Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
  Winds of Change Newsletter, March 2011     See sidebar for table of contents

Fayette County Battles Impacts from Increased Mountaintop Removal

Hawks Nest, just one of the many reasons to curb mountaintop removal mining in Fayette County.

It looks like the coal industry will not stop until theyve taken every last ounce of coal from southern West Virginia regardless of other resources and opportunities nearby.

Fayette County is a central hub for tourism in West Virginia. The New and Gauley rivers attract visitors from across the globe to adventure on their world-class rapids.

Hawks Nest and Summersville Lake are among the state parks and recreational and historical sites that families and school groups from across the state visit.

And Fayetteville, of course, is the Coolest Small Town, a lively artistic hub in the middle of the state.

West Virginians know the many treasures contained within Fayette County. You can see it every time you pick up a West Virginia Gazetteer and see the front-cover close-up of Fayette County.

Local governments, and the state, also know the benefits that come from the vibrant Fayette County tourism economy. Every year, this economy has increased, sometimes exponentially. Revenue for local governments from tourism increased 350 percent between 2000 and 2008, bringing in $621,000 in 2008. The state makes almost $4.5 million from tourism in the county. And that doesnt even count the $70.6 million that came into the state from tourists spending while traveling in West Virginia.

A look into Fayette Countys future could be a picture of continued expansion of recreation and preservation of one of the most beautiful parts of the state. Or, it could be a turn towards the devastation and depopulation that has troubled the surface-mined southern coalfields of the state.

Although tourism opportunities are expanding with the construction of the Boy Scouts of America camp north of Beckley, mountaintop removal is moving into the center of Fayette County.

On the mountain range between Fayetteville, Oak Hill and Page (Rt. 19 and Rt. 61), a 3,000-acre mountaintop removal site is proposed by Frasure Creek Mining Co.

Frasure Creek has already received permits to mine over 1,600 acres in this area, stretching from Beards Fork and Page down almost into Oak Hill along Rt. 61. And the company hopes to nearly double this operation, pushing back into the mountain and heading towards the communities of Beckwith and Fayetteville.

If Frasure Creek receives all seven mining permits they have applied for, the operations will completely surround the community of Beards Fork and sweep dangerously close to dozens of houses in nearby communities.

The scope of the potential mining is daunting. And, already, much damage has been done. Blasting complaints have been lodged against the company since the moment they started operating, and they have received a number of water discharge violations. This is a company that apparently does not hesitate to engage in illegal mining, hoping the DEP is, as usual, looking the other way.

Frasure Creek is a newly expanding mining company in West Virginia that has already gotten itself a bad reputation in Kentucky. There, Frasure Creek is one of the largest mining operations in the state and is in the midst of a lawsuit charging it and another company with committing over 20,000 Clean Water Act violations.

Not only does the company routinely pollute local waterways, it also has a history of operating without permits, blasting illegally and putting local communities at significant risk from flyrock and other impacts.

In 2009, a half-ton flyrock flew off a Frasure Creek site in Floyd County, KY, and crushed a trailer. Luckily, no one was home at the time.

Fayette County residents are not sitting by quietly and letting outlaw coal companies destroy their homes. Community members on all sides of the proposed mining operation are organizing to educate themselves, make sure DEP is enforcing the laws, and try to limit the scope of future mining.

It is up to us to protect our homes, our families, and our futures. The choice between a bright future or a blighted one is on the table for Fayette County.

What will YOU do to help protect our state treasures and resources?

To get involved or for more information, contact Stephanie at stephanie@sludgesafety.org or (304) 360-2110.

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