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Ansted West Virginia
25 Mar 2008
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Ansted West Virginia is a great place to live...and to visit. Help us end mountaintop removal!

Which Will WV Choose – Tourism or Wanton Destruction?

Ansted - the next addition to America's Energy Sacrifice Zone?

Since West Virginia is publicized as "wild and wonderful," and since tourism is the state’s fastest-growing industry, forgive us if we thought state officials at least believed that mountains in tourist areas are worth saving.

But no! Mountaintop removal is planned in an important tourist region – the Ansted area of Fayette County, home to Hawks Nest State Park, near the Midland Trail and the famous New and Gauley Rivers, centers of West Virginia’s whitewater rafting industry.

Blowing up mountains and burying streams is wrong anywhere. It is no more wrong in the Ansted area than anywhere else. But it startles us that under Gov. Manchin, even areas that are key parts of the state’s tourism business are slated to be sacrificed to the short-term profits of the coal industry.

Many people from in and near Ansted are working to expose DEP’s failure in granting permits to Powellton Coal Company. The permit area for blasting away mountains would border the state park and would be visible from the New River Gorge Bridge. Will we have to change the design on the state quarter so that massacred mountains can be visible behind the bridge?

Not if DEP acknowledges its failures and rescinds the permit. The list of failures includes:

D Advertising the hearing on a Saturday in a different newspaper at different times, and slating the hearing for August 31, a popular high school football night and Labor Day weekend, despite several requests to change the date.

D In the permit, the company stated a certain amount of rainfall in the area was considered for the drainage of the site, data contradicted by information from the Ansted Sanitary Board, which was presented by Mayor Pete Hobbs at the public hearing. This contradictory information has not been considered during the evaluation of the permittee’s NPDES application.

D The DEP did not consider information given by local residents who are former miners and tunnel workers about the number of tunnels and underground mines that are impounding water. DEP permit supervisor Charles Grafton said if it was not on his map, it did not exist. He refused to go with local residents to view sites that residents feel pose a danger from flooding. The DEP and permittee have identified only one such site during the application process, but either do not know, or have refused to reveal either the depth of the mine or the amount of water in the mine.

D The tape recording of the NPDES hearing was inaudible, and it is doubtful that a decision on the permit took the testimony from the hearing into account.

D There were five violations on the site even before the permit was granted, four of which the DEP chose not to reveal until after the public hearing:

Mining without a permit;

Failure to certify access or haul road;

Failure to adequately control sediment;

Failure to notify the public of blasting operations,

Failure to submit results of pre-blast survey

These violations are clearly a public endangerment. The DEP did not assess any fines against the company for these violations and did not force the company to cease and desist from mining without a permit.

After a request for a citizens’ inspection in September, DEP officials in charge of the mine site apparently lied to citizens about the company’s requirement to get an NPDES, claiming that the company did not need a water pollution permit since they were not going to disturb the stream. The citizen inspectors were also told by the DEP officers that the appeal of the mining permit had been dropped, which was also untrue.

DEP disregarded public testimony during the permitting process. We feel that these failures by the DEP constitute a failure to protect the public.

In February, the state Surface Mine Board heard an appeal of the DEP’s permit. The board received a resolution from the Fayette County Commission asking the DEP to rescind the permit (see story page 4). The appeal hearing continues in March. For more information, please contact Abe at (304) 633-6976 or abe@ohvec.org.

Fayette County Commission Resolution Against Ansted Permit

"Whereas tourism is the fastest growing industry in Fayette County and the economic engine of our County; and

"Whereas the Midland Trail Scenic Highway, Hawks Nest State Park, the Gauley River National Recreation and the New River Gorge Bridge are central to that tourism; and

"Whereas the mining described in the above-referenced permits would be visible from or impact these essential tourism areas; and

"Whereas our rivers and wetlands are home to an abundance of wildlife, including trout and rare Peregrine Falcons, which would be negatively impacted by this mining; and

"Whereas the federally endangered Lampacilus abrupta – Pink Mucket Pearly Mussel – lives in the Kanawha River in Fayette County and is especially susceptible to changes caused by mining and acid mine drainage; and

"Whereas the permit area’s geology has very high levels of potentially deadly selenium and silica which would be released to the air and water if mining activities take place; and

"Whereas citizens in Ansted have grave concerns over the process DEP followed in granting the NPDES permit;

"NOW be it therefore RESOLVED that:

"We, the Commissioners of Fayette County, do hereby go on record in opposition to Permits SMA#S-3002-07 and NPDES#WV1022202 and strongly urge the Appeal Board of the WV Department of Environmental Protection to rescind same.

Resolved this 12th day of February, 2008. signed Kenneth L. Eskew, President; John H. Lopez, Commissioner; Matthew D. Wender, Commissioner"

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