Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
  Winds of Change Newsletter, March 2011     See sidebar for table of contents

Blair Mountain

Talking to the DEP about a Blair Mountain MTR Permit

The Battle of Blair Mountain, fought in 1921, was the largest armed insurrection in US history, other than the civil war. Mine union supporters clashed with coal industry forces in one of the most historic events in US labor history. Today, the coal industry threatens the very existence of an intact Blair Mountain.

On February 3, Brandon Nida, representing the Friends of Blair Mountain,
spoke at an informal public hearing before the WV DEP, regarding a permit for the Cub Branch Surface Mine. Here are some excerpts from Brandons testimony:

With five major permits being applied for on the battlefield and all the other surrounding permits for the Dingess-Run sub-watershed, the cumulative impacts on the surrounding region and on the battlefield will devastate the fragile archaeological resources of the battlefield, and contribute to further degradation of water quality in the region. Because of the significance of the area, and the high potential of destruction to both the ecological and historic resources, we recommend that this permit be denied.

The cumulative environmental impacts of this mine on its watershed, the Dingess Run, would further poison downstream water sources that are already above the legal limits of contaminants. This would impact the living standards of our members who reside in the immediate area; we would like to remind everyone here that no citizen has the right to poison another citizen. In addition, we have community members who have for generations engaged in subsistence gathering of ginseng and other valuable plants in this area. This proposed project would have long-term impacts to the livelihoods, health, and general well being of many citizens in the area.

Among the coal seams that would be mined at the Cub Branch Mine are the 5 Block, Stockton and Coalburg seams. Those seams are documented to be high in selenium. The toxicity of selenium depends on whether it is in the biologically active oxidized form, which occurs in alkaline soils. The pH at the mouth of Dingess Run is averaging just over 8, making it one of the most alkaline trend stations in the state.
Another factor that DEP should consider when deciding whether to permit this site is a lawsuit pertaining to the Blair Mountain Battlefield that is currently active in the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia. The Friends of Blair Mountain is a party to that suit along with the Sierra Club, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, OVEC, and several other groups. This suit, which names the US Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places as defendants, seeks to reverse the decision by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places to de-list the Blair Mountain battlefield. If that suit is successful and thus again requires the battlefield to be listed on the National Register, it would likely require additional protections for the battlefield and its viewshed area before any mining permits with an adverse impact on the battlefield could be issued.

Brandon Nida is a member of OVECs Board of Directors

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