CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Fred Thomas lives on Middle Fork near the entrance to Kanawha State Forest. Thomas has lived in the location since 1965 and draws his water from a well. He indicated in testimony Monday before the state Surface Mine Board four other homes near his also have wells. He fears a proposed mining site nearby will ruin his well and cost him a lot of money.

“The water company,” he testified, “offered to supply me with water for $5,000 … $5,000 to hookup. I said, ‘No, I’ll just use my well.'”

He also fears increased flooding on his property if the mining moves forward.

Residents also worried about blasting which could occur at any time according to the notice they’ve received.

“Blasting activity shall be conducted between sunrise and sunset May 10, 2014, until May 10, 2015,” read Daile Boulis from the lone notice she received at her home on Middle Fork in early May. “Unless emergency conditions dictate unscheduled detonation. Subsequent notices will be forwarded by mail at 12-month intervals.”

Attorneys representing Boulis, Thomas, and users of Kanawha State Forest opposed to the mining said the company hasn’t been specific enough in their blasting plan. They contend blasting activity will adversely impact forest use.

Jeff Hoops, president and CEO of Revelation Energy, admitted there will be trails closed at Kanawha State Forest temporarily during blasting periods.

“That potential exists down the road as we move closer to that direction,” Hoops testified. “It’s my understanding that extraordinary precautions were taken by regulatory agencies. It went over and beyond what’s normally called for in permits and it will call for trails to be blocked for 15 to 20 minutes while blasting occurs during the day.”

Hoops disagreed with plaintiff attorney Thomas Risk that such closings affect the recreational use of the forest.

“Everybody is erring on the side of being overly cautious and overly safe,” he said. “It will not affect the user; people may be inconvenienced a few minutes a few days each week.”

Opponents are also challenging the agreement between the coal operators and the state Division of Natural Resources.  Under the agreement, Revelation Energy will pay the DNR 10 cents per ton for the coal extracted and agreed to dredge both fish ponds at the forest.

“We’ve got a long history of giving back to the community and area where we’re involved,” Hoops said. “I asked the question if there was something we could do for the community or the park to give back. That’s one of the things we strive to do. We realize mining is a temporary inconvenience. It’s not permanent—it is reclaimed and put back at the end. As part of our mission we try to minimize impact while we’re mining and make a positive impact on communities. That was our sole reason for offering up $700,000 over the life of the mine to try and make the park a little better place.”

The Surface Mine Board will continue hearing testimony on the permit next week.

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  • Teach

    TruthTeller is right! This state needs jobs and it's not going to kill people and infants! That's ridiculous! We have more drugs as a problem with society than coal dust!

    Besides the parks across this state look hideous and dirty anyway. The state doesn't have enough money to maintain them or so they say! They look nothing like they did when I was a child.

    If we don't work together this state is doomed! The same people that complain about coal will probably be the same ones that will stop the fracking of gas then the whole state will be jobless! Then let's see who wants to pass extra levy bonds to help support schools! No one will have jobs and everyone will suffer!

  • muse

    “We’ve got a long history of giving back to the community and area where we’re involved,” Hoops said.
    Is Jeff Hoops referring to the significantly increased risks of birth defects, cancer, heart and lung disease in communities near his mining operations? Hoops gave a couple million dollars to the children's hospital in Huntington, saying that he hoped we would someday not need hospitals to treat childhood diseases. Does the irony of that money coming from an activity that is directly linked to increased rates of those very diseases completely escape him?

  • cw

    How can it be profitable for one company to mine coal when another can't find a home for their's and are laying off workers?

  • Dave

    “Blasting activity shall be conducted between sunrise and sunset May 10, 2014 until May 10, 2015,” is a year not many year.

    So someone has to wait for 15-20 minutes and that is a major problem?

    Maybe a solution is daily blasting reports in the papers, radio and TV. These reports could tell approximately when blasting will occur and people could plan accordingly so as to minimize their waiting time.

    • muse

      Sure, wait 15-20 minutes then you get to hike through thick clouds of toxic blasting dust while breathing heavily and listening to the calming sounds of heavy machinery tearing apart the mountain. Sounds like a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

  • Robert

    I've been erring on the side of support for this project but having read more details I say no.

    If the public's full use of the park is to be restricted in any way the the permit needs to be denied. If blasting is to be a regular part of the park experience then, again, the permit needs to be denied.

    The mining activity seems to be predicted to impact the park and it's visitors too often and for too long.

    The permit needs to be denied.

  • TruthTeller

    Come on people. That is all you people do is complain about everything WV tries to do.
    Stop trying to live in the 1930's. Its time to
    move on and start living in modern times!!!
    God would not have put the resources there
    is he did not want us to use them. You wonder
    why there are no jobs in WV? Well you got to stop complaining every time somebody wants to build something or change something.

    • northforkfisher

      I feel that those who do not want the mining to occur, should not receive anything derived from the taxes, profits, or anything other money. Yes it's bad that the state forest trails will be closed for blasting certain times a day, but the lost of jobs associated with this is to hard to lose. With jobs as hard to get right now, we need all we can get.
      We can mine the coal and have our forest too. Maybe if everything goes well, some of the reclaimed mine land could be donated to the forest.

      • muse

        You've got to think bigger picture, northfork fisher. You're only thinking short-term benefits and you're ignoring all the costs. The water crisis drove many people away from our region, they just had enough. What about all the opportunity and jobs that will be lost when people decide that living next to a surface mine just isn't worth it. It's happened all over southern WV already.
        What about all the people who decide to take a job offer in another town, rather than Charleston, due to the encroachment of strip mining closer and closer to residential communities.
        What about all the people who will decide to raise families, buy houses, start businesses somewhere else due to projects like this.
        What about the social costs of the health impacts people suffer from nearby strip mining?
        This project represents a short-term benefit to a very few people (20 jobs for only 10 years) and long-term cost for the entire community.
        We have to build an economy that doesn't involve blowing up hundreds of thousands of acres of our mountains and burying thousands of miles of our streams.

        • The bookman


          I've travelled all over Southern WV, met tons of people from communities that are adjacent to MTR and surface mining operations. I don't hear the same things from them. I don't dismiss your comments as untrue, as I'm sure there are those who fear for their health and well being. But it isn't the pervasive opinion that I experience. Most complain of the ebb and flow of the industry, the uncertainty of their livelihood, and the frustrations associated with having to live in a place that is so dependent on this single industry.

          What I don't hear is the terror of living in a dangerous place. Every place can't be untouched by man. We live in modern society, and KSF sets in the middle of coal country. Mining occurs around the Forest currently, and this surface operation is not new to the environs. Inconvenient? Certainly. I live inside the MNF. We have inconvenience here as well. Everyone does to some degree. Inconvenience is not a reason to reject private development of resources.

          • The bookman


            It's not a straw man argument. This argument that KSF is a pristine landscape that must be protected from the noise of surface mining is just not a realistic argument. It is in the middle of coal mining. Argue about the benefits and negative impacts of surface mining. Push to end the practice if that is your mission. But putting forward that KSF is a jewel that needs some unspecified buffer to serve the interests of those who walk its trails from the specter of mining, when the specter of mining is already prevalent is the straw man.

            You suggest that we need to diversify, as coal mining is a finite economy. I agree. Ending mining before diversification or at a minimum transition of population achieves what end?

            It achieves the complete devastation of families in Southern WV. I'm not a coal proponent. I know many coal miners, but don't profit in any way from the activity, except for the severance contribution that we all enjoy. I'm an economics proponent. If we want to survive in a form that is recognizable, WV needs to be forward looking, invest in education and infrastructure, and embrace the extraction industries we do have to fund an evolving economy. If we have to do it without coal, the task is going to be challenging at best, impossible at worst.

          • muse

            Bookman, I appreciate our discussions and understand that we have some fundamental disagreements about what should be considered acceptable behavior by extractive industry, but I've noticed that you have repeatedly set up this "untouched by man" strawman argument. I have never asserted that all places should be "untouched by man". The pervasive impacts of human activity in the modern world make that simply impossible.
            What I advocate is a resilient,diverse, locally based, sustainable economy. You say that many in southern WV would like the same ("Most complain of the ebb and flow of the industry, the uncertainty of their livelihood, and the frustrations associated with having to live in a place that is so dependent on this single industry.")
            Many people don't yet understand the health impacts of living near strip mines. As the scientific evidence and public understanding of such harm continues to grow we will be hearing much more about those concerns from people who have long had their health impacted.
            As long as our economy is based on blowing up mountains and drilling for gas, we are destroying the very resources that give us life and allow for freedom and good health (clean water, air, soil, etc) for short-term financial benefit for a very few people. It simply doesn't make sense.
            We must stop allowing WV to be treated as a resource colony for extractive industry. The land companies and corporations that own the vast majority of the land area of southern WV value one, and only one thing - profit.
            I'll ask you what I've asked many others - what will be left when the coal is gone? No one disputes that we don't have an endless supply of coal. Sooner or later the industry will pick up and leave. What then? We will be left with hundreds of thousands of acres of denuded landscape, legacy pollution that will haunt us for many many generations, polluted groundwater, etc, etc, etc.
            A sustainable economy is one that won't "run out". We could have, for instance, a sustainable timber industry in southern wv that could provide many good jobs, co-exist with a growing tourism economy in a way that strip mining cannot, and if properly managed could continue to provide those benefits indefinitely. We have to diversify, and continuing to allow strip mining serves only to diminish our opportunities for a post-coal economy.

        • northforkfisher

          Your so right, in to many of communities we have a few haves who block everything from those who don't. Look at the Navy Base at Sugar Grove, they are moving the active duty out and closing the support side of the base in June. The county and state have known for a couple years, but really haven't done anything to save the civilian jobs and pay base.

    • Mike

      NoTruth. Kanawha State Forest is a WV natural resource. Duh. By your logic, the coal companies can blow up anything, anywhere. Just Stupid.

    • Matt T.

      Thank You!

    • Robert

      Sorry, but the planned activities at the mine look to potentially negatively impact the park and it's users on a regular basis and for many years.

      I don't go to a park to be told a trail is closed due to blasting nor do I go to a park to listen to blasting.