About Us

Trillium flower

Why We Do What We Do

For more than 20 years Appalachian Mountain Advocates has used the law and science to protect this region’s environment and communities.

We formed to fight the largest mountaintop removal coal mine ever proposed. That mine would have destroyed more than five square miles of forest and mountain stream habitat and displaced the local community. We stopped that mine, and have continued the fight against other mountaintop removal mines, fossil fuel power plants, gas wells and pipelines. We are a leader in holding responsible extractive industries, polluters and governmental agencies (who are charged with regulating pollution and deforestation) in our region and beyond.

We believe this region must end its reliance on fossil fuels. We oppose destructive projects throughout the region in court, in administrative proceedings, and every other available forum. We are tireless in our mission to protect the ecosystems of our region. We have filed hundreds of cases before administrative review boards and in state and federal court. We are not intimidated by corporations with deep pockets. We are not afraid to take on state or federal agencies, and we have spent decades fighting industry’s capture of environmental regulatory agencies.

Blue Bird

And We Have Been Successful

Our litigation has stopped coal mines from being built, reduced pollution, strengthened environmental regulation, and protected our region from the worst abuses from industries who would exploit our resources.

We work with scientists, engineers, and other experts to challenge junk science and deceptive narratives from industry. In the process, we have created precedent used by environmental lawyers and policymakers nationwide. Our litigation and other advocacy has forced industry to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to stop and remediate pollution, protect forests, and to restore ecosystems.

We are trying to assure that old, abandoned and orphan gas wells in the region are plugged. Currently, tremendous amounts of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) are leaking from those wells – and will continue leaking until the wells are plugged as required by law. Further, those unplugged wells constitute serious property rights violations that allow gas companies to exploit private landowners for corporate gain.

We are also working hard to challenge the massive buildout of fracked gas infrastructure proposed for this region. We believe that our region should be spending its money to build renewable energy resources and that we must stop extracting and burning coal and natural gas now. And yet the gas industry has proposed to spend billions of dollars in our region, including scores of gas-fired power plants, fracking wells, compressor stations and high-pressure, large-diameter pipelines. Our work has added billions of dollars and years of delay to the costs of these proposals, making them unpalatable to investors and serving as a warning to future pipeline builders. Our pipeline advocacy helped forced the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and successfully stalled the Mountain Valley for many years.

We also work to assure our region’s utility regulators push for renewable energy sources and clean energy solutions instead of acquiescing to projects that would further tie our region to extracting and burning fossil fuels. We are working hard on several major utility actions in our region that may decide the future of renewables in the mid-Atlantic for the next twenty to thirty years.

We work with nearly every local and regional environmental organization, and many national groups as well. Together in partnership with organizations and individuals, we have halted and otherwise greatly limited the impacts some of the most destructive projects slated for central Appalachia.

Our staff pursue this work from our offices in West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. We focus our work in states in central Appalachia: West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.

Our Team

Mike Becher

Senior Attorney

304.382.4798 [email protected]

Mike Becher joined Appalachian Mountain Advocates in August of 2010 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow. Prior to law school, Mike worked for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection as the Stream Partners Program Coordinator, serving as both a community organizer and grant administrator. He attended law school at the University of Cincinnati where he was an editor for both the U.C. Law Review and the Human Rights Quarterly. Mike spent three years as law clerk to the Honorable Robert C. Chambers of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia before joining Appalmad. He is a member of the West Virginia State Bar.

Liz Bower

Staff Attorney

434.996.0802 [email protected]

Liz Bower joined Appalachian Mountain Advocates as a staff attorney in 2019. She graduated cum laude from Vermont Law School, where she was a head note editor for the Vermont Law Review and president of the Moot Court Advisory Board. Before joining Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Liz spent a year clerking for Justice Susan M. Carney on the Alaska Supreme Court.

Amanda Demmerle

Staff Attorney

[email protected]

Amanda Demmerle joined Appalachian Mountain Advocates in 2022. She graduated first in her class from the West Virginia University College of Law in 2020, where she was the senior managing editor of the West Virginia Law Review and a writing assistant for WVU’s annual National Energy & Sustainability Moot Court Competition. Following law school, Amanda clerked for the Honorable Robert B. King of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Honorable Frank W. Volk of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Amanda is a member of the West Virginia State Bar.

Claire Horan

Senior Attorney

[email protected]

Claire Horan joined Appalachian Mountain Advocates as a Senior Attorney in June of 2023. Claire graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2018, where she was Co-Editor-in-Chief of Harvard Environmental Law Review. After law school, Claire clerked for the Honorable Travis R. McDonough of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, based in Chattanooga. She then worked at Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, before joining Appalachian Mountain Advocates. Claire is a member of the Tennessee and Virginia State Bars.

Isak Howell


540.998.7744 [email protected]

Isak Howell joined Appalachian Mountain Advocates in August of 2010. He graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2007 and clerked for one year for the Honorable Samuel G. Wilson of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Isak worked as a reporter for the Roanoke Times for five years prior to attending law school. Isak is a member of both the Virginia and West Virginia State Bars.

Evan Johns

Senior Attorney

434.738.1863 [email protected]

Evan Johns, a native West Virginian, joined Appalachian Mountain Advocates as a staff attorney in August of 2015. Evan graduated from the West Virginia University College of Law in 2014 with distinctions as both Order of the Coif and Order of Barristers. After law school, Evan clerked for the Honorable Michael John Aloi of West Virginia’s Sixteenth Judicial Circuit. Evan is admitted to both the West Virginia and Virginia State Bars.

Joe Lovett


304.645.9006 [email protected]

Joe Lovett, a founder of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, has been a catalyst for focusing local and national attention on the region's environmental issues. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1995 and served as a law clerk on the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. He is admitted to practice law in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia. He has litigated many precedent-setting cases against polluters and the agencies that purport to regulate them. Joe is a native West Virginian.

Ben Luckett

Senior Attorney

304.873.6080 [email protected]

Ben Luckett joined Appalachian Mountain Advocates in September of 2010. Ben graduated in 2010 from Lewis and Clark Law School, where he served as a student director of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, on the executive board of the Public Interest Law Project, and as an associate editor of the journal Environmental Law. After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky, Ben pursued a number of opportunities including working for the National Park Service in northern California, skiing in Big Sky, Montana, and community organizing in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Ben is a member of the West Virginia State Bar.

Elizabeth Sutton

Support Specialist

304.645.9006 [email protected]

Elizabeth Sutton has worked for Appalachian Mountain Advocates since 2011. She earned Bachelors degrees in Secondary English Education and Psychology from the University of Kentucky. She lives on a small farm in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

Derek Teaney


304.646.1182 [email protected]

Derek Teaney is a ninth generation West Virginian. Derek graduated at the head of his class from Lewis and Clark Law School in 2004, where he was Editor in Chief of Environmental Law. After law school, Derek clerked for the Honorable Rex E. Armstrong of the Oregon Court of Appeals. He then joined Appalachian Mountain Advocates as an Equal Justice Works Fellow in 2006, becoming a permanent staff member at the end of his fellowship. Derek is a member of the West Virginia State Bar.