We Object To Renewed Mountaintop Removal


Nov 29, 2022

And you can, too, regarding the Twilight MTR surface mine permit, S502396, 2,455 acres of former lush Appalachian forest, now a feeble attempt at reclamation by Lexington Coal Co. This permit is part of the 12-square-mile Twilight complex on Cherry Pond Mountain on the border of Boone and Raleigh Counties, WV. WV Dept. of Environmental Protection cited this permit July 29, 2021 for failure to "reclaim all secions of highwall within 180 days of final mineral removal." As of Oct. 27, 2022, WVDEP had granted 16 extensions, with the most recent "abate by" date of Nov. 29, 2022. In June, July, and August 2022, WVDEP's inspector wrote that Lexington had "ceased reclamation activities." On Oct. 27 he wrote that Lexington had "one piece of equipment that alternates between two adjacent permits..."

     --The company has repeatedly demonstrated that it has neither the intention nor the capacity to either mine or reclaim their permits in accordance with WV laws and regulations. Other permits operated by Lexington on this complex have a long list of violations and cessation orders for a variety of violations. 
     Lexington Coal Company has failed to meet the requirements of WV Code 22-3-19 (a) (1) because:
(A) The terms and conditions of the existing permit are not being satisfactorily met. *NOV 88 is still open, extended on multiple occasions, since first issued on Jan. 4.
(B) The present surface mining operation is not in compliance with the applicable environmental protection standards. *NOV 86, first issued over a year ago (July 29, 2021) for backfill/grading (failure to reclaim), is still unabated. Follow-up inspections on June 2, June 30, and July 28, 2022, state that "Permittee has ceased reclamation activities. Permittee is to immediately place reclamation equipment in operation and maintain reclamation activities to avoid further enforcement actions." The most recent follow-up, on Aug. 30, 2022, states, "Permittee has ceased reclamation activities for a period exceeding 60 days.
Permittee entered a verbal agreement to alternate equipment back and forth between two permits/violations of same nature but has failed to do so. Permittee is to immediately place reclamation equipment in operation and maintain constant (no bouncing between jobs) reclamation activities to avoid further enforcement actions." This dragging of their feet and thumbing their nose at WVDEP orders should cause Lexington to have this permit REVOKED rather than renewed.
(C) The renewal requested substantially jeopardizes the operator's continuing responsibility on existing permit areas. *In addition to the "bouncing between jobs" of NOV 86 described in (B) above, Lexington cannot (or will not) comply with their responsibilities on adjoining permits. WVDEP on Sept. 12, 2022, issued a Suspension Order for Lexington's adjoining permit S502007. Also on that permit, WVDEP issued NOV 41 on Aug. 16, 2022, and on the follow-up on Aug. 30 stated, "Permittee has ignored the immediate actions required towards abatement and has performed zero work so far." WVDEP issued NOV 42 on that permit on Aug. 25, 2022, for failure to comply with the Consent Order issued July 25, 2022. Both violations are still unabated. Adjacent permit S502408 is also the subject of a Show Cause order issued Aug. 15, 2022, and has five open, extended Notices of Violation. Lexington can clearly not handle the work required for the permits they have. 
      --WVDEP should not grant this permit renewal because doing so will allow Lexington Coal Company to blast on the site, causing hazardous dust to exit the permit boundary and enter the communities in the area. A significant body of peer-reviewed scientific research has documented the health effects in neighboring communities, including cancer, heart disease, and birth defects. WVDEP is unable to stop the hazardous dust from leaving the site, and cannot in good conscience grant renewal of a permit they know endangers WV residents.  
     --Mountaintop removal is the cradle of the climate crisis, destroying carbon-sink forests while extracting carbon that will go into the atmosphere. Yes, it's real, and serious. Even though S502396 is in "reclamation only" status, we know that it could quickly change to "moving coal," as we saw at adjacent permit S502408. And it's clear that Lexington will not reforest this site, and a few trees does not count as a forest. When the world's scientists tell us we must stop further extraction of fossil fuels, it is unconscionable to renew this permit.  
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50 Year Anniversary Of Buffalo Creek Disaster


Feb 26, 2022

Fifty years ago, a coal processing waste sludge dam operated by Pittston Coal Company gave way, releasing 125 million gallons of coal waste, killing 125 West Virginians and leaving 4,000 homeless. Pittston called the disaster "an act of God." Then-Gov. Arch Moore, father of current US Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, banned journalists from the area and said, "The only real sad part is that the state of West Virginia has taken a terrible beating that is worse than the disaster." Today, we still have over a hundred active coal sludge dams in West Virginia. Among them are the Shumate’s Branch impoundment just 400 yards upstream from the old Marsh Fork Elementary School and the Brushy Fork impoundment above the communities of Pettus and Whitesville.At 2.8 billion gallons, Shumate’s is more than 20 times the volume of the Buffalo Creek disaster. At around 8 billion gallons, Brushy Fork holds more than 60 times the volume. Brushy Fork holds the added distinction of being built over abandoned underground mines, the same way, and by the same company, as the Martin County, KY, sludge dam that broke through in 1994 and again in 2000. Brushy Fork is also adjacent to the Bee Tree mountaintop removal site, which is “inactive” for now but could resume operations, including heavy blasting, whenever the coal company, Alpha Metallurgical Resources, feels like it. But never fear! The coal company’s hired expert has assured them that, even if the underground mines collapsed, everything would be fine. And WV Dept. of Environmental Protection engineer Greg Demyan has stated that blasting next to a dam can be good for it; he googled it.Coal River Mountain Watch outreach coordinator CRMW's Junior Walk, who attended the old Marsh Fork Elementary School and lives downstream of Brushy Fork, had this to say about the 50th anniversary:

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Just Say No To Renewed Mountaintop Removal


Feb 23, 2022

Lexington Coal Company has applied to renew their Twilight III-A mountaintop removal permit on Cherry Pond Mountain in the Coal River watershed. This is one of two permits on the Twilight complex under a consent order for failure to comply with reclamation requirements, among others with several violations and delinquent civil penalties.  Join us in opposing renewal of the Twilight III-A permit, S502408. You can join in the virtual conference Wednesday, March 2, at 3 PM at http://meet.google.com/irs-avwf-eqn . UPDATE: WVDEP has added a call-in option for those who need or prefer it. The number is +1 662-676-0243‬ PIN: ‪507 280 955‬#.  Be sure to state that you OBJECT to renewal of Lexington Coal Company's permit number S502408. You can also state your objections by email by March 2 to the permit supervisor, David Wagner, at david.r.wagner@wv.gov. Here are plenty of reasons why this permit should not be renewed:

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Year End Update


Dec 31, 2021

Dear Friends,        Thanks for sticking with us at Coal River Mountain Watch for another challenging year for all. Here’s a short summary of what we’ve been doing. 

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Recent Aerial Videos


Sep 30, 2021

Here's a sampling of recent aerial videos with descriptions of mountaintop removal sites and related coal operations on and around Coal River Mountain. Some are from our flyover with Southwings on June 16, 2021, and some are from drone flights by Junior Walk. To see more, you can go to (and subscribe please) to Coal River Mountain Watch on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnPu-xSzsMIOhwKDIC8K0qg and Junior Walk at https://www.youtube.com/user/BobaFeattus The old Marsh Fork Elementary School (black flat roof--the white building is the gym) across the Marsh Fork of the Big Coal River from Alpha Metallurgical Resources' Goals Coal preparation plant, under a 2.8 billion-gallon waste sludge dam. The orange ponds are treatment of coal waste before it's put back into the river. 

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We Still Object


Jun 13, 2021

WV Dept. of Environmental Protection intends to rubberstamp another mountaintop removal permit renewal on Coal River Mountain. This time it's the 2-square-mile Bee Tree site, inactive since 2014. If Bee Tree sounds familiar, it could be because this was the site where some of our friends sat in trees in January 2010 and August 2011, including a 30-day occupation. In addition to the carcinogenic blasting dust that this operation will send into its neighbors' lungs, it presents the added threat of blasting next to the Brushy Fork sludge dam. To object to renewal of the Bee Tree mountaintop removal permit, permit number S301004, you can comment on the online informal conference (public hearing) at 4PM, Thursday, June 17, at https://apps.dep.wv.gov/dmr/S301004. You can also call in to the conference at Phone number:  # (681) 245-6817, Phone Conference ID # : 512 837 087#. Or you can email your objection by 5 PM, Friday, June 18, to Laura.B.Claypool@wv.gov. Be sure to state that you object to renewal of Permit Number S301004. Thanks!Holding over 7 billion gallons of toxic black coal preparation waste, Brushy Fork sits over abandoned underground mines. It was designed, built, and operated by Massey Energy, whose Martin County, KY, sludge dam burst through into abandoned underground mines in 1994 and again in 2000. That disaster released over 300 million gallons of black goo into tributaries of the Tug Fork and Big Sandy, affecting the water supplies for over 20,000 people and leaving a mess that will never be fully cleaned up. Massey's engineer has assured WVDEP that everything is perfectly safe at Brushy Fork. (Massey also assured their miners that the Upper Big Branch mine was safe before it exploded and killed 29 miners in 2010, but that's another disaster.) Coal River Mountain Watch objects to renewal of permit S301004 operated by former Massey Energy subsidiary Marfork Coal Company, now a subsidiary of Alpha Metallurgical Resources. You can also object. Include the permit number, S301004, in your objection by email to Laura.B.Claypool@wv.gov by Friday, June 18, at 5 PM. About a thousand acres of this site remain "undisturbed." The "mined and reclaimed" portion of the site, visible on the ridge on the other side of the sludge lake and shown in red on the map below, is nothing to brag about, and Alpha has withdrawn their phase 1 bond release application for this portion. WVDEP is also holding an online "informal conference" (public hearing), where you can voice your objections, or you can ask questions of the WVDEP (at the beginning of the hearing), or you can just watch WVDEP go through their statutory motions before they give Alpha another five years to continue blasting this part of Coal River Mountain into dust. The link to the conference is at https://apps.dep.wv.gov/dmr/S301004. From WVDEP: The purpose of the informal conference is to allow comments from those people having an interest which is or may be adversely affected by the Marfork Coal Company, LLC Permit No. S301004, Permit Application Renewal No. 3, located southeast of Dorothy." We say that if you live on Earth, then you have an interest which is adversely affected. And if you care about the people downwind breathing the carcinogenic dust from this site, then you have an interest. And if you're concerned about the people downstream who could be inundated if Alpha's next disaster strikes Brushy Fork, then you have an interest.

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We Object


Apr 28, 2021

WV Dept. of Environmental Protection is holding an online informal conference April 28, 4 PM, to hear objections before they rubberstamp another mountaintop removal permit renewal. If you'd like to participate, the link is at https://apps.dep.wv.gov/meet/S300208. We'll be objecting to renewal of this ongoing blight on our mountain. If you participate in the online hearing, you can voice your objections, or you can ask questions of the WVDEP (at the beginning of the hearing), or you can just watch WVDEP go through their statutory motions before they give multi-billion-dollar coal giant Alpha Metallurgical Resources another five years to continue blasting this part of Coal River Mountain into dust. From WVDEP: "The purpose of the informal conference is to allow comments from those people having an interest which is or may be adversely affected by the Republic Energy, LLC Surface Mine Application Permit No. S300208, Renewal #2, located south of Clear Creek in Clear Fork District of Raleigh County." We say that if you live on Earth, then you have an interest which is adversely affected. And if you care about the people downwind breathing the carcinogenic dust from these site, then you have an interest. Since the WVDEP isn't allowing site visits because of Covid, they sent some pictures. Here are a few.

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