Alpha speaks on Blair Mountain strip-mining

June 13, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal by Kris Maher has the first comments I’ve seen from Alpha Natural Resources about the future of Blair Mountain:

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. of Abingdon, Va., said it doesn’t intend to conduct mountain-top removal in the historic battleground area, but acquired one active operation outside the 1,600-acre boundary when it bought Massey Energy.

“We agree that Blair Mountain is an area of historical significance, and an appropriate commemoration of the 1921 events ought to be considered,” said Alpha spokesman Ted Pile. But, he added, a commemoration shouldn’t “abrogate the legal rights of the many property owners and leaseholders in the area.”

18 Responses to “Alpha speaks on Blair Mountain strip-mining”

  1. Micajah88 says:

    It is difficult to follow Alpha’s intent with ambiguous statements such as this one. It has the sound of corporate double-speak.

  2. Bob says:

    Double-speak? It’s crystal clear to me. The Alpha stockholders are the “property owners and leaseholders” whose rights are being abrogated, and the mention of “an appropriate commemoration” means they want to name their haul road “The Blair Mountain Memorial Highway”.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  3. Debbie says:

    Bob said it clearly.
    And now my heart aches worse than my feet still do.

  4. Bee says:

    By the “property owners and leaseholders”, do they mean the names of people that their lawyers added to a list of “dissenting landowners” to keep the site off the national registry? Turns out that many of the people on that list have been dead for several years.

  5. Fritz says:

    I am a big follower of this blog. It is the most informative piece of information I can find on the coal industry. But sometimes the comments from the readers are just too much. This is my first time writing.

    I am a Blair Mountain property owner, and I think the existing battleground site is sufficient for a historical site. How many of the above readers actually own property on Blair mountain?

    And though off topic, while we are at it, I am pro-Mountain top removal. Of course I am biased, as owning property in Blair is a financial burden. I’m sure glad I can take a financial hit every year so those San Francisco Sierra Club tourists can come and visit.

    And please don’t toss me into the anti-environment camp, as I own an 18-acre forest reserve and wildlife refuge, and have planted over 1200 trees in the last year. If we are going to talk environmental impact, how many of you are vegetarians? If you really want to save the planet, stop eating factory-farmed animals. Talk about water pollution.

  6. Soyedina says:

    Fritz I am afraid that you misunderstand the scientific arguments. It is clear that mountaintop removal is a threat to biodiversity of both streams and forests of the region, I am afraid your 18 acres is not going to resolve much of that. Surely you don’t think anyone is trying to “save the planet”? Are you an absentee landowner or do you live in Blair?

    I vow to stop eating factory-farmed red herrings, today.

  7. Bengamyer says:

    I too own property in Blair and I feel Fritz pain. The other day as your group marched passed my yard to Blair mountain did you stop to consider that you ran out coal (deep mined) and MTR from the region the ghost town you were walking through. Where is the alternative industry you promised? I have been unemployed now for going on six years and your group has yet to produce the alternative industry you stood in a court room and swore would come into the area. While I do not agree with MTR your group shut down my mine because it was supported by the MTR operation next to it. The company had us mine the seem that could be mined via deep mining and extracted the smaller seam above it with MTR. You ran them out so now where is my industry you promised? I want that answer and Fritz your reserve is nice so don’ let them tear you down. 18 ACRES that is supporting more I can tell you it is good to see the diversity you have down there and the reforestation efforts you have going on is not going unnoticed. You are cleaning up where the logging industry destroyed bet they believe it was MTR. Did they notice where they held their rally at the top of the hill where the loggers left their mess? Bet not. But it is ok to fill a stream with silt if it is a job not paying the wages a coal operator pays their men.

  8. Liz Judge says:

    Liz Judge says:
    June 14, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Fritz – You yourself wrote about water pollution.
    Mountaintop removal mining is worse than water pollution – it’s water
    obliteration. That’s what it is. There is no worse pollution than
    burying and eliminating streams, and to boot, with mining waste and
    heavy metal minerals that go on to contaminate the waters that aren’t
    buried.
    I would never say that anyone supporting a wildlife preserve is in the wrong.
    But I have to say: Thousands of acres of mountains are being blown up, tens of thousands of trees are being dumped, and waters that the people downstream rely on are being poisoned.
    The water is the most important part. Human beings need that. They
    depend on it. They are getting sick from the contamination.
    I deeply hope that though there may be things we disagree on, more people begin to oppose this practice which is threatening people’s health, homes, and way of life.

  9. Liz Judge says:

    Bengamyer: We need to demand that our political leaders work to bring in other industries. Many of the Marchers were carrying signs and crying out, saying “Appalachians Deserve Clean, Sustainable Jobs.” We can’t depend on big polluting industries like the coal industry to make that happen. We need to depend on our political leaders to make their states attractive to growing and sustainable industries. Many states are doing that — Rust Belt states in particular have faced the decline of manufacturing and auto industries, so they have been pushing to attract clean and renewable energy industries that promise lasting jobs to their states. Some have been very successful. It is my hope that the leaders of West Virginia, and all the coal states, push for policies that attract sustainable industries, create clean and safe jobs for their people, and regulate and reduce the kind of pollution and destruction that harms communities and pushes good companies away to other states.
    The only way to get this is by pressuring our political leaders. We have to let them know — without a doubt — that they will not get re-elected if they don’t make these changes. That’s the only way they do anything.

  10. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    For those who don’t know, Liz Judge is on the communications staff of the group Earthjustice, http://earthjustice.org/about/staff/liz-judge … Ken.

  11. Fritz says:

    To Soyedina:

    Yes, I am an absentee land owner. I live out of state because there are no jobs in Blair.

    To Bengamyer; Thanks for the support. I’m sorry to hear you are out of work.

  12. Bengamyer says:

    Liz thanks for your concern. I however believe Ken Ward should report on the fact that many people claiming to want to help save WV are just here to promote the agenda of doing away with coal mining. You have to understand the fact that the Charleston Gazette does not help support industry in this state by promoting the citizens in this state as second class. If you pick up a CG any day all it shows is the negative side of WV. Not very many positive stories to be had in there with all their slanted journalism. This area is quickly eroding away due to job loss to a state of drug heads and thieves. What needs to be done is the people who come in here need to show the citizens just not propagandize a point. Does that make sense? I know coal is a dying industry and the effects of it upon our state are not always positive. But there are mining operations that are clean operating and abide by the federal laws and regulations. I believe the most important thing the groups who want to clean up the act need to understand is that protests in WV do nothing to further their cause but in a way create more ill feeling toward their cause. Maybe if the organizations would help themselves by “educating” not screaming ill repute but educate the citizens in who and why we are in this state of non agreement on what should and should not be, then I think more will surely come of cleaning not up just coal but the political scene in this state. You can see by the way individuals who come to protest that are not from this area are not welcomed and it should be a hint as to something else must be done to promote your ideals. If it were me and I know this costs money, sponsors of these groups would be more wise to spend their money to counter advertising with real understandable campaigns on the TV, Radio, Mail, and other media to get their point across. An Ad may say something to the effect of like did you know that the FDA says clean drinking water contains this amount of “what ever pollutant you want to choose” and then suggest water tested from a tap in this community tested at this level. Trust me you will get more attention with that stuff than using people who are riding on their daddy’s last name who knew evidently nothing about the area to come and speak. If you continue to attack just one industry as well then you must expect that since the majority of higher paying jobs come from that industry to be resisted as well. This is not Oregon where one industry was attacked but the state had other opprotunities for the workers who were misplaced. You would have to educate the people on who is preventing other industry from coming in here whether it be a politician or company. Run and Ad with the information such as ________________ Industry wanted to invest ________________ millions of dollars in WV in ____________ however during that year _________________ prevented the investment by ___________________. See people here live by facts not by cries of propaganda- and definitely not the cries from people who have for decades decreaded the people of WV as subhuman hicks. Do you see where I am going with this very long winded point Liz?

  13. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Bengamyer,

    I’d like to see some evidence to support such a sweeping statement as this:

    “If you pick up a CG any day all it shows is the negative side of WV.”

    Pick up today’s Gazette, for example, and you see a variety of stories that portray positive aspects of West Virginia, our people, and life here in our state:

    — A preview of this week’s big Chili cook-off here in Charleston, http://wvgazette.com/Life/201106140702

    — A feature about teens who are fighting drunk driving, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106141010

    — A feature about some young men at rival high schools coming together, http://wvgazette.com/Sports/201106141178

    — A news story about some strong aspects of our state economy, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106141096

    — A study about a major public health success, showing how our local smoking law has cut down on disease, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106141101

    — Another piece about Jim Justice, taking on the role of coaching both boys and girls basketball over in Greenbrier County, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106150272

    — A story about expanding access to high-speed internet in our state, http://wvgazette.com/News/Business/201106140874

    — A story about one of our major political leaders, standing up for Medicaid on the Senate floor, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106131110

    I could go on and one … and this is just one day’s paper.

    You also wrote:

    “You have to understand the fact that the Charleston Gazette does not help support industry in this state by promoting the citizens in this state as second class.”

    Perhaps what you mean to say is that the state’s largest newspaper dares to cover the negative side of some politically powerful entities, like the coal industry. Perhaps you don’t believe that a mine disaster that blows up 29 men is news and is worthy of investigating by journalists, or that an industrial fire and explosion in Hancock County that kills 3 people is not news. Or perhaps you believe that newspapers should not cover scientific papers that question whether mountaintop removal is harming the environment and public health.

    If those are the things you allege we’re doing, well, guilty as charged.

    Ken.

  14. Liz Judge says:

    Bengamyer — I see what you are saying and I find it very constructive and helpful feedback. This is exactly the kind of dialogue we should all be having. I see many local and national groups doing what you are suggesting, but your feedback tells me that we all need to do much, much more of it. And I think you have some very astute and smart points. I respect that and will do my best to follow through on those suggestions. Thank you.

  15. Joe Gorman says:

    We are writing a feature film called GONE MOUNTAIN about a Nashville musician who is asked by his Granny to come back home to West Virginia and help her fight the MTR protect that is threatening their family’s mountain home. This movie will reach people that the current slate of documentaries (The Last Mountain, Coal Country) cannot reach. There is a new civil war going on in WV: coal company miners/families vs. anti-MTR humans. I walked at Blair Mountain last weekend to further experience the divide. MTR is a terrible environmental tragedy; the loss of 100,000 coal mining jobs in the last 30 years is a tragedy. There has to be better planning for clean energy, community development, family support, etc.

  16. Bengamyer says:

    Ken while it is not polite to argue I am glad you chose some of these stories as it shows the negativity of the paper. Below each I will comment

    I’d like to see some evidence to support such a sweeping statement as this:

    “If you pick up a CG any day all it shows is the negative side of WV.”

    Pick up today’s Gazette, for example, and you see a variety of stories that portray positive aspects of West Virginia, our people, and life here in our state:

    – A preview of this week’s big Chili cook-off here in Charleston, http://wvgazette.com/Life/201106140702 Good Story no comment on this one

    – A feature about teens who are fighting drunk driving, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106141010
    Read the article and it shows that this is a problem that is not being addressed by anyone and this type of education program is not sustained in the state once again negative in a way as it portrays the children by the way it is written as drunks – see I had to bring that out.

    – A feature about some young men at rival high schools coming together, http://wvgazette.com/Sports/201106141178
    In the history of this story that had to be blasted all over the paper and the tv for months it seemed this story casts a very bad view of the athletics – which I think should be looked into as it seems the sports are more important than the education these kids are getting. I guess what I am saying is you guys are doing the easy things and not doing the investigative journalism that used to be the CG

    – A news story about some strong aspects of our state economy, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106141096
    OK this story was funny as it did not show aspects but things people in WV already knew but know and the gazette did not do the hard thing such as questioning why they were not being pursued.

    – A study about a major public health success, showing how our local smoking law has cut down on disease, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106141101
    I question the validity of this study – come on just the smoking caused this – I would think the things such as the healthy initiatives taken by several companies and organizations around the tri-state have some contribution to this finding as well. Once again the CG did not investigate the report just reported what was hand fed to them.

    – Another piece about Jim Justice, taking on the role of coaching both boys and girls basketball over in Greenbrier County, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106150272
    Who cares about a man that keeps bleeding this state dry of funds just to get his name in the news. How about a piece on the tax breaks and money that the Manchin administration gave this man to “buy” the Greenbrier.

    – A story about expanding access to high-speed internet in our state, http://wvgazette.com/News/Business/201106140874
    This story once again was a hand fed story – I know this as I know people involved and who had wheels for these upgrades set in motion before BTOP and other grants came into play. Why not question this story about Frontiers shortfalls in customer service and missed start dates on these circuits?

    – A story about one of our major political leaders, standing up for Medicaid on the Senate floor, http://wvgazette.com/News/201106131110
    Come on it is an election year! Rockefeller is one of the ones who had his hand in this cookie jar so come on Ken.

    I could go on and one … and this is just one day’s paper.

    I guess negativism may be me lol – and covering the side of powerful entities is cool if you have the evidence to support it. Such as the story AEP closing due to EPA regs. Come on we all know this is a scare tactic to get the government to allow them to pollute. Organizations all have it both ways they usually have the regulators in their pockets and the consumer sectors are included in this as well as the lobbyist to bend the rules. While I like scientific evidence I do like the idea of it being evidence shown to impact individuals in my area. You know like MTR is not allowing the valleys to retain their natural ecosystems by allowing the transference of temps, various forms of moisture (ie fog and rain), animals, pollution and blights to travel over what were once barriers to these things. But Ken that would require an investigation and WVU or the CG just want to print what is being hand fed to them again. I like grit Ken not just a story I can get anywhere off the internet. I know you do some original reporting and it is appreciated but we the people of WV deserve better and more. We deserve to be portrayed as who we are and what we deserve. If you are going to say an industry can be sustained in this state cleanly PROVE IT just don’t keep saying it. Embarrass a politician by proving it. Embarrass an individual by proving it. Embarrass a county leader by proving it. I mean how hard is it to take the example of an automobile manufacturer using methane from land fills to power 80% of their energy needs then why can’t the CG show an industry that can come here – god knows we have the garbage dumps in this state. Why not show the failure of the recycling programs and the reason for their failures – embarrass somebody. When a paper starts calling people to the carpet then the citizens take notice not only of the person being called to the carpet but of the wrong they have done. Don’t harp on one company or individual show all who is involved. If you know politician A is getting campaign contributions from company B and supporting legislation to further the company PRINT IT. Statehouse Beat while informative isn’t close to bringing the citizens of this state enough information about what is going on. At least there is some investigating going on in that column no just reprints.
    HEHE I am a windy old man Ken sorry about that. I know I am making all kinds of assertations here but understand we are all dying to be educated in WV. It is not we support one faction or another it is we support what we know best! If we are educated that ole that oil running on the ground from our cars just leaves some dead grass in the yard – then we know nothing better about it – then how are we to formalize an honest conclusion about the fact it is actually killing organisms from our yard possibly all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. A paper should not just report a reprint but should report in such a way to create and understanding. The AP stories are great but years ago when one was printed it was honed to meet local needs. Does all this jibberish make sense 😛

  17. Bengamyer says:

    Liz thanks for understanding – I am getting old and about to explode by all this fighting going on. I would just wish someone would present the facts give us the entire story. Quit making assertations that we the people have not been educated about but are being forced to absorb without merits. I would also like to see someone help this state bring in other industry. I however do not believe wind farms are the answer to our energy needs or are solar cells. Wind energy kills birds anything that has a trade off is not acceptable imho. Solar cell manufacturing requires mining of materials that create more toxic materials than coal – look to China for that example. You know if people would get together they would or possibly could find a solution. You would be amazed at how many ideas people in these areas have come up with that nobody wants to hear. You would be amazed to know as well if you mail something in the mail and it is presented correctly how many people will read it, and if it is factual will react to it (hint).

  18. tara_jeanne says:

    Thank you everyone for this discussion. To Liz’s point regarding the need for strong government policy to help develop alternative jobs in our coalfields, here is one opportunity that local leaders can take advantage of: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2011/06/0234.xml

    I sincerely hope that they do.

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