Coal River Valley Residents Declare State of Emergency, Meet with Governor Joe Manchin; Seven Sit-In at Governor’s Office
Coal River Valley residents and supporters associated with Mountain Justice and Climate Ground Zero delivered a letter to Governor’s Manchin’s office in the State Capitol building at 12:15 p.m. today. The statement from Coal River Valley residents calls on Manchin to use his executive powers to halt mountaintop removal mining operations on Coal River Mountain, one of the last intact mountains remaining in the Coal River Valley area.
Governor Manchin met the letter deliverers in the antechamber of his office and spoke with Lorelei Scarbro of Rock Creek and Chuck Nelson of Glen Daniel. As of 2:30 p.m. seven young people are sitting in the antechamber, refusing to leave until Manchin moves to halt MTR on Coal River Mountain or they are forcibly removed. Security guards conveyed to them that they have permission to remain until the close of normal business hours at 5 p.m..
“We are delivering this letter to our governor with residents of the Coal River Valley,” said Miranda Miller and Angela Wiley of Morgantown, W.Va., two of the seven sitters, “We are West Virginia citizens standing in solidarity with the people who submitted comments for this letter, voicing their concerns on the dangers of blasting on Coal River Mountain.
For years, local residents have expressed their concerns over the long-term health effects of their proximity to coal mining and processing operations, while scientists have stated that it devastates local ecosystems and contaminates groundwater with carcinogens and heavy metals. One of the most imminent dangers associated with the proposed Coal River Mountain operation is its proximity to the Brushy Fork sludge impoundment dam, which holds seven to nine billion gallons of toxic coal slurry.
Many Coal River Valley residents have put forth the idea of constructing of an industrial-scale wind farm on the mountain instead of MTR. The ridges on Coal River Mountain are rated as Class 7 wind sources, the highest and most productive rating. Research by the Coal River Community Wind Project has shown that a wind farm on top of the mountain could generate approximately 1.2% of West Virginia’s total energy needs and would create at least 300 jobs in the area. A wind farm will produce energy for as long as the wind blows, unlike coal – reserves of which, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey, will last only another 14 years.
“By blasting away our wind potential, we risk losing the opportunity to have jobs that would last forever,” Chuck Nelson, a retired coal miner, said, “As we face the climate crisis, we need to set an example in creating renewable energy.”
This will be the sixteenth action in a series of non-violent civil disobedience actions that have resulted in over one hundred arrests on mountaintop removal sites and at government and corporate offices across West Virginia. Coal River Valley residents have touted wind energy development as a viable alternative to the industry-projected 17 years of strip mining on Coal River Mountain.
The document can be viewed and downloaded here.
Editor’s Note: Photos, Video, and updates here.