Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coal Industry Continues to Decimate Mountain State

Here is Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia unveiling the 2005 West Virginia state quarter. He seems very proud of himself in this photo — but he should actually be ashamed of his current leadership regarding what is featured on this quarter.

What you probably know is that the bridge depicted on the quarter is the New River Gorge Bridge, the western hemisphere's (formerly the world's) largest steel-arch bridge. What you may not know is the mountain on the quarter is Gauley Mountain, and Gov. Manchin apparently does not care if the U.S. Mint has to reissue this quarter sans mountain.

Blue Ridge Outdoors reported in their January issue that Gauley Mountain is "slated for beheading." In other words, Powellton Coal Company has been issued a permit to blast on this mountain in order to mine coal via the controversial process known as mountaintop removal.

This isn't just another mountaintop removal project, however. The felling of trees, the toxic runoff and the traffic impact on small Ansted, W.Va., would be devastating.

I grew up in Fayette County, just about 20 minutes away from this site. What I can't believe is that the state government is allowing this happen because the mountain sits right in the heart of the state's tourism industry. Fayette County is in a way the backbone of the tourism industry in West Virginia.

On each side of Gauley Mountain, you have the Gauley River and the New River, both highly popular whitewater rafting locations. Not only would mountaintop removal hurt business, it would make one big, ugly scar on my home county.

Perhaps Gov. Manchin is content that he was re-elected in 2008 and has plans to run for higher office in the future, but I can tell him this — he will lose much of the southern West Virginian vote in any future circumstances if he allows this to happen. Of course, I already didn't vote for him because he was too busy chumming with pals for his daughter's fake business degree from West Virginia University than to do anything about bringing real jobs to the state.

Politicians in West Virginia have let the promises and dollars of coal companies run the state for too long, and very few will speak out. However, the mayor of Ansted is opposed to the project, and some of the people there have even conducted a study regarding the construction of a wind farm on top of the mountain instead, finding such an alternative highly feasible and profitable.

West Virginia will never be open for business, as Joe liked to say, until people can find more than dangerous mining jobs in a state that cares little about health or the environment. If the business he meant was tourism, then fine, but you'll need a wild and wonderful state for that, which the Mountain State will no longer be if all of its mountains are treeless, muddy, flattened, barren and ugly.

If you think the mountain should be saved, you can sign the petition.

I'd love to hear your comments on this, as I'm sure there are some who disagree with my point of view.


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