CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Supporters of keeping mountaintop removal mining away from Kanawha State Forest delivered a petition to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office Friday. It contained nearly 4,000 signatures that were gathered in just a month’s time.
“The petition asks that the governor rescind the permit that was granted to Keystone Mining company to mine the second area adjacent to Kanawha State Forest,” explained Rita Ray, one of the organizers of the petition drive.
More than 200 people came out Thursday night to rally in support of the petition at the state Capitol. Ray said it’s time for government to start listening to what people have to say, not just big business.
“We are hoping that state government officials and our governor will be responsive to what we’re trying to communicate about the fact that this is hurting one of our jewels of recreation and tourism,” she said.
Under the current permit agreement, Keystone will not use any of the state forest roads for access to the mining site, no valley fills will be created and there will be an adequate buffer zone between the mining activity and the forest.
Ray and her husband often ride the roads and trails of Kanawha State Forest on their bicycles. That’s her vested interest.
“A lot of these trails will have to be closed because of the blasting and the danger to hikers and bikers and nature-lovers,” she said.
But even more disturbing, she stressed, is what could happen to those who live near the forest and the mining site in Loudendale. Those families, according to Ray, are fearful of flooding, contaminated wells and property values that will sink.
Ray said if the governor cares about those families or the loss of tourism to the forest, he’ll revoke Keystone’s permit.
Keystone is paying for the right to mine near the forest. Initial estimates indicate Kanawha State Forest will receive about $700,000 from the project.
On Monday, the state Department of Environmental Protection will hold a final hearing on the permit.