2014-08-27 / Opinions

Keystone Mine, protests raise questions for all

Reprinted from the Charleston Daily Mail

On Friday, activists opposed to the mountain top removal mine near Kanawha State Forest delivered a petition of more than 4,000 signatures to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Many who signed the petition, as well as those who came out last week to protest the mining, are vehemently opposed to such an operation so close to Kanawha State Forest.

And why wouldn’t they be? Everyone in the Charleston area loves Kanawha State Forest. The 9,300-acre recreation area, filled with thick hardwood forest, miles of hiking and biking trails, a fishing pond, a beautiful creek, a pool, a camping area, picnic areas and recreational fields is a favorite gathering spot for people to enjoy nature.

It is the only forest of its kind located close to Charleston, saving local residents the multiple hours drive needed to get to other beautiful places like Canaan Valley, Watoga State Park and so many more of West Virginia’s scenic, forested and protected areas.

While not actually in the boundaries of Kanawha State Forest, the open scar of the Keystone mine will be visible from the north side of the park, particularly from the Ballard and Lindy trails, both of which may be closed at times due to proximity to blasting. Members of the Loudendale community below the mining area are also upset. Some residents said the notification procedures to make the public aware of the mine proposal were insufficient.

The petition delivered to the governor’s office calls for Tomblin to revoke the mine’s permit. Consideration of the request by the governor, however, would raise numerous issues.

The DEP received the application from Keystone Mining in 2009. The department conducted a lengthy review and issued the permit May 1. The DEP granted the permit with several conditions, including reducing the size of the mine from nearly 600 acres to 413. Considering both the DEP and the mining company, as well as multiple commenters, conducted hundreds of hours of due diligence and review, would it be fair, or even legal, for the governor to simply rescind the order, as the protestors request?

Whether a mountaintop removal mine should be allowed close to protected land like a state forest or state park may be a question worthy of review, as is whether the notification process is adequate for people living near large areas of land disturbance.

But those are questions that citizens need to bring to the Legislature for their elected representatives to debate and decide. Vetoing a permit granted following a review in full compliance with existing laws and regulations would send a message from West Virginia that the state is certainly not open for business.

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