Coal Tattoo

Mountaintop removal: Powellton permit appealed


I’ve written before about opposition from local residents and the National Park Service to the state’s renewal of a strip mining permit for Powellton Coal Co. (a subsidiary of CONSOL Energy) and its Bridge Fork West Surface Mine, located between the New and Gauley rivers north of Ansted in Fayette County.

Recall that the state Department of Environmental Protection had a public hearing on the permit renewal in mid-February. More than 100 people attended, and no one spoke in favor of DEP’s plan to renew the permit. Well, DEP approved the renewal anyway, about a month later.

Now, local and national groups are filing an appeal with the state Surface Mine Board. The Sierra Club and the Ansted Historic Preservation Council are represented by Derek Teaney and Joe Lovett, lawyers with the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment.  They argue in their appeal notice:

The region in which Powellton’s mine is located is one of West Virginia’s tourism gems, and the New and the Gauley are the premier whitewater rafting rivers in the Est. Rich Creek of the Gauley River, in whose watershed Powellton operates the Bridge Fork Surface Mine, is a known trout stream.  Yet Powellton treats the streams and lands surrounding its permit areas as dumping grounds for the waste from its mine.

In the appeal, mailed Thursday to the Surface Mine Board, citizen groups allege that Powellton Coal is violating the Clean Water Act by dumping illegal levels of toxic aluminum, iron and suspended solids into Rich Creek. They also allege that DEP inspectors have repeatedly given the company more time to correct violations at the site — and that some of those violations remain unabated, a condition that prohibits the permit from being renewed.