I was catching up on Facebook when I saw a post from a local news station: “DEP Issues Mining Permit for Surface Mining Operation Located Near State Forest.” What really caught my eye was the attached graphic. My house is just to the left of the “M” in “Mountaintop” in the graphic. In real life, the distance is about 2000 feet. That was how I found out that our new neighbor was going to be a 414-acre mountaintop removal mine.
I’ve been asked, “How could you not know?” The answer: because I’ve been kept in the dark.
The permit has been in the works since 2009. We didn’t move here until 2012. But even my father-in-law, who has lived here since 1966, didn’t know. Neither did my other neighbors. We knocked on over 200 doors in the Loudendale Community, and just about all of us were in the dark until until May 1st, when the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection finally saw fit to issue a press release.
By law, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WV DEP) which approves, regulates, and inspects permits, only has to post notice in the local newspaper. In the classified section. In something that looks like this:
If you don’t get the paper, or read the classified section every day, you’d have no way of knowing. Oh, unless you happened to have signed up for email notices from the DEP directly. So you might want to get on that.
This experience, one that is unfortunately common in West Virginia, is just one reason why the West Virginia CARE Campaign is working to reform the agency.
Suddenly, our home is within 7/10ths of a mile of the mine, close enough that blasting from the will be strong enough to damage our home’s foundation. Close enough that the mining company is required to document the condition of our property before blasting, just so it can cover its legal bases. As with our home, property values of many families’ hard earned homes dropped 50% the day the WV DEP announced the permit.
Once it’s published in the newspaper, residents only have thirty days to oppose the permit, not that the DEP went out of its way to let us know. Apparently the DEP did have a “community” meeting, but it was held in Belle, WV — not at the local DEP offices or anywhere near the community that will actually be impacted by this mine. For a community with a large population of older residents involved in childcare, getting to a faraway meeting is not easy.
Supporters of the KD#2 surface mine have posted on facebook “If you don’t like it – MOVE.” They clearly haven’t watched their property values halve in an instant. We’ve been told that once the mine is active that our homes will be worth 20% of their estimated values on April 30th, 2014. We couldn’t move even if we wanted to.
And I don’t want to. This is my home, and I have rights. Luckily, I found the Kanawha Forest Coalition. The people there have given me hope.
On June 5, a little over a month after the permit approval, members of the Loudendale and Davis Creek communities met to learn the facts about the permit, mountaintop removal, and our resident rights. We gathered at the Kanawha Trail Club lodge, which sits at the foot of what will be the KD#2 mine extension.
It was the beginning of our fight to save our community from the floods, dust, blasting, water poisoning, and documented health impacts (including cancer & respiratory problems) that come with mountaintop removal.
Follow Daile’s fight by reading her blog, On the Jouney… And Taking Side Roads, from which this piece is an excerpt.
The Kanawha Forest Coalition is a grassroots community group that was founded and is led by West Virginia residents, and supported by local non-profit partners- including : the West Virginia CARE Campaign, Coal River Mountain Watch, Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Kanawha Trail Club… and growing. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (681) 214-0906.
To set up a meeting in your community contact the West Virginia CARE Campaign at (304) 460-9577.