OLD ENERGY VS. NEW ENERGY IN W. VA.
From Kayford Mountain in West Virginia, there is a view of a Patriot Coal Corp. mountaintop removal mining site “…a flat and barren pile of rubble, a gray, alien landscape where only machines now move.” (Vicki Smith, AP)
Another view looks onto Coal River Mountain: “…a web of jagged ridges rather than a single peak, some rising more than 3,300 feet. At its base are neighborhoods like picture-perfect Colcord, a few dozen neatly kept homes along trickling Sycamore Creek. Under its canopy are bears and blackberries, white-tailed deer and wild turkey, ginseng and sassafras…” (Smith, AP)
Massey Energy wants to turn Coal River Mountain into another mountaintop removal mining site.
Mountaintop removal mining is considered the fastest, most cost-effective way to mine coal reserves.
The name explains the mining technique: Mountaintop removal. Forests are clear-cut, seams are blasted and massive diggers scoop out the mountain’s coal. Rock and dirt are dumped into “valley fills” below.
The local citizens and activists of Coal River Mountain Watch want Massey Energy to return to tunnel mining and use the mountaintop for a wind installation.
Coal River Mountain has winds that range from Class 4 (15.7 mph ), the miniumum for an effective installation, to Class 7 (19.7+ mph). Those winds assure a very productive installation.
West Virginia earns $300 million a year in coal severance taxes, revenues officials say the state needs.
Lorelei Scarbro, widow of a coal miner who died of black lung and owner of land at Rock Creek threatened by the Massey project, on the state's need for the revenue: "So do hookers and so do pimps…That doesn't make it OK. ... It's not OK for us to be sacrificed so the rest of the world can have more energy."
Coal River Mountain has become a central front in the international war against coal.
Coal River Mountain Watch is supported by the Sierra Club, the Rainforest Action Network, the National Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups. Some celebrities have joined the cause.
Friends of Coal, a coal industry group, has responded.
Chris Hamilton, senior vice president, the Coal Association: "The fact is that we have a small band of environmental extremists who just want to shut down mining in West Virginia…It's hard to tell if this is a proposal aimed at slowing down mining or restricting mining in that area, or if it's a bona fide proposal to build windmills."
Some locals know of no opportunities other than coal, know nothing of wind as an energy source and do not have the resources to concern themselves with global climate change.
Eric Bragg, 29-year-old miner, a hard-hatted skull and shovel/pickax crossbones tattoo on his left biceps: "It's just trying to put people out of jobs…"
John Sprouse, 21-year-old West Virginian, on being told about wind energy: "That's kind of funny. I never heard that before…"
Joyce Gunnoe, general store keeper, Dry Creek: "[Coal River Mountain Watch doesn’t] have a dog in this fight…We work here. We live here. We were born and raised here…Coal hasn't hurt us. Coal's helped us."
Bob Wills, farmer and father of a son who left West Virginia to get work outside coal: "Our politicians have never seen fit to diversify…If they do away with the mining, then I don't know what people are going to do…It's a necessary evil, I guess."
More than half of Appalachian coal mining is done by the wrenching mountaintop removal method.
Curtis Moore, Good Samaritan Ministry, Whitesville: "Just remove your skyscrapers. Take it down to ground zero and then see what your city looks like…They'd be devastated. And that's what it is here with the mountains."
Lloyd Brown, retired miner, Whitesville: "There's a right way and a wrong way to mine coal. Massey's come in here, and he (Blankenship) has raped the southern part of West Virginia just to get the coal…They're taking away the beauty of West Virginia…This is part of the beauty, our mountains. They say they put them back better than they were. I don't see that."
Massey Energy says the wind installation can be built after the mountaintop is destroyed and restored but restored land is lower and too unstable to support wind turbines. It can be used for little other that commercial development.
Coal River Mountain Watch is fighting Massey Energy in the courts and in the court of public opinion. It expects no quarter from the coal company.
Locals, used to the power of the coal industry, are not hopeful.
C.C. Ballard, 39-year veteran, Peabody and Patriot coal mines: "They're not going to get it stopped. There's no way…They're going to come in here, they're going to take everything that West Virginia's got. We're gonna be left with a big hole in the ground and nothing to show for it."
The most hopeful remark is from a railroad employee who not only sees the coal being mined and transported but sees it being consumed. In this larger awareness, a vision of tomorrow glimmers.
Charles Cowley, railroad conductor, coal-hauling trains: "If they don't do something with wind and water…we're all going to be with the lights out."
Which will it be on Coal River Mountain? (click for more information)
Coal v, Wind: Energy fight rages in W.Va.
Vicki Smith, October 24, 2008 (AP via Kansas City Star)
Rowland Land Co. and Pocahontas Coal Co., landowners, Coal River Mountain; Massey Energy, leasee (Don Blankenship, Chief Executive); Coal River Mountain; Patriot Coal Corp.; Larry Gibson, landowner, Kayford Mountain; Coal River Mountain Watch (supported by local citizens, activists and the Sierra Club, the Rainforest Action Network, the National Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups); Friends of Coal; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Coal River Mountain Watch continues to fight Massey Energy over the fate of Coal River Mountain. Massey wants to do mountaintop removal coal mining (mtrcm). The citizens and activists want Massey to tunnel for the coal and build a wind installation atop the mountain.
All about the Coal River Mountain projects. From iLoveMountainsorg via YouTube.
- 300 million years ago: Formation of West Virginia coal deposits.
- mid-1700s: Coal mining began in the region.
- Since 1836: 13+ billion tons dug from West Virginia.
- 2022: Coal River Mountain’s coal reserves should last 14 years.
- 2033: A wind turbine has a life span of at least 25 years.
- 235 years: Larry Gibson’s family has owned land in the region for almost 2 ½ centuries.
- West Virginia is presently the U.S.’ 2nd biggest coal producing state. Wyoming is first.
- Estimates put U.S. coal reserves underground at ~52 billion tons.
- The spot-market price of steam coal is $133/ton and is likely to rise.
- The wind installation would have 200 turbines.
- West Virginia has ~600 working coal mines.
- 14-to-15% of U.S. coal mining comes from mtrcm methods but in Appalachia it is more than half.
- EPA: 400,000 acres of forest wiped out, ~724 miles of streams buried (1985 to 2001) by mtrcm.
- A West Virginia lawsuit before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals argues, backed by a 2007 U.S. District Court ruling, that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to fully consider the environmental damage of permits issued to Massey subsidiaries.
- West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin has declined to intervene.
click for more information
- Larry Gibson, landowner, Kayford Mountain: "This land right here has done as much for the people as their own mother did…My mother give me birth, but this land give me life…I wouldn't put a lump of coal in this daggone place if I was freezin' to death tomorrow…Coal's something we used in primitive times... We can surely do better."
- Don Blankenship, CEO, Massey Energy: "Most coal mined by surface mining cannot be deep mined…Energy resources would be lost if not surface mined…Our company is an energy company," he added. "We produce mostly coal, but also natural gas. If wind farms proved to be economical, we would invest in them. We are studying that possibility, but the answer is not yet clear in West Virginia."
- West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin: "If we can't do it in a more productive manner, it shouldn't be done, I understand that…And we're looking at that, and I think there are better ways. But just to say we're going to shut it down? We cannot afford in the United States of America to discount any part of our energy portfolio."