From the governor’s desk: A weekly column by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
January 8, 2013
I am writing this editorial to express my continued frustration with the Federal Environmental Protection Administration’s lack of action to release mining permits that have been pending for several years.
A couple of years ago, there was a memorandum of agreement in place between the Boone County Community and Economic Development Corporation and two Patriot Coal affiliates, and a contract was prepared by Terry Sammons, a local attorney whose expertise on post mine land use is invaluable, which would allow the coal and land companies to donate approximately 10 acres of flat land, with infrastructure in place, to the Boone County Economic Development Office, to develop for an industrial/commercial site once the mining was completed.
However, the E.P.A. denied the company’s permit to mine coal and over 90 miners with families and many with small children, lost their jobs.
The project was to be known as Phase II of the Hill Fork Surface Mine project, and located just off the Lower Hewitt (Boone County Route 3/1), exit of Corridor G (20 miles south of Charleston and 10 miles north of Danville). The project would have been a plus for Boone County’s economy, hit hard by mining layoffs, because it possibly could have resulted in a manufacturing facility locating there with several new jobs to follow.
This would have been a prime example of what could have been accomplished through the Boone County Land Use Master Plan process. Now, some local leaders are even wondering why bother with a Land Use Master Plan when permits that would have ultimately resulted in economic development opportunities in Southern West Virginia would be challenged or even voided. With the E.P.A.’s lack of action on not allowing permits to go forward, the Hill Fork project is now doomed.
When will they realize that coal provides 98 per cent of the electricity generated in the region, and that for every coal mining job, there are at least six “spin off” jobs created by the coal industry, further adding to the region’s economic livelihood.
Larry V. Lodato, director
Boone County Community & Economic Development Corp.