After two months of asking the state government to uphold their responsibilities to the public, Coal River Mountain Watch and community residents learned yesterday that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had approved Massey Energy’s revision of the Bee Tree mining permit for Coal River Mountain, meaning that Massey may begin blasting whenever they are prepared to move forward.
Extensive research has shown that Coal River Mountain has enough wind potential to provide electricity for between 100,000 and 150,000 homes, forever, while creating approximately 50 well-paying, permanent jobs in an area long dependent upon sparse, temporary coal mining jobs. The wind farm would also generate as much as ten times more county revenue than the Mountaintop Removal operations would, and in a county with a poverty rate of 18.5%, this additional income would help to stimulate new economic development projects and the creation of new jobs.
Despite the fact that both the Governor and the DEP have been presented with solid evidence supporting this claim, neither have acted to place a hold on the proposed mining. While Governor Manchin has ignored public opinion in support of a Coal River Mountain wind farm, the DEP has continued to exclude public comment on the mining permits, and now Massey Energy is set to begin blasting.
In the opinion of local residents, the behavior of the DEP suggests that the agency has circumvented the intent of the law in excluding the public from the permitting process. After citizens, on their own accord, discovered the application for the permit revision – which was submitted in order to bypass the current legal restriction on valley fills and sediment ponds – the citizens requested that the revision be classified as “significant,” and that a public hearing be held so that residents could make their case to the DEP against the proposed mining, and show their support for the wind farm proposal. This request was denied outright.
Now residents fear that the onset of mining, even for this first phase, will result in the loss of an opportunity to diversify the local economy and protect their homes from the negative impacts of Mountaintop Removal mining.
According to a survey published on September 25th by the Civil Society Institute and the Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now (CLEAN), 62% of West Virginian’s oppose Manchin’s decision against “stopping Massey Energy from using Mountaintop Removal coal mining to level a section of Coal River Mountain that could have been used for a wind farm.” Manchin has also ignored the protests of over 9,800 people across the nation who have signed the petition in support of the wind farm, including more than 900 from West Virginia alone, and the letter of resolution in support of the wind farm drafted by more than 30 community members who stand to be impacted by the mining.
The Coal River Mountain Wind project was awarded Co-Op America’s national “Building Economic Alternatives” award for 2008, which is given to one individual or group each year that strives to improve local economies through social or environmental action, and serves as a testament to the significance of the wind proposal and the benefits that it would bring to Raleigh County. This is an award that should have been recognized as a source of pride by all West Virginian’s, yet the Governor once again paid no attention.
It is time for Governor Manchin to do the right thing. He has been presented by members of Coal River Mountain Watch with research showing that a wind farm is the better economic option for Coal River Mountain. He has been told that the mining that could begin on the Bee Tree permit as early as today would immediately impact 24 Megawatts of wind potential, and therefore at least two permanent jobs related to the operation of the wind farm, and he knows that once a mining operation has begun it is nearly impossible for it to be stopped. His office has also received over 4,000 emails and nearly 500 phone calls calling for the Governor to stop the mining and support wind power.
The choice being made for Coal River Mountain between wind and Mountaintop Removal was also featured on CNN on October 6th, during which the DEP Secretary, Randy Huffman, stated that “There are only certain things that allow me to deny a permit, and what’s morally right or wrong in mine or someone else’s opinion is not one of those things.” So the citizens, after presenting the moral, environmental and economic arguments in favor of wind power, are now wondering what else they have to do to get the Governor to stand behind them, for while it is in his power to rescind the mining permits and allow a wind farm to be developed, Governor Manchin has so far refused to intervene.
However, Coal River Mountain Watch, along with concerned residents of the Coal River Valley, continue to ask the Governor to do the right thing for the state and for local residents by preventing the wind potential, and so the opportunity to stabilize and diversify the local economy, from being permanently destroyed by Massey’s Mountaintop Removal operation on Coal River Mountain.
To express your dismay and indignation over the potential destruction of Coal River Mountain, and ask Governor Manchin to make the choice to respect the residents of Coal River Mountain and invest in a green economy for West Virginia call his office at 1-888-438-2731.