxic coal fly ash pit near their school.
The students selected their town’s number one concern as part of an environmental component of the national Learn and Serve America Program that encourages civic participation and awareness. More information can be found at The operators of the disposal pit, Making Money Having Fun, LLC and several state regulatory agencies have come under fire for failing to adequately protect residents from fugitive dust that has covered the community for years. Fly ash is the result of burnt coal from the power plant and is a toxic mixture of heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, chromium and lead. Residents contend they were never told the material was hazardous when the disposal pit began operation 8 years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering classifying fly ash, or coal combustion waste, as a hazardous material. Power producers such as AES and local electric co-ops oppose the potential EPA safeguards.

Nine fifth and sixth grade students in a class of 17 at the Bokoshe school have asthma or other respiratory conditions.The students, concerned individuals, and families of Bokoshe have scheduled a media event for Tuesday, December 7, 2010. The students will have the opportunity to share their stories regarding health issues with asthma during the event. A new sign created by the citizens of Bokoshe will be unveiled.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In The Air We Breathe - Bokoshe, Oklahoma:
Eight trucks make ten trips each daily down Highway 31 between the AES Coal burning power plant to Bokoshe, Oklahoma carrying coal ash. The distance is a short ten miles. The eighty loads a day carry a heavy toil for the people of Bokoshe.

Fourteen out of twenty families in Bokoshe suffer from joint disease, emphysema, and cancer. In 1988 the EPA reviewed the potential health hazards of exposure to coal ash. No decision was made. Ten years later in 1998 the EPA again reviewed coal ash. No decision was made. Today, the EPA is again reviewing the potential health hazards of coal ash. The residents of Bokoshe know what the health hazards of exposure to coal ash are.
To hear their story ( click here ).

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Saturday, October 30, 2010

When the telephone rings:

We never know what message awaits us when we hear the ring of the telephone. Quite different from reading an email. Over the years that familiar ring has delivered many different types of messages and stories to me. Friday afternoons usually bring a different message then do Monday mornings. Yesterday afternoon (Friday) when my phone rang I received a message I have been waiting to hear for nearly six years now.
This past August a Federal Court in Denver heard the case regarding Lucy A. Willie and other families of the Burnham, NM. community on the Navajo Nation whose lives, health, and way of life have been affected by the mining and extraction of coal. Some of the families have lost their homes and grazing permits to the mining operation. Ceremonial and grave sites have been desecrated. Lucy and her family were in the direct line of the mine expansion. For the past six years the constant threat of a knock on the door with an order to leave her home lingered in Lucy's daily thoughts. You know the story if you have followed this blog and viewed the stories on Question of Power.

Little did I realize the ring of my telephone yesterday would be a ring for social justice.
The court decision was released. The mining permits issued by the U. S. Office of Surface Mining had been done improperly over the years. The permits neglected to include consideration for the National Environmental Protection Act, clean water, ethnographic studies, and historic and cultural resources. For Lucy, her family, and community members, the decision brings peace to their lives. The immediate threat of being removed from their homes for mine expansion has for the present time been removed.

I spoke with Lucy on the phone shortly after I received the call. Her voice carried a very happy tone. We laughed together. Then she said, "almost a year to the day since Ambrose has passed, I know he is happy to hear the news." I told Lucy how proud I was of her for standing so very strong through these times. Persevering with purpose and passion. Believing and standing for social justice.

This Friday phone call had a very good ring to it.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Friday, September 17, 2010

TEDx Saturday September 18:

Update on my presentation with Tedx. The entire day will be live streamed on the internet. You can log on here to join the live web cast:
I will be sharing the Question of Power stories at 2:26 PM MDT. If you have a moment please join us.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Monday, September 13, 2010

TEDx - Ideas Worth Spreading:

I am honored to
present the idea and stories of Question of Power at TEDx in Albuquerque on Saturday September 18. I will be sharing stories of the untold human costs of coal from Bokoshe, OK., Burnham, NM., Uniontown, AL., and Kingston, TN. The TED program is about "ideas worth spreading". If you have not visited their website please take a moment and do so. If you can be in Albuquerque on Saturday I will look forward to seeing you there.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Living in Coal Ash: Uniontown, Alabama:
For the past twelve months 88 rail cars filled with coal ash from the TVA coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee have traveled 300 miles to Uniontown, Alabama daily. The Arrowhead Landfill, once only used for household waste, is now the depository for material from a designated Super Fund site. Individuals, families, and the community of Uniontown have changed in the past year.

Click here to see and hear the story.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Oil and Water":

There are many photographs of the Gulf Oil Spill circulating around the world. Last month when I was in Louisiana I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with individuals whose families have lived in the Gulf for over five generations. They shared with me their concerns, fears, frustrations, and stories.
To hear their stories and see their pictures follow this link:

I will be returning to the Gulf in a few weeks
. Stay tuned in.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gulf Stories: Woodland Plantation

A few miles north of Venice, Louisiana on Highway 23 I spotted a sign stating..."Only remaining Plantation in the Mississippi Delta". A short drive off the highway lead me to Woodland Plantation.
Woodland Plantation was built in the 1830's by one of America's first chief river pilots, Captain William Johnson. Captain Johnson and his partner, George Bradish, were sea captains/pirates from Nova Scotia who had come down to the Deep Delta in the late 1700's. Captain Johnson and his four sons built a thriving sugar cane plantation with one of the most modern mills of its time. Johnson was also in partnership with the famous pirate, Jean Lafitte.Lafitte would bring slaves up Grand Bayou, which was a short cut to the Gulf of Mexico from Woodland, holding them at the slave quarters. From there Captains Johnson and Bradish would pick up the slaves and trade them up and down the river. Over the years, Woodland withstood the torment of several hurricanes and saw many changes, including serving as a haven for bootleggers during the prohibition.Since 1934 Woodland Plantation has graced the label of Southern Comfort continuing it's early prohibition history.In 1997 the Creppel family rescued this formerly neglected landmark. Woodland stands today as the only remaining plantation home in the Delta on the west bank of the Mississippi.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice - Chaco Canyon, New Mexico:

Today is Summer Solstice 2010, the first day of summer. According to Wikipedia, Summer Solstice, or the "first day of summer," is "when the Earth's axial tilt is most inclined towards the sun at its maximum of 23° 26'." It's the longest day of the year, with the shortest night. A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year. The Sun stands still in declination; that is, the apparent movement of the Sun's path north or south comes to a stop before reversing direction.

In Chaco Canyon, over one thousand years ago, there arose among the Pueblo People a great and culturally sophisticated civilization. On Fajada Butte the Chacoans created a site to record the importance of the solar cycles.

On the south side of Chaco Canyon a large kiva, Casa Rinconada, was constructed with a window which allows the light of the Summer Solstice Sun to pass through. At the exact moment the sun breaks the horizon on June 21st, its light is cast through the window upon the wall marking the seasonal change.

The Zuni are direct decedents of the People of Chaco. On the Summer Solstice the Zuni return to Chaco Canyon to bring life back into the canyon through their dances, songs, and ceremonies.

The Zuni beliefs are centered on Mother Earth, Sun Father, and Moonlight-Giving Mother. The Zuni words for daylight and life are the same word. The Sun is, therefore, seen as the giver of life. The beginning of the new season is the time to think of life. To see where we have come from. To see if our directions and intentions are correct and in harmony with Mother Earth. Many lessons have been left for us in Chaco Canyon by our ancestors. Summer Solstice...a new season...a time for clear vision...giver of life...a time to decide where we need to go from here...

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Friday, June 4, 2010

Oil and Art - Larose, Louisiana:
Along Louisiana Highway 1 a few miles from Grand Isle is the small town of Larose, Louisiana. Highway 1 makes a sharp ninety degree turn and located on the corner is Bobby Pitre's Southern Sting Tattoo Palor.
Bobby was born and raised in Larose and has been creating tattoo art for over fifteen years. His family for four generations has "lived" off the land, marshes, and bays in the Gulf. Bobby is French - Cajun.
Eric Guidru has been learning the "art" of tattoo from Bobby for the past three years. He is a young artist with a deep concern for what is happening to his home and culture.
Bobby and Eric brought their art together last week to share their concern and frustration on the Gulf oil spill. "I wanted to show BP as the "Grim Reaper" of the entire Gulf way of life" said Bobby. Eric added the iconic image of President Obama, this time with multiple question marks. "I not trying to make a political statement...just trying to raise the question...what do we do next".
Bobby added two figures holding a sign. A man holding a fish, and a small child covering her head in fear. "The child represents my little girl who lives down the street", Bobby replied with a sad expression in his eyes. "God Help Us All!"

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Signs of the times: Gulf Oil Spill

Working in the Gulf of Louisiana the past several days I began to notice "signs" of the oil spill. Different signs of course hold different meanings.

Making a photo of a sign...standing on a public road leading to Halliburton Offices in Venice, LA. brings out private security and the U.S. Army telling photojournalists with Press credentials to leave the area immediately...or possibly experience arrest. "Do Not Litter".

The President arrived on Grand Isle on Thursday. Local residents carried hand painted signs to voice their concern.
Residents along the entire Gulf area are raising questions regarding how the Oil Spill is being handled.
The economy of the Gulf of Louisiana is dependent on fishing, shrimping, oysters, and oil.

Signs of the times in the Gulf.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Grand Isle, Louisiana: "Beach Closed"

Day thirty-eight since the Gulf Oil Spill. Oil continues to fill the Gulf waters. BP working on a "Top Kill". Oil has come ashore on over 100 miles of the Louisiana coastline. In some areas booms have been placed in an effort to stop the crude oil from coming ashore and into the delicate Gulf marshes. In most cases the booms have had little effect in stopping the oil.

At Grand Isle the oil has come ashore along a five mile long beach. Wet land marshes, some boomed, others not boomed are being covered in crude oil.
Elmers Beach is closed. Crews work around the clock in a struggle to slow the encroaching crude oil. Click HERE for the story.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Elizabeth Avedon Blog:

Elizabeth Avedon writes an excellent photography blog. She contacted me last week regarding posting some of the Question of Power photographs on her blog. Here is the post: Elizabeth Avedon. Thank you very much Elizabeth.

The past month has been busy. Traveled to Bradley University, Il. and Plattsburg State University, NY. I had the opportunity and honor to meet many wonderful students, faculty, and individuals from the surrounding communities. My heart felt thanks goes out to everyone for your thoughtful support of the coal stories I add voice to.

The Question of Power web site has been completely updated. The photo/audio essays are posted here.

Will be on the road again soon.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I had been working for over two weeks in Tennessee and Alabama. Now I was headed home. Called to let Nancy know when I would arrive. Mentioned my route I40 through Memphis. Memphis...Graceland...on the bucket list. We both had the same thought at the same time. Nancy flew into Birmingham. I picked her up at the airport late in the evening. We headed to Graceland in a blinding rain.

I always enjoyed the music Elvis created. Nancy knew...every song...every word.

At Graceland I began to understand who Elvis really was. Singer, actor, humanitarian. He donated over 50% of his income to humanitarian causes. Take a walk through Graceland. Listen to the thoughts Elvis shares in "Walk a Mile in My Shoes".

For a larger version of the photo/audio story click (Here)

Thank you Elvis. Thank you for your music, your words, and your generous spirit to all our brothers and sisters. TCB...

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Photographer Carlan Tapp's images tell story of power - Peoria, IL -

Photographer Carlan Tapp's images tell story of power - Peoria, IL -

Thursday, February 4, 2010

White Hill Rd - Uniontown, AL :

The Arrowhead Landfill located in Uniontown, Al was selected as the dump site for the TVA coal ash being dredged from the Emory River in Kingston, TN. Eighty-eight railcars of coal ash are arriving in Uniontown seven days a week. Over the next twelve months over 3 million tons of coal ash will be deposited in Uniontown.

Many residents live in extremely close proximity to the Arrowhead Landfill. Public meetings to inform the citizens have been limited. The residents are concerned how the coal ash is being handled in their community and what hazards may be present now and in the future.

I returned to Uniontown this past week. I had first visited the area last August. Changes have occurred. I spoke with several local residents wanting to voice their concerns. One of them is Ruby Homes. The audio at the beginning of her story was recorded as I opened her front door and stood on her porch facing the landfill.
For a larger version of the photo/audio story click (here).
be strong, be safe, Carlan

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February 4 – 28, 2010 Press Release: Question of Power Exhibit and Lecture

Bradley University, Peoria, Il.
Heuser Gallery

Lecture: February 18, 5:00 – 6:00 in the Horowitz Auditorium
Reception: February 18, 6:00 – 7:30pm in the Heuser Art Center

An exhibition by the photographer, Carlan Tapp opens in the Heuser Gallery this week. Tapp is the 2010 Bunn Lecturer in Photography. He uses the medium’s documentary qualities to bring light to the devastation caused by coal mining and coal-burning power plants in the Southwestern United States. Tapp will present a public lecture on February 18 at 5 PM on the Question of Power.

Friday, January 29, 2010

TVA Cleaning Up:

In May 2009 the EPA returned to Kingston with a government order covering the requirements for the TVA coal ash spill clean up. The site is described as "the largest disaster of its kind in the history of the U.S." It is also classified as a "Super Fund Site".

As I mentioned in my last post, the first phase of clean up is to remove over 3 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Emory River. Approximately 500 individuals are on site 12 hours a day to accomplish the daunting task. Several large dredgers are used in the Emory River to pump the coal ash out of the river.

Dredgers pump coal ash from the Emory River 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.

The coal ash removed from the river is spread to dry down to a 30% moisture content. Retaining walls have been constructed to prevent the possibility of the drying ash being carried back into the river during the winter storms.

Retaining walls and dyke to prevent dredged ash from escaping into Emory River.

The EPA has determined to prevent migration of the coal ash during clean up it must be constantly maintained with a moisture content. Water trucks move through the site every few minutes to ensure this process.

Water trucks prevent migration of drying coal ash.

The coal ash from the Emory River is being shipped by rail car to the Arrowhead Landfill in Uniontown, Al. Eighty-eight rail cars per day leave the Kingston location and travel the 350 miles to Uniontown.

Rail cars to be loaded with coal ash from the drying area.

To prevent the coal ash escaping from the rail cars on the 350 mile trip to Uniontown a "burrito" wrapper has been designed to encase the coal ash within the rail cars.

Rail car fitted with plastic "burrito" wrapper.

Currently coal ash remains an "unclassified" material by the EPA. The procedures I observed at the spill/cleanup site to prevent potential migration of ash showed great concern for potential problems. When exiting the work site boots are scrubbed and all vehicles are required to pass through a three phase wash/cleaning process. All wash water from the cleaning is recycled and filtered before release.

Three phase vehicle cleaning required before exiting the spill site.

Will the Emory River and the Swan Pond community return to what it was before December 22, 2008? Time changes all things. It is a big job and there is a big story yet to unfold.

Swan Pond Slough Phase One clean up.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Thursday, January 28, 2010

TVA Coal Ash Clean up:

The Dec. 22, 2008, spill at TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant dumped 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash into the Emory River, Swan Pond Creek and surrounding community.
December 30, 2008. Swan Pond, Kingston, Tenn.

The first phase of the cleanup, which involves removing 3 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Emory River and shipping it to the Uniontown Alabama landfill, should be complete this spring. TVA has committed to spending at least $428.5 million during the first phase, but some of those contracts will extend into the second phase, officials say.

Steve McCracken, who has managed three extensive environmental recovery and remediation projects for the Department of Energy, joined TVA as general manager of the Kingston Ash Recovery Project this past September.
Steve McCracken, general manager Kingston Ash Recovery Project

At a community meeting in Kingston on Tuesday night McCracken released initial plans for public review, covering phase two and three of the coal ash clean up.

Alternative 1: Excavate ash from the embayment, close the dredge cells of the failed holding pond and ship 2.8 million cubic yards of coal ash offsite for permanent storage - $439.6 million to $455.3 million.

Alternative 2 - Excavate ash from the embayment and portions of the dredge cells, and ship 6.8 million cubic yards of coal ash offsite for permanent storage - $719.3 million to $741.1 million.

Alternative 3 - Excavate ash from the embayment and dispose of the 2.4 million cubic yards of coal ash in rebuilt dredge cells that would be capped and closed - $268.2 million to $315.5 million.

At the end of the meeting during a public Q & A, McCracken was asked what the situation would be for disposing of coal ash "if" the EPA classified it as hazardous material in the near future. McCracken stated, "In the United States fossil fuel plants (coal burning power plants) create 170 million tons of coal ash per year. The United States does not have the facilities to handle the volume of material if coal ash would be classified as hazardous material."

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Smith Mountain Coal Ash Dump Site:

In Crossville, TN. the Cumberland County Commissioners approved an old coalmine at Smith Mountain, located a short distance from Kingston, TN., to be come a new site for the disposal of TVA coal ash.

Cumberland County residents thought they were going to take part of the wet coal ash from the Kingston 2008 ash spill. That would have ended in three years. Currently the wet coal ash being extracted from the Emory River at Kingston is being shipped via rail cars to a dump site in Uniontown, AL. The Smith Mountain site, if permits are approved, could become a site for new coal ash.

Seventeen county residents have joined to say the coal ash landfill will destroy their quality of life.

Dave Brundage has put his heart, soul, and life's savings into the Black Cat Lodge which is located near the proposed Smith Mountain Mine dump site. He invested $2 million of his own money to provide transitional living for individuals struggling with addiction and abuse. Brundage has created a dream location where seven people already put their lives back together. Here is Dave's story:

To see and hear Dave's story in a larger version (click here).

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Monday, January 25, 2010

Swan Pond Circle: "Before and After":

On December 22, 2008 3.5 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled from a holding pond at the TVA Coal Power Plant in Kingston, TN. One of the areas directly impacted by the coal ash is called Swan Pond. Many of the photographs I made thirteen months ago are from this area. Today, I revisited a resident of the Swan Pond neighborhood. Tom Grissard and I spent the morning driving through this once lively neighborhood. Tom shared with me how his community and life has changed forever. Here is Tom's story:

To date, TVA has purchased over 170 homes in the Swan Pond area. Families have moved, homes filled with laughter are silent, a community changed. (for a larger version of the story click here)

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On the road... Harriman, TN, Crossville, TN, and Uniontown, AL(see map)to work on the coal stories. Storm moving through New Mexico made the roads interesting early in the morning. My usual first morning stop after leaving Santa Fe on this route is Tucumcari, NM. Interstate 40 has cut off this historic town on the old Route 66. Still an original diner in town...road food.
When you travel alone eating on the road is a quiet time to stop and take in the surroundings. Always interesting things to see. KIX on 66 is an original diner from the 50's. Feels good to sit in the old booth and put that gravy on the hash browns.Not many customers at KIX today, but the people there are always friendly. Good food...good stop.

Out of the rain and snow and into the sun. Open road ahead. Into Texas. Largest cross in North America they claim...
...interesting thought.."is bigger better?"..oh well...breaks up the horizon line and you can see it at 70 mph. Gas stop in Shamrock, TX. Part of the "historic" Route 66.Gas stations and cafes have changed over the years. Couldn't get gas here had to drive down the street to the Chevron. Cafe has been replaced with a McDonalds. Quick time to linger..American "way of life". On into Oaklahoma.Wind farm along the road. Sky is clear...big difference from being in the Four Corners last week and what the skies look like there. Beautiful...graceful...they sway in the wind with the trees.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned.

be strong, be safe, Carlan