Oct. 19, 2009: Coal River Valley Residents Declare State of Emergency, Meet with Governor Joe Manchin; Seven Arrested in Sit-In at Governor’s Office

For Immediate Release
Contact: Dea Goblirsch or Garrett Robinson (304-513-4710)
Email: [email protected]

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Coal River Valley residents
and supporters associated with Mountain Justice and Climate Ground Zero
delivered a letter to Governor’s Manchin’s office in the State Capitol
building at 12:15 p.m. today. The statement from Coal River Valley
residents calls on Manchin to use his executive powers to halt
mountaintop removal mining operations on Coal River Mountain, one of
the last intact mountains remaining in the Coal River Valley area.

Governor Manchin met the letter
deliverers in the antechamber of his office and spoke with Lorelei
Scarbro of Rock Creek and Chuck Nelson of Glen Daniel.

“We are delivering this letter to our governor with residents of the
Coal River Valley,” said Miranda Miller and Angela Wiley of Morgantown,
W.Va., two of the seven sitters, “We are West Virginia citizens
standing in solidarity with the people who submitted comments for this
letter, voicing their concerns on the dangers of blasting
on Coal River Mountain.”

For years, local residents have expressed their concerns over
the long-term health effects of their proximity to coal mining and
processing operations, while scientists have stated that it devastates
local ecosystems and contaminates groundwater with carcinogens and
heavy metals. One of the most imminent dangers associated with the
proposed Coal River Mountain operation is its proximity to the Brushy
Fork sludge impoundment dam, which holds seven to nine billion gallons
of toxic coal slurry.

Many Coal River Valley residents have put forth the idea of
constructing of an industrial-scale wind farm on the mountain instead
of MTR. The ridges on Coal River Mountain are rated as Class 7 wind
sources, the highest and most productive rating. Research by the Coal
River Community Wind Project has shown that a wind farm on top of the
mountain could generate approximately 1.2% of West Virginia’s total
energy needs and would create at least 300 jobs in the area. A wind
farm will produce energy for as long as the wind blows, unlike coal –
reserves of which, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey, will last
only another 14 years.

blasting away our wind potential, we risk losing the opportunity to
have jobs that would last forever,” Chuck Nelson, a retired coal miner,
said, “As we face the climate crisis, we need to set an example in
creating renewable energy.”

Seven young people sat in the antechamber, refusing to leave until Manchin moves to halt MTR on Coal River Mountain. All seven were cited with misdemeanor trespassing and obstruction for refusing to leave the office at closing time.


Community letter to W.Va. Gov. Joe Manchin

Rescind mining permits on Coal
River Mountain

October 19, 2009

Dear Governor Manchin,

As residents of West Virginia’s Coal River Valley we write you to declare
a state of emergency. Coal River Mountain is our last mountain untouched by
mountaintop removal and it is in imminent danger of blasting. This would not
only threaten
our communities, it would also destroy our chance to have permanent jobs and
renewable energy through ridge-top wind power. You have the power to rescind
these permits.

At any moment, Massey Energy could blast part of the Bee Tree site, on the
containing ridge of the Brushy Fork sludge impoundment. Brushy Fork impoundment,
to hold 9.8 billion gallons of toxic sludge, is the tallest dam in the hemisphere,
and it sits on top of a network of abandoned underground mines.

We live in fear that the blasting could cause the dam to fail and create one
of the greatest industrial disasters in our nation’s history. The emergency
evacuation plan for the Brushy Fork sludge dam states that should it fail, a
wall of water 50 feet high would hit Whitesville and result in the deaths of
at least 998 people. Given this risk, blasting should not be allowed until your
Department of Environmental Protection has conducted a thorough geo-technical
examination of the impoundment’s stability in regards to the underground

Yes, I’m not certain how close the — I haven’t actually been there to determine
the how close the blasting is but blasting in the vicinity of a coal waste impoundment
can cause problems, can cause fracturing of rock and create situations where
there might be stability problems with the impoundment,” former MSHA engineer
Jack Spadaro said.

At the same time, we also stand to lose our most valuable natural resources.
Massey Energy not only plans to blast the Bee Tree area, but has also applied
for a new surface mine permit, in addition to permits for over 6,000 acres
of mountaintop removal mining on the mountain. If Bee Tree is blasted we lose
megawatts of wind potential, and the new permit is approved, we lose 30-40
megawatts of wind power. Between the two permits, we lose wind potential that
could power
over 10,000 homes.

Governor Manchin, you have the power to rescind these permits and urge your
regulatory agencies to protect the people and land of West Virginia. If you
do not prevent
mountaintop removal mining on Coal River Mountain, we will lose nearly $2 million
annually in county severance taxes, enough renewable wind energy to provide
West Virginia with 1.2% of its energy, and jobs that will last forever and
do not
depend on the boom-bust cycles of coal.

The whole world is watching. Allies, nationally and internationally, are holding
up Coal River Mountain as the symbol of a government’s choice to remain
stuck in its old ways or build a healthy, prosperous future. Even at the United
Nations meeting in Copenhagen in December, the most powerful leaders in the world
will watch Google Earth’s flyover tour of Coal River Mountain, as one of
approximately 15 tours of global crisis hotspots. You have the power to show
the whole world that West Virginia can blaze the way forward – choosing
permanent jobs and clean energy over threatening the lives of its own residents.

We are including three documents in this letter: 1) the heart of the letter – a
selection of our personal statements, collected during an emergency community
meeting, 2) a cross-section of the Brushy Fork sludge impoundment and the old
mine workings underneath, and 3) an aerial view of the sludge impoundment with
the old mine workings highlighted. We ask you to review these documents and
that you choose not to risk our lives, but to work with us to create a better

Chuck Nelson, Glen Daniel, WV
Lorelei Scarbro, Rock Creek, WV
Diane Hodge, Ameagle, WV
Delbert Gunnoe, Rock Creek, WV
Judy Gunnoe, Rock Creek, WV
BJ Lesher, Naoma, WV
Jim Lesher, Naoma, WV
Gary Anderson, Colcord, WV
Barb Anderson, Colcord, WV
Mike Maynor, Dorothy, WV
Lessie Maynor, Dorothy, WV
Emmett Withrow, Colcord, WV
Roger Fraley, Dorothy, WV

Statements from Coal River Valley Residents

My first and main concern is for the safety of the communities that live downstream
of the Brushy Fork sludge impoundment, including many of my friends and family
and my birthplace and hometown, Sylvester. Again, we have an opportunity to
continue to be an energy leader and keep Coal River intact, with a wind farm
which has proven to be more economically viable than blowing the mountain up
for coal. If we proceed with the plan for mountaintop removal mining, we destroy
the wind potential. This ridge is the backbone of our community and the only
mountain left intact in our area. We can have both energy resources: underground
coal and the wind, which can produce power for many, many homes. The jobs produced
by mountaintop removal are temporary and provide only temporary energy. By
blasting away our wind potential, we risk losing the opportunity to have jobs
that would last forever. As we face the climate crisis, we need to set an example
in creating renewable energy. Therefore, the most logical option is deep mining,
but leave the mountain intact for the future of Coal River and the future of
our state.

Blasting within 200 feet of the sludge impoundment is dangerous for everyone
20-30 miles downstream. If the dam failed, it would be the biggest environmental
disaster in the history of the United States. The DEP’s job is to protect
the environment and community, and allowing Massey to blast this close jeopardizes
everyone who lives downstream. It’s a no-brainer not to let this permit
go forward. Stop blasting!

Chuck Nelson, Glen Daniel, WV

As a native West Virginian and a long-term resident of the Coal River Valley,
I am very concerned about the current activity by the coal company on Coal
River Mountain. My property borders Coal River Mountain, and so does many of
my family, friends and neighbors. For the past 19 months we have worked very
hard to save this mountain from destruction. We are supported by over 13,000
people from across this nation including many residents of this state.

Governor Joe Manchin has refused to meet with the residents whose very existence
is at stake if this destruction is allowed to go forward. Today we are asking
that this governor have the foresight to see past his allegiance to coal and
advocate in every way possible for job diversity in the coalfields. We can
mine coal responsibly underground and create jobs and renewable energy at the
same time. It is not “either-or.” We can have both if the governor
is a good steward of the power he has been given.

— Lorelei Scarbro, Rock
Creek, WV

To me, it’s not just the impact that the mountaintop removal would have
on the water and the plant life, but that this will impact us. The authorities
need to know that there are people living here in this area. They need to know
that the impact is not just on Ameagle, it’s not just on Sycamore, it’s
on the whole state of West Virginia. How many mountains are they going to have
to take down and how many lives are going to be disrupted before they move

— Diane Hodge, Ameagle, WV

Massey needs to think about the people that are below when they
are thinking about mining. These are the homes where we raised our family.
Stay out of Sycamore
Hollow – we have already had one flood in 2001 and lost about all we

— Anonymous, Raleigh County, WV

Speaking economically, I want a rough estimate of the acreage that has been
mountaintop removal-mined on Coal River Mountain – what would be the
loss of the timber that could have been harvested every 40-50 years? Also I
want to know the impact of destroying the oldest mountains in America.

— Delbert
Gunnoe, Rock Creek, WV

I care about West Virginia for the long term, not just for a quick buck. I
am very upset about the mountaintop removal that is going on all around me.
Not only is the image of a war zone, it has a very negative effect on not only
animals but human beings. Our mountains and creeks are very important to me
and many others. I supposed it would take someone who had the money to bring
a wind turbine company to West Virginia for clean energy that will keep us
safe from the negative effects of strip mining and create jobs long after the
coal is gone.

— BJ Lesher, Naoma, WV

Why should we sacrifice Coal River Mountain for the sake of
a few years of coal, if we could have wind farms forever? The destruction of
our mountaintops
is really an act of terrorism because the people that live in the valleys below
are living in terror of the blasting, the pollution of our waters; they poison
our air; they destroy the beauty of our mountains, which is what drove people
to our state.
We must stop mountaintop removal, which only produces 5% of America’s
electricity. Mountaintop removal not only destroys our mountains, it destroys
our way of life and in the end it creates poverty.

— Gary Anderson, Colcord,

We want the coal companies to know we are real people with lives, dreams, and
hopes not only for ourselves, but for our children, grandchildren, and other
people’s children. We lost our home and all our personal belongings we
had worked for and saved for 37 years in July 2001, and our concern with more
and bigger sludge ponds being made now puts us at much more risk than ever
before, even after we have built a new home and raised it more than 7 feet
higher than our old home was, that we will be washed away. It seems the only
thing the coal company wants is to be rid of us all and turn all our homes
and land into one big landfill.

— Mike and Lessie Maynor, Dorothy, WV

I oppose mountaintop removal in all forms. Our mountains are being removed
and our valleys are being filled in by debris. The blasting of our mountains
is putting off rock dust along with the blasting agents, and is poisoning our
water and our air. The dust is so bad that if you wash your car, it’s
dirty before you get done with the job. Our community is being destroyed by
Massey Coal Company in the name of energy. That is being run by greed from
the coal company. Coal in this valley will only last about 15 more years. Then
what will be left? Nothing. If the legislators want people to have jobs, then
make the coal companies employ deep mining. It takes more people to deep mine
than to destroy our mountains by blasting them away.

— Emmett Withrow, Colcord,

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