Thursday. May 1st. 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”. But what really caught my eye was the attached graphic (above). My house is just to the left of the “M” in “Mountaintop” in the graphic. This was how I found out that our new neighbor, 2000 feet from our house, was a Mountaintop Removal Mine.
I’ve been asked, “How could you not know?” It’s actually not that hard to be in the dark. You see, this permit has been in the works since 2009. We didn’t move here until 2012. Further, my father-in-law who has lived here since 1966, nor my other neighbors knew either. Why? By law, the DEP, the Department of Environmental Protection which governs these permits, only has to post notice in the local newspaper. In the classified section. They look like this:
If you don’t get the paper, or read the classified section daily, you won’t be notified. Oh, there is one other way: sign up for email notices from the DEP directly (which I now am). I don’t read the paper every day. My father-in-law does, but not the classifieds. We didn’t know. Once it’s published in the newspaper you only have thirty (30) days to oppose the permit. My neighbors and I did not oppose it because we didn’t know about it. Apparently they did have a “community” meeting, sponsored by the DEP regarding the permit. They held it in Belle, WV. Not at the local DEP offices. Not here in the community that will actually be impacted by this mine. I have no idea where the notice regarding the meeting was posted, but I’m betting it was in the newspaper – in the classifieds.
Maybe we should have known when our homes were inspected in what is called a “pre-blast survey.” They did this in July 2013 and sent us the results in November 2013. We still didn’t know. We honestly believed that they were doing surveys of our home and well water quality as a form of “insurance” because we had been complaining about hearing and feeling the blasts from the existing mine (of which the new mine is an extension), approximately three miles away. We thought they were doing the surveys as a baseline for potential future insurance claims by us, the residents. Well, they were, but for the new extension.
Ignorance is bliss. I moved to West Virginia not knowing much about the coal industry or how prevalent mountaintop removal for coal has become. I posted my dismay about the mine on Facebook and was immediately attacked by supporters of the coal industry. That didn’t bother me so much as the complete and total lack of compassion and disregard for the effect of this mine on our lives, our well water, our property values. We were sacrificial lambs on the altar of coal jobs. “If you don’t like it – MOVE.” Really? The moment the permit was issued our property values dropped…are you ready? Fifty (50) percent. I’m not exaggerating. We’ve been told that once the mine is active that number will jump to eighty (80) percent. We couldn’t move even if we wanted to.
I don’t want to. Luckily, that same day – or maybe the next – the Kanawha Forest Coalition posted a page on Facebook. I contacted them and my education began. And so did my fight.