Manchin calls for calm in the coalfields

January 25, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.


Gazette photo by Chip Ellis

Well, here’s the answer to the question posed on my previous post, “What’s Gov. Manchin going to say?”  For starters, Manchin emerged from a long meeting with coalfield citizens and issued a call for an end to threats and intimidation against West Virginians who are fighting to stop mountaintop removal:

We will not in any way, shape or form in this state of West Virginia tolerate any violence against anyone on any side. If you’re going to have the dialogue, have respect for each other.

Manchin also promised he would look into citizen complaints about lax enforcement of strip-mining rules by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, but he certainly wasn’t persuaded to drop his strong support for mountaintop removal. He said he told the citizens they would have to agree to disagree about that one.


Singer and West Virginia native Kathy Mattea  was among those who met with Gov. Manchin. Gazette photo by Chip Ellis.

This meeting was slightly different in format than the one Manchin held back in early November with coal executives. For one thing, the citizen groups offered to have a couple of coal industry lobbyists sit in, and they did. Reps. Rahall and Capito of West Virginia both attended, but Sen. Jay Rockefeller (who did have time to meet with the industry executives) didn’t show up. Rockfeller sent a staffer. (Senate records indicate there was just one floor vote yesterday in Washington, D.C.)

And more importantly, the citizen groups brought some experts with them — including WVU’s Michael Hendryx, who told me he tried to explain to the governor his research about coal’s harsh impacts on public health and a study that showed the industry costs the Appalachian region more than it provides in economic benefits.

I’m not sure Manchin heard that, given his comment about how “every job in West Virginia is a precious job.” I got the idea that Manchin is still focused on just trying to preserve existing jobs, not finding ways to “embrace the future,” as the Central Appalachian coal industry continues its inevitable decline.

Bo Webb, the Raleigh County resident and activist who asked Manchin for the meeting,  seemed pretty pleased, but he also emphasized “there is an urgency to address some serious issues, and hopefully some of those concerns will begin to be addressed very soon.”

And while Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was busy filing for re-election and also forming a “coal caucus” in Washington, D.C.,  even she was talking about trying to find ways to “bridge that gap” between the coal industry and folks who want to stop mountaintop removal.


Activist Maria Gunnoe — not really one to settle for just talk when it comes to mountaintop removal — assessed the meeting by saying it needs to be just the start of such talks:

It’s very important that this not be a one-time thing. We live in these communities, and we’re not going anywhere. This can’t be where it ends. This is the beginning of a long process.

46 Responses to “Manchin calls for calm in the coalfields”

  1. bencurnett says:

    My son: “Who’s that in the picture?”

    Me: “Some very brave people trying to stop mountaintop removal mining.”

    My son: “Good. I’ve had enough of it. And I’m only six.”

  2. Lance houser says:

    It’s actions like this that have a lot more positive impact fo the movement than the tree sits, in my opinion, which are a limited and costly action with little or no real results. Although nothing may come of this specific meeting, it is a step in the right direction following democratic methods.

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  4. Casey says:

    Manchin is smart to recognize that all jobs including ones in coal are precious. Obama may be wise to do the same as Americans and West Virginians recognize the fuzzy math of saved jobs calculations and are looking for policies that increase employment.

    Calling for an immediate ban on any economic activity in WV is irresponsible and is not going to get the Gov’s attention. Calling for economic diversification, economic development, education, sewage systems, improved business climate, etc. is prudent, even if those initiatives may displace some coal activities in the future due to economic competition. Coal is a huge asset to the state and it has to be leveraged.

    So I’m sure Manchin listened to Hendyrx explain his study but is smart enough to realize that it ignored the biggest benefit of coal which is electricity. Coal is not an end product and to ignore electricity, and also steel production, is one of the major flaws of the study.

    There are way too many distortions and data manipulations on the anti-coal side which is apparently being used as a strategy to affect public sentiment and public policy. That certainly is not what Byrd is recommending.

  5. Clem Guttata says:

    The idea that “every job is precious” doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    If your job is killing my family, of course I’d be working as hard as possible to put you out of work. (If I was feeling neighborly and had our common good in mind, I’d try to find you a different line of work.)

    Or, here’s a more positive example. I support marriage equality–I am morally opposed to discrimination. Also, it has been shown that states with marriage equality experience economic benefit–if West Virginia approved gay marriage this year we’d have an increased number of jobs in the marriage industry (florist, catering, etc.) and in tourism.

    If every job is precious, why isn’t Gov. Joe Manchin (and you, Casey, for that matter) making the same argument for marriage equality?

  6. […] Blogs @ The Charleston Gazette – » Manchin calls for calm in the coalfields – view page – cached Well, here’s the answer to the question posed on my previous post, “What’s Gov. Manchin going to say?“ For starters, Manchin emerged from a long meeting with coalfield citizens and issued a call for an end to threats and intimidation against West Virginians who are fighting to stop mountaintop […]

  7. Casey says:

    Clem, now that’s one economic development plan that I hadn’t thought about. With due respect I’ll pass on that discussion.

    I am not knowledgeable about your personal family situation regarding any coal related loss of life. But if you look at the Hendyrx study graphs for the general population it shows increasing longevity even in the coal fields. This has occurred with increased surface production. If there’s any proof that mining causes increased death in the mining communities, then I’m not aware of it.

    If you want to discuss things killing us then consider:
    Traffic accidents- 120/day
    Salt- $24Billion annual increase in U.S. health-care tab

    Television- 46% more likely to die if >4hrs/day viewing

    Salt and TV are huge factors and I wonder if Hendryx factored those into the analysis.

  8. dianne says:

    I believe that meetings like this AND tree sits are both crucial. The MTR related problems are so severe, and the political support for it so strong, that all avenues of influence are needed.
    No one can do it all, but with lots of folks working together, many different people can take many different roles.

  9. Industry Watcher says:

    If there is concern about jobs, then basic math will tell you that by eliminating MTR we triple the number of mining jobs, and preserve the environment, and still have the bridge of time necessary (30-40 years) to set up a transition to alternative energy. Yes, 30-40 years. Although the technology exists to produce energy via solar power or wind, it still has not reached the level of being able to provide the amount of energy necessary for today’s consumption. Preserve the forests, natural life, and water and still mine coal undeground. Even Mr. Blankenship stated that it was safer these days….

  10. Monty says:

    If coal is so good for WV, then why are the counties where it is being mined always near the bottom of the state economic stats?

  11. Clem Guttata says:

    Casey — I really appreciate your engagement in this topic.

    In order for salt or TV to be a factor needing additional consideration you’d have to have some reason to believe that salt consumption or TV watching is unusually high in coal mining areas compared to non-coal mining areas–some reason that isn’t closely related to coal mining or to other factors already in the study (like age or income).

    Do you have any reason to suggest that people in the coal fields are uniquely likely to eat more salt or watch more TV than people in other parts of WV?

    Also, going back to your earlier comment… the issue is not “electricity or no electricity.” If a moratorium was put in place today on any new MTR permits in Appalachia, there would be no danger of “running out” of electricity. The mining and electric industries would both adjust just fine. There are other ways to get coal and the electric industries are already moving to other fuel sources. A moratorium might accelerate the transition away from coal, but it would in no way jeopardize electricity supplies.

    Finally, to your statement “Coal is a huge asset to the state and it has to be leveraged” I respond with “Mountains, clean fresh water, and clean mountain air are huge assets to this state and they have to be protected.” (These are competing values… thus, the heated debate.)

    But, even if I accept your idea that resources need to be leveraged, I don’t agree with your conclusions. Based on the recent MACED study and other scientific evidence, I think coal as currently mined and used creates more damage than it does benefit–overall, even considering the benefits, MTR coal mining lowers the quality of life for West Virginian citizens.

    Alternatively, I think that undisturbed mountains, clean fresh water and clean mountain air are more important assets to protect–and can be leveraged in ways that also provide precious jobs.

  12. davecooper928 says:

    Casey wrote: ” … calling for an immediate ban on any economic activity in WV”

    Casey, who is saying this? Have you ever heard an environmentalist – or anyone else – ever call for this? Where did you come up with that statement? Its is completely absurd and hardly worth responding to …. but here goes.

    The groups are asking for an end to mountaintop removal. They are not opposed to underground mining. So when you make a statement like this, and then you say “There are way too many distortions and data manipulations on the anti-coal side” perhaps you should look in the mirror.

    For the record, after the June 23 Daryl Hannah rally in Sundial, Gov Manchin received hundreds of phone calls from all over America asking for his help in calming the situation. Finally, in Jan 2010 he appears to have recognized that this situation is a powderkeg.

    Unfortunately, we still have some people trying to make the situation worse with comments like “calling for an immediate ban on any economic activity.”

  13. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I also appreciate your engagement on this issue…but I want to step in here and caution you against accusing Michael Hendryx of too many distortions and data manipulations. You’ve got no proof that he did any such thing.

    Again, I think you’re showing your lack of experience and knowledge about how science and academic papers like this work. But I appreciate you taking a shot at it.

    Hendryx didn’t manipulate any data or distort any data. His study wasn’t an effort to do a full cost-benefit analysis to OUR ENTIRE SOCIETY and coal.

    That would be a different study — perhaps a worthwhile one, but certainly a much more difficult one. The more factors you add to such studies, the more they cost, the longer they take, and the more difficult they are to do accurately.

    I don’t think Dr. Hendryx would argue that steel and electricity are benefits of coal mining.

    What his study aimed to do was compare the DIRECT economic benefits of coal mining for the REGION WHERE IT IS MINED to the adverse health effects of that mining activity.

    This does not account for the benefits of electricity to our own society — but by the same logic you’re using, his study is also worthless because he didn’t include the adverse health effects of air pollution from coal-fired power plants or the climatic effects of global warming pollution.

    And as other commenters have pointed out, there are other ways to produce electricity besides burning coal. As other commenters hae also pointed out, those have their downsides as well.

    Hendryx’s study is an honest effort by a scientist who cares about the future of the coalfields to get a discussion going — and the end result really disarms the coal industry’s argument that mining jobs are the be-all, end-all of what this industry means for the region. It’s no wonder then, that coal industry supporters want to badly to attack it as being dishonest.

    But it’s simply not so.

    If you want to argue that the study isn’t all inclusive and that other issues need to be considered as well, fine. But I’m just not going to allow you to allege dishonesty when you have absolutely no proof of it.


  14. Mary Wildfire says:

    Is this meeting more likely to produce good results, from the anti-MTR point of view, than tree-sits? Realistically, if not for the tree-sits and similar protests–or rather similar actions that go beyond mere protests–there would BE no meeting. I’m sure the meeting was a good thing and there ought to be more of them, but I would put very little hope in a positive outcome. Manchin has made his stance crystal clear–he is in favor of coal profits, coal jobs (and if there is a conflict between the two, what do you want to bet he will side with the profits?) and–period. He will show up at a meeting like this because it’s starting to not look good, the conflict is getting a lot of national and international attention; the potential is becoming apparent for West Virginia to look like Mississippi in the fifties, especially if someone gets killed. But no doubt he intends to continue DEP’s “prudent” enforcement policy. It’s prudent for him to avoid alienating the moneybags in the coal industry. Industry critics are like fleas–an occasional annoyance, no big deal.
    The three young people doing the tree-sit are no doubt the subject of local hostility–as were the outside activists who helped integrate the south, a few of whom were killed. In my eyes, both are heroes.

  15. Jim Sconyers says:

    Bo Webb, Maria Gunnoe, and the others at this meeting are dead set against MTR, but not against coal. Of course, many climate scientists, medical researchers, and citizens ARE against – not coal per se, but burning it.

  16. Casey says:

    When I stated “There are way too many distortions and data manipulations on the anti-coal side ….” I did so in a separate paragraph and was referring to the scores of comments and statements (many espoused by Kennedy) that are flying about. Sorry I was not clear and I did not give examples.

    Rory quoting absolute dollar value subsidies for different electrical generation sources but do not quote in comparable $/megawatt-hr basis.

    Stating that eliminating MTM in WV will just shift jobs to underground and increase (threefold) these jobs (when a more likely scenario would be a net transfer of jobs to other states). I also suspect that a big percentage of those calling for an end to MTM are also against impoundments and refuse dams (required nearly 100% for deep mining but only utilized by MTM at 10-15%) and also against the burning of coal.

    Stating that the U.S. can be powered by 100% renewables when they can’t satisfy base loads when no wind or clouds occur. Perhaps there may be a way in the future through battery storage, extensive high efficiency grid and hydroelectric dams increases.

    The wind industry employs more people than coal.

    There are countless more. My point is that distortions and manipulations by either side only result in keeping constructive discussions from occurring because all the time is spent debunking. Spending time to understand business and economics would serve the greenies, in my opinion.

  17. mayflyguy says:

    I do believe that the tree-sitters do have a positive influence in this process. They do bring attention to the issue; it may not always be positive or the best thing, but to those who feel marginalized by the coal companies and state government, it feels like somebody cares.

    I also believe that the majority of West Virginians are in in the middle on this issue (i.e., they don’t like MTM and all of its detriments, but they don’t want people to be out of work or the WV economy to suddenly be distrupted). However, too often those in the middle with any negative feelings about MTM are again marginalized as being an extremist as are those who support MTM for the sake of jobs as being uncaring.

    I think to expect the complete ban on MTM right now would be futile. Taking a hardline stance is a necessary part of getting this issue moving in the right direction (or at all for that matter). For example, given how EPA’s review of the Hobet permit facilitated minimizing the impacts (e.g., less streams buried) while allowing operations to continue, is it not unreasonable to both sides to ensure that this happens to all future MTM mining permits (i.e., you can keep mining your coal, just no more shortcuts and not as much profit). It is not much, but combine it with other steps (developing alternative energy) and momentum builds. If the ultimate goal is to ween ourselves off MTM as means of coal extraction, you need hardlines to keep up the momentum from these initial baby steps.

  18. Without the tree sits you don’t the meetings.

  19. Bob Kincaid says:

    I disagree, RealFreePeople.

    To say that is to dismiss Bo Webb’s dogged determination that this meeting happen.

    The likely genesis of this meeting was Senator Byrd’s call for dialogue. He remains the Prime Mover in West Virginia politics and what he said was stunning within this state’s political culture.

    Having said that, in no way do I dismiss the effectiveness of the civil disobedience activity in the coalfields. Nothing has drawn more attention to the thuggish tactics of Don Blankenship and Massey Energy. The national (even global) impacts of these protests have gone a LONG way toward making sure that Mountain Removal, West Virginia’s Dirty Little Secret, isn’t secret anymore.

    Press on!

  20. olfrt says:

    Clem you made the statement , “Mountains, clean fresh water, and clean mountain air are huge assets to this state and they have to be protected.”
    I wonder how you feel about the millions of tons of concrete that covers the land that are now cities, that once were fields and streams and forests ?

  21. roselle says:

    We agree about Bo Webb. And we agree about the civil disobedience. And Lance, civil disobedience is part of the Democratic process, just as much as meetings where the politicians ignore what the citizens are telling them. I didn’t hear any of the State’s leaders say their was any common ground worth pursuing, and that there was any reason to worry about the impacts of mountaintop removal. They still refuse to embrace the future, and this will cost the people of West Virginia because they are not supporting climate legislation, or pursuing federal funds to diversify the economy that a carbon tax would provide. Does the coal industry want to be at the table or on the menu? They behave like deer caught in the headlights on this issue. If they insist that this is only about coal, everyone looses. And they can’t hold against the anti MTR forces forever. Its past time to boldly face the future, and a future where we don’t blow up mountains.

  22. Bob Kincaid says:

    To me, Roselle, it’s our elected representatives’ refusal to deal with real science that is the biggest problem. Drs. Hendryx, Palmer, Stout, et al. have torn away the shroud on coal’s Holy-of-Holies. The trick lies in forcing them to look at what was behind the curtain all along: illness, agony, misery and grim death: the same four horsemen that have ridden roughshod through the landscape of an Appalachian Apocalypse for more than a century.

    For my part, while there was no Hallelujah Chorus from the political delegation yesterday, I’ll also note, in uncharacteristically (for me) Pollyanna-ish hope, that Helen Keller didn’t deliver a soliloquy when Annie Sullivan spelled into her hand. She said one mighty, life-changing word: “Water” and in that moment a world opened to her.

    We primed that pump yesterday in Charleston. Now we have to keep it flowing. I’ve no doubt that all of this community of goodwill will do nothing less. As someone once said “Nothing can take the place of persistence.”

    Finally, as part of the Intervention that yesterday’s meeting constituted for our elected representatives, they heard some mighty powerful words: “Mountaintop Removal WILL end.” I don’t think they responded any differently at the time than did the British colonialists when Gandhi told them they’d be leaving. Those colonialists wound up leaving, all the same.

    Next question: how to keep the dialogue going.

  23. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Thanks for clarifying … I’ll let Rory speak for himself …

    But one thing I’d suggest — nobody gets anywhere when they just go into their own corner and defend “their side.” Take a look at my post about the Blankenship-Kennedy debate:

    You’ll note how I pointed out things Kennedy said that were just wrong…I’d be interested to hear from you some examples of “distortions and manipulations” by the coal industry.

    Can you point to three examples? Part of science, by the way, is looking in a very rigorous manner for evidence than your own hypothesis is wrong.


  24. Bob Kincaid says:


    Given that you slugged this post “Manchin calls for calm in the coalfields,” (nice alliteration, by the way), I’m wondering if the Governor will denounce what’s being done to the tree-sitters as we speak.

    They’re being subjected to air horn blasts louder than safety regs recommend as non-dangerous to workers. Massey employees have also been heard discussing spraying the tree-sitters with water. In temperatures like what we have today, that would be life-threatening.

    Both acts are acts of violence. If the Governor was sincere in his words, he needs to speak to this issue quickly.

  25. Casey says:

    I started to mention your debate analysis when I last wrote and the fact that you do not like the distortions either. I certainly was thinking about that.

    You pointed out some things that Don said that were wrong so no need to repeat those. I guess something else mentioned was that the water quality issue was about just a few ppm’s. That is not always the case.

    On this same issue, what’s the chance of seeing some pictures in the Gazette of some well done, mature reclamation sites rather than activity operations? A lot of the public probably doesn’t get a chance to see the final end product. Thanks.

  26. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    First, I asked for 3 examples of the coal industry’s distortions – that’s how many of Kennedy’s I gave Coal Tattoo readers … I’d like to see you come up with 3 from the industry.

    On the photos, I can speak for Coal Tattoo, where I generally pick the photos.

    I’d be happy to publish some photos of reclaimed mine sites. One problem I’ve typically had is that folks who provide them don’t give me the name of the site, the permit number or any other information that would allow me to verify when the mining was done, etc.

    With a photo of an active site, it speaks for itself to some degree. With reclaimed sites, more information is needed to understand what to take away from the photo. What did the site look like before? When was it mined? What was the post-mining land use and has it been achieved? Has the site received final bond release? And that doesn’t even start to ask: Have water samples been taken, and has any analysis of the loss of ecological function post-mining been performed?

    If you’ve got some photos that include that kind of information, I’m happy to take a look.

    Perhaps one thing I should do is take a look at the sites that win reclamation awards from OSM and post a few of those photos. But then, again, I’ll have to see if OSM has that detailed kind of information.

    Anyway — I’ll be waiting to see your other 2 examples of coal industry distortions.


  27. Vernon says:

    When asked what the plan was to diversify the economy in WV, Manchin responded “infrastructure.” I’m skeptical that infrastructure without attracting and incubating new business will be effective. We already have industrial parks, such as Kinetic Park, that are underutilized at best. Towns like Whitesville have roads, sewage, municipal water (which you wouldn’t want to drink, by the way), and lots of empty buildings. And tourism is good to have (Manchin mentioned tourism such as Hatfield-McCoy Trail and Burning Rock as what might save southern WV economically the night before), but not enough in itself and certainly not really sustainable. When gas gets back up to $4 a gallon, you won’t see many people burning gas to get here so they can burn gas on a trail.
    I think the Office of Coalfield Community Development could do much more to encourage value-added businesses such as furniture and ginseng processing. Tons of trees and ginseng (and other herbs) leave WV, only to be sold back to us at a higher price, with middlemen and labor in other states and countries reaping the benefit we could have here.

  28. Dianne Bady says:

    A reader asked for Ken to put on his blog some photos of
    “well done, mature reclamation sites rather than activity operations”

    During the debate I heard Kennedy say that in the past, surface mining operations were required to save the topsoil and then to replace the topsoil before reclamation.
    I know that some strip mines in southern Ohio which were mined a couple decades ago had the topsoil saved and replaced, and today these sites look much better than current partial reclamation I’ve seen in WV.

    When the coal industry in WV shows photos or takes people to see “fully reclaimed” sites, I always wonder how old those sites are and if the topsoil was saved. If so, it’s not a fair comparison to compare those topsoil-saved sites with current reclamation on MTR type mines where the topsoil is not saved.

  29. Casey says:


    I already stated 1 of the 3 requested i.e. ppm’s.

    Kominar and Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, zeroed in on the EPA’s insistence that mined-out mountains be restored to natural contours, with mountains even higher than the natural ones before coal was extracted….

    Sen. Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, agreed, noting West Virginia has a carbon neutral footprint due to the number of trees in the state.

    I realize you have already reported on these. I’m sure you didn’t want to come up with anything new or else you’d have to put me on the payroll.

    I appreciate the offer to publish some mature reclamation pictures. Hopefully someone in the industry can provide these along with the required information. I think most of the industry reclamation awards are for permits that do not have bond release i.e. aren’t mature. How about you Bill Raney?


  30. Monty makes a point that is not just valid, but nearly axiomatic.

    Coal in WV, like any monopolizing industry in a remote area, flourishes off the sweat of honest laborers and then leaves them high and dry. The region where I went to school in VA, for example, once had dozens of coal boom towns–they’ve been vacated since the 1930s, with no legacy but the still perceptible scars on the land.

    For a great read on how awesome coal, and specifically MTR, have been to the state of WV, I recommend Bringing Down the Mountains by Shirley Stewart Burns.

    Thanks for the brevity, Monty…”and being a Scot, he believed the art of writing lay in thrift.”

  31. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    If you see that a couple of comments disappeared, that’s because they violated the no name-calling rule — and they were in especially bad taste … and if you responded to those comments, your posts have been removed as well — they make no sense without the original, offending post.

    So again folks — especially you new readers who don’t know the rules — keep it polite, no name-calling, and let’s try to hold down the one-liner cheerleading, too. That doesn’t really add to the discussion.


  32. MX2 says:

    Hey Casey, I’m a fan, and your questioning of the science is right on. I do not like mountaintop removal, but I do have a like for seeing science done well and questioning it when there are valid issues sitting there waiting to be pointed out. Often that’s a battle against Group Think, or of course, fear of manbearpig, both of which are relevant here.

    But to get to the point: WVU has a professor other than Hendyrx who looks at mountaintop removal from a different field of study, and produces scientific reports and articles (with photos included, which is sorely needed in this blog discussion). Go to the WVU Extension Service, Agriculture & Natural Resources College web site called “Acid Mine Drainage &
    Land Reclamation”, at It has work featured from a qualified, credentialed PH.D. professor in Soil Sciences, both pro and con of the mountaintop removal processes and touching on underground mining results as well. Enjoy.

  33. Casey says:

    MX2, thanks a lot and I appreciate your comments. South Park is pretty creative stuff.

    Thanks for the link. I’d forgotten about ARRI and I even earned an ARRI hat once. I’ll look forward to catching up on this literature.

    Science well done is better than on the raw side.

  34. Jason Robinson says:

    I think Ken didn’t emphasize enough, in the bit about pictures of reclamation, that stream reclamation for these kinds of disturbances just doesn’t work.

    Stream restoration has lots of inherent problems, for one, what is the target assemblage of biodiversity ? Acknowledging biocomplexity and spatial redundancy in ecological communities and systems justifies “some” target (usually a reference reach or stream or system) but some areas have no reference reaches left (see the Palmer review here. In other words, we don’t even have a snapshot of what it ‘should’ look like.

    This statement has been made in other peer reviewed studies using comparative methods to assess the change in flood return interval associated with surface mining disturbance post-reclamation), explicitly in southern WV. The point is clear: if restoration and reclamation is “build it and they will come”, then we don’t know what it is and who they are. Particularly when one considers the shifting mosaic of climate and animal distributions in deeper time than post-SMCRA.

    The point of all this is to underscore that proclamations like “Reclamation works!” don’t carry much water. Perhaps it could work, but at this point we are very much doing brain surgery with needle nose pliers.

  35. Casey says:

    I guess the point meant to be made is that only showing active surface operations may distort the total picture in that the final product of mature reclamation is never shown. Your points are well taken but keep in mind that mitigation often involves adjacent or nearby stream restoration that is in need of attention.

  36. Clem Guttata says:

    Casey — I’m confused by your response. My understanding is an Army Corp of Engineers official testified that there has never been an MTR reclamation site where the natural stream flow has been restored. We just don’t know how to get the hydrology right.

    If that is case, there is no example of a fully restored MTR site to take a picture of.

    Also, according to the Science article researchers, there is also damage from MTR happening downstream starting from when the MTR site becomes active. What would be the most honest way to visually portray that?

  37. Casey says:

    Clem, I’m just asking, and Mr. Ward agreed, to show some photos of mature mine reclamation. No question the hydrology is changed after mining, and man can not make a “natural” stream.

    When a valley fill only disturbs an ephemeral stream there is flow only when it rains both before and after reclamation. I’m certainly no expert on streams and don’t really know what you would expect regarding “natural” or “restored”.

    I guess you have an issue with what the Corps has required companies to do when disturbing jurisdictional waters. I haven’t read the Corps testimony so I’m not familiar with the context. Like I indicated, sometimes these requirements are off site and include stabilizing banks, adding structures to mimic a natural stream, eliminating invasive plant species and restoring natural vegetation. And that’s all that I know about that.

  38. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Casey and Clem,

    Luckily, we do have scientists who have spent their career studying this issue of stream “restoration” and “mitigation” of the loss of key ecological FUNCTIONS of headwater streams.

    Case, if you’ll go back and read the Science journal article (see this link — — you’ll see what Clem is talking about.

    In fact, the Corps of Engineers testified in federal court under oath (the specific person was Ginger Mullins) that they were not aware of a mountaintop removal stream mitigation project that had worked — by work they mean replacing the ecological functions of the stream that was lost to mining. Here’s that portion of the study:

    Mitigation plans generally propose creation of intermittently flowing streams on mining sites and enhancement of streams offsite. Stream creation typically involves building channels with morphologies similar to unaffected streams; however, because they are on or near valley fills, the surrounding topography, vegetation, soils, hydrology, and water chemistry are fundamentally altered from the premining state. U.S. rules have considered stream creation a valid form of mitigation while acknowledging the lack of science documenting its efficacy (30). Senior officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) have testified that they do not know of a successful stream creation project in conjunction with MTM/VF (31).

    That last part, footnote 31, references the court testimony.

    We’ve also blogged in more detail here about this specific issue, and written about it in our print edition,

    Casey, if you admittedly don’t know much about this, it seems like the prudent thing to do is to listen to experts who do. And that’s what these studies represent — the best science available on the issue.

    That’s why I, in offering to publish photos of reclaimed mine sites, I said we would need much more information — because just because a site likes nice doesn’t mean that it was met the requirements of the law in terms of reclamation and stream restoration or mitigation. In fact, so far, the permits the Corps issues don’t even require a test of the functions being lost so we would not what needed to be replaced.

    If you can show me a permit that meets these sorts of tests, I would be pleased to see it and show it to my readers.


  39. Jason Robinson says:

    On the terrestrial side, you have even more disparities between unmined/undisturbed sites and ‘reclaimed’ sites. Lower plant diversity and richness, soil microbial biomass and diversity, lower small mammal diversity and abundance, reduced rainfall infiltration rates, reduced amphibian richness and abundance. And so on. I’ve got citations for all of these observations and will add them later. None of this is even new research, but it’s important when folks like Bill Raney claim that reclamation “puts it back like it was”. It doesn’t and it never will and it probably can’t. Those effects fall outside of the scope of the CWA but not the SMCRA. Why that hasn’t been challenged in court is something I would love to hear a lawyer explain. I’ve been told that the reclamation provisions do not allow for managing for these objectives… but most of these ecosystem benefits are derived from functional forests anyway so this remains unclear to me.

  40. Morgan says:

    Enjoying the very honest discussion here – thanks Ken for creating this forum.

    I think activists who oppose MTR feel as much frustration with the seemingly broken regulatory system and the inability of the state to answer residents concerns, as with the direct impacts of mtr mining on health and communities and mountains.

    Something I’ve seen in my time here is a general frustration/confusion of what authority to call when a mining company oversteps its legal bounds, but a very close eye kept by the authorities on activists who might overstep their legal bounds.

    Discussing the effects of mining are important, but discussing how the legal and regulatory system functions is an equally important part of seeking justice on the issue.

  41. Casey says:

    I was pretty excited when you said “I’d be happy to publish some photos of reclaimed mine sites. ” But if I understand you correctly now you want items that aren’t required by the Corps or DEP to obtain bond release. Hopefully that’s not your requirements in publishing mature reclamation sites.

    I have not tried to argue in any way that the post-mining land is the same or better than pre-mining when viewed from a nature viewpoint.

    My point is that mining is a land use. The end product is not an active mine site. The end product is not being shown. I hope that you’ll consider showing some mature bond release sites. Thanks.

  42. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Sorry if I got your hopes up only to dash them … I did say I’d be happy to publish some photos of reclaimed mine sites. But if you go on an read the rest of my comment, you’ll see that I would want more specific information about the sites before I published particular photos.

    I’ll try to make myself more clear …

    Folks have sent me photos before and said, “Hey, Ken, here’s a reclaimed mine site, why don’t you publish that?” I’ve said, OK, I’ll consider that — give me the permit number or more information about when it was mined, so I can look into it.

    You’re welcome to disagree with me about this, and I’m happy to have the discussion, because perhaps I’m wrong.

    But, just publishing photos of what you consider “mature reclamation sites” doesn’t tell the whole story about how mining has changed (damaged) the area in question. It might look nice and green from the air, but have serious water quality problems or not have the same biodiversity as it had before.

    So, we need more information than just the photo to explain to people what they’re looking it.

    My guess is you would end up with a site that looks nice, but has pretty serious water quality problems, doesn’t have the same type of hardwood forests as before, and is greatly lacking in biodiversity. At least, that’s what the growing body of science tells me you’d see.

    The problem with what you’re arguing now is that you say:

    “I have not tried to argue in any way that the post-mining land is the same or better than pre-mining when viewed from a nature viewpoint.”

    BUT, the law requires these sites to be put back the same or better than they were before. So, any site that doesn’t meet that test isn’t really “reclaimed” under the law.

    That said, I’d be interested to receive some photos that folks in the industry — or anybody else — thinks we should publish. I am happy to consider doing so, but I would need more information beyond just “here’s a reclaimed mine site.” At the least, I need a company name and permit number so I can investigate the site a little bit.

    Also, I will take a closer look at some of the reclamation award winners from recent years and see what sort of blog posts we might be able to get out of those.

    I hope that clarifies a bit.


    P.S. By the way, this Coal Tattoo post, had a photo the GAO used which showed active mining and partial reclamation.

    And this one showed a reclaimed abandoned mine,

    And, one of the first stories in my 1998 Mining the Mountains series showed reclamation at the original W.Va. mountaintop removal site, Bullpush Mountain:

  43. One Citizen says:

    The stranglehold coal operators have on WV’s political process is legendary. It’s no secret that coal corporations owned outside the state have historically plowed huge amounts into our local government to up their profit margins by avoiding regulation and capping their taxes. So to see a perfect example of what a corporate-run handpuppet government is all about one need go no further than WV

    Copy and paste the above URL into your browser window to see WV’s top Coalocrat excitedly embarrass himself when he recently announced to lobbyist Chris Hamilton his plan to honor coal operators as patriotic war veterans. Then watch him give Hamilton the ol’ reach-around (politically speaking) as he makes a number of outrageous claims which are so contrary to the facts that they’re ridiculous. Then finally, after waving the flag in praise the coal industry, Gov. Manchin completely turns against the US for making us all “energy unsecure”.

    Note that although the original interview of Governor Manchin by Chris Hamilton in the studios of the WV Library Commission has been playing on a regular basis on the local public access TV channel across the state’s capitol city, other than Ken Ward, no major media figure in WV has ever pushed Manchin to explain how he can just ignore the death and destruction wrought by the coal industry across Appalachia.

    Apparently he’s still somehow skated from answering that one.

  44. […] Randy had earlier in the day recalled to me part of the discussion in Gov. Joe Manchin’s closed-door meeting with coalfield citizens a few months […]

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