Pan Appalachian Defender

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Coal silo permit next to school DENIED!

Charleston, W.Va.—The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has denied Massey Energy subsidiary Goals Coal Company’s application to build a second coal silo adjacent to Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, WV.
In a letter that was sent to Goals Coal on August 11th, the DEP stated that only those operations which existed on August 3, 1977, are exempt from the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) rule prohibiting mine operations within 300 feet of a school.
The DEP determined that as of 1977, no loading or coal silo operations existed at that site. The proposed silo would have been 260 feet from Marsh Fork Elementary School.
Randy Huffman, Director of the DEP’s Division of Mining and Reclamation, wrote, “The exception allows Goals to continue the type of operations that were conducted within three hundred feet of the school in 1977, but does not allow it to either make substantial changes in the type of operations being conducted in this protected zone or undertake substantial expansion of such operations. The existing operation exception does not allow Goals to construct the silo it proposes.”
An identical silo, 168 feet tall, was built in 2003 over residents’ objections. That silo sits just 225 from the school building. “By the DEP’s own reasoning, the first silo was approved in violation of SMCRA,” said Bo Webb, resident of the Coal River Valley. “The first silo is illegal and should be shut down.”
Citizens have been protesting the second silo since it was first proposed in the spring of 2005.
On May 24, 2005, two residents were arrested for trespassing during a protest at the Goals site.
On May 26, 50 people, many of them Mountain Justice Summer participants, spoke in opposition to the silo at a DEP hearing.
On May 29, 16 people were arrested at a second protest at the site. Those arrested included an 82 year-old grandmother of a Marsh Fork student, another student’s grandmother, several local residents, and Mountain Justice Summer participants.
The DEP initially granted the permit but rescinded it after learning that the permit application maps were inconsistent with previous permits. Permit boundaries on the new maps had been enlarged beyond previously approved permits. Goals appealed the decision, but the WV Surface Mine Board (SMB) upheld the DEP’s decision in March of this year. The SMB ruled then that Goals must submit accurate maps and could then reapply for the second silo.
When Goals again applied for the silo, the DEP held another public hearing on July 24, 2006. Again, local residents and Mountain Justice Summer volunteers spoke out against the silo. In addition, Dawn Seeburger, a toxicologist, reported on independent tests that confirmed the presence of coal dust in the school and on the hazards of coal dust to children’s lungs. Allan Tweddle, an engineer with over 40 years experience in air filtration and ventilation systems, testified that the existing filters at the school would keep out “birds and butterflies” but would not filter out coal dust.
The DEP’s denial letter from August 11th addressed the map issue as well, stating that the corrected maps and boundary markers accurately depict the western boundary near the school. “However, the maps fail to accurately depict the permit boundary in the area of the bridge over Marsh Fork,” Huffman’s letter stated. The DEP is ordering Goals to once again submit maps that accurately depict all locations in the original permit.
“I am glad that the DEP stepped up to the plate and finally acknowledged and enforced the law that was intended to protect children,” said Sarah Haltom of the watchdog group Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW). “But the silos are not the only problem, and if Massey’s engineers cannot even get a map right, how can we expect them to maintain a 2.8 billion-gallon sludge dam above the school? These children still deserve a new school in their own community away from all of the threats that hover over them from the Massey sites here.”
“This is a solid victory, but only a new school will ensure the safety of the children,” said Janice Nease, Executive Director of CRMW and retired teacher.
“Had it not been for hundreds of people protesting the silo, including local folks working with Mountain Justice volunteers, the second silo would most likely be operating today.” said Nease.
People have to get off their seats and into the streets to hold government agencies and coal companies accountable.”

2 Comments:

At 4:14 AM, Blogger Vernon said...

Corrected version: “Had it not been for hundreds of people protesting the silo, including local folks working with Mountain Justice volunteers, the second silo would most likely be operating today,” said Nease.
"People have to get off their seats and into the streets to hold government agencies and coal companies accountable.”

 
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