Muckraker: Grist on Politics

We wrote this summer about Coal River Mountain, one of the last mountains in West Virginia’s Coal River Valley that hasn’t been destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining. Massey Energy is planning to blast off a 10-square-mile area of the mountain for mining, but activists in the the area were hoping to turn into a wind farm. On Monday, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection approved Massey’s permit to mine the mountain, over the protests of community members (which Jeff Biggers noted in his letter to Al Gore earlier).

“Coal River Mountain has enough wind potential to provide electricity for between 100,000 and 150,000 homes, forever, while creating about 50 well-paying, permanent jobs in an area long dependent upon sparse, temporary coal mining jobs,” said Rory McIlmoil of Coal River Mountain Watch in a statement today. “The wind farm would generate over ten times more county revenue than the mountaintop removal operations would. This additional income would stimulate new economic development projects and the creation of new and lasting jobs for the county.”

The group said Gov. Joe Manchin has received roughly 4,000 emails and 500 phone calls, as well as a petition with nearly 10,000 signatures asking him to block the permit and instead back the wind proposal.

“It is time for Gov. Manchin to do the right thing for our communities,” said community organizer Lorelei Scarbro in the statement. “He has seen research showing that wind is the better economic option for Coal River Mountain, but that depends on the mountain being left intact. He knows that the mining that could begin on the mountain as early as today would immediately impact 24 megawatts of wind potential, and therefore at least two permanent jobs related to the operation of the wind farm.”

The community activists say they are going to continue to petition the governor to intervene, and are planning several press conferences on Dec. 9 to publicize the results of an economic study they commissioned on the economic potential of wind.