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.