Across Appalachia

Communities Upset Over Globe Logging Plan

A controversial U.S. Forest Service logging proposal has sparked dismay across the high country of North Carolina.

The area to be cut includes 231 acres of the Pisgah National Forest adjacent to the town of Blowing Rock and near the Julian Price & Moses Cone Memorial Parks. The
area is called the Globe Forest is a popular recreational destination for bikers, runners and residents of nearby Boone and Blowing Rock communities.

The area is also part of the “million dollar views” associated with hundreds of suburban and rural homes in the Blowing Rock area.

In addition, many of the trees to be cut range from 80 to over 300 years old. One chestnut oak was 328 years of age.
Ben Prater, an ecologist with Southern Appalachian Biodiversithy Project, said his group had alerted the Forest service to the old growth trees in February.

“We… asked them to protect these remarkable trees,” said “But the agency has ignored our request and fully intends to chop them down.”

Hundreds of property owners have turned out to denounce the proposal in public hearings, and the Blowing Rock Town Council passed a resolution opposing the logging on August 10th.

“The Declaration of Independence was not even conceived of when these trees sprouted. Daniel Boone was not even born yet,” said Lamar Marshall, a Watauga County landowner and chair of Appalachian Voices Board of Directors. “Shame on the Forest Service for destroying our national treasures. These public lands are our natural heritage. Nothing is sacred anymore. Everything is for sale.”

Tempers flared after Blowing Rock residents discovered, with only a few days left in the comment period, that the Forest Service originally located the Globe Project as being 11 miles northwest of Lenoir, North Carolina and not one mile south of Blowing Rock.

“The failure to note that the project was but one mile south of Blowing Rock raised suspicions in the minds of many residents and National Forest users,” said the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Now that suspicion grows. “

Forest Service officials say visual impact of the logging will be minimal and they discount concerns about pesticides that will be used after tracts are logged.

Protests Against MTR Increase

Protesters have been making it hot for the coal industry and its political allies this summer.

In July, a group of 50 protesters took over the entrance to American Electric Power Co.’s Clinch River power plant. Members of Earth First! and Rising Tide North America created a non-violent blockage to keep traffic from entering the southwest Virginia plant site, The plant “threatens the health and lives of thousands of downwind residents and the surrounding environment,” activists said. “Large scale surface mining destroys forests, streams and communities as it alters the Appalachian landscape forever.”

A few weeks later, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin’s vacation was disrupted by a plane flying over the beach, towing a sign that read: “MANCHIN STOP DESTROYING MY MTS – GOD” Shouts and street theater greeted participants at the early August National Governor’s Association meeting in Charleston SC. One scene: demonstrators staged a “wedding” between King Coal and the Appalachian governors.

The events surprised a few in South Carlina. “Apparently, mountaintops are endangered,” said one newspaper reporter who seemed to think the cause was “unusual.”

West Virginia Denies Marsh Fork Silo Permit Again

A West Virginia state agency denied a building permit for a coal silo that has become symbolic of a larger fight over the regulation of the coal industry.

Although Massey Energy Co. continued to insist that it had a right to build a coal silo a biscuit’s throw from Marsh Fork Elementary School, the West Virginia Dept. of
Environmental Protection denied the permit for the second time in August. A similar silo for loading coal is already in operation a little further away, and coal dust from loading railroad cars is partly controlled with chemical sprays.

The technical basis for the state decision was that Massey engineers inaccurately mapped a section of land that would have been “grandfathered” under a law that would have allowed the silo to be built close to the school.

The state decision is regarded as a minor victory in an ongoing battle over the safety of other facilities at Marsh Fork, including a dam holding billions of gallons of coal slurry. Residents fear that heavy rains could lead to flash flooding on a scale larger than the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster. (One resident, Ed Wiley, is marching to protest the ongoing issue – see story).

“If Massey’s engineers can not even get a map right, how can we expect them to maintain a 2.8 billion gallon sludge dam above the school?” asked Sarah Haltom of Coal River Mountain Watch.

“These children still deserve a new school in their own community away from all of the threats that hover over them from the Massey sites here.”

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Snatches defeat From jaws of victory

In what’s been described as a confusing decision, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently forgave the Office of Surface Mining (“OSM”) for violating the cornerstone of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). NEPA requires OSM to analyze the environmental impacts of surface mining permit applications and a reasonable range of alternatives thereto.

Appalachian Voices, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project and the TN Chapter of the Sierra Club, filed suit challenging OSM’s standard practice of evaluating environmental impacts by considering just three alternatives: approving the application; denying the application; or making no decision.

While soundly rejecting Ohm’s position as a “puzzling,” “false trichotomy,” the court refused to order a new analysis because it felt the violation was harmless. The court also upheld OSM’s conclusion that this 2100-acre mountaintop removal operation would have no significant environmental impacts.

Lead counsel, Appalachian Voices’ staff attorney Scott Gollwitzer, filed a petition for rehearing arguing that the decision conflicts with prior holdings of the Supreme Court, the Sixth Circuit and every other circuit. According to the petition, “the court cites no authority—and indeed none exists, nor could it—for the remarkable proposition that violating the ‘heart’ of NEPA is a harmless error.”


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