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Groups rally against mine permit

By Matt Murphy, Local government writer
Opponents of the recently-approved mountaintop removal mine next to Kanawha State Forest participated in a rally Thursday at the state Capitol.
Various groups affected by a recently-approved mountaintop removal mine next to Kanawha State Forest came together Thursday night to show support for the park and opposition to the mine.

Loudendale resident Daile Boulis said the value of her home on Middlelick Branch plummeted to half its value after the permit for the KD No. 2 mountaintop removal mine was approved in May.

After blasting began earlier this summer to prepare the hilltop above her property to be cut off, Boulis said her home’s value dropped further — to 20 percent of its pre-permit value.

And when Boulis and her husband – admittedly naively — went to the state Department of Environmental Protection for help, they found no assistance.

“I had no idea they weren’t really there for us,” Boulis told a crowd of about 100 gathered at the state Capitol Thursday night. “They’re there for the coal companies, and that makes me sad.”

In May, the DEP approved a permit for a mountaintop removal mine on a hill next to Kanawha State Forest — the only state park in about an hour’s drive of Charleston — and the residential community of Loudendale.

As the permit was approved, the Kanawha Forest Coalition was established in response to the permit and is made up of a variety of interested parties, many of which were represented at Thursday’s rally, including hikers, cyclists, gun owners, runners, hunters, affected Loudendale residents and others who want to show support for Kanawha State Forest.

The group has been fighting the permit and circulating a petition asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to revoke the permit.

The coalition plans to deliver the signatures – estimated to be in the thousands — to the governor at 1 p.m. today.

Meanwhile, a hearing about the permit is scheduled before the West Virginia Surface Mine Board on Monday beginning at 8:30 a.m.

The DEP said in a press release Thursday the hearing is expected to last most of the day and will be livestreamed online.

Residents like Boulis are hoping the permit will be reversed.

Besides property values, Boulis is also concerned about her well water, which she particularly valued after the Jan. 9 chemical leak that contaminated drinking water for West Virginia American Water customers in the Kanawha Valley.

Boulis said she also has problems with how the mine’s permit application was handled. She said she didn’t know the permit was even being considered until after it was approved, and said she was never notified about a public hearing last fall at Riverside High School – a 20 mile, half-hour drive from the state forest’s northern entrance.

“It’s just one thing after another that, at least for me, doesn’t add up,” she said.

Despite the problems, Boulis said the community support behind the fight against the mine has been encouraging.

“I don’t feel like I’m fighting alone, and that’s awesome,” she said.

Kanawha Forest Coalition organizer Chad Cordell said the coalition has also found discrepancies with the mine’s permit.

One of the latest contentions is that the permit did not receive approval by the State Historic Preservation Office, which the coalition and Keeper of the Mountains Foundation believes is necessary because some infrastructure in the state forest is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to a Gazette-Mail article last month.

“We are here because Governor Tomblin and the Department of Environmental Protection have failed us,” Cordell told the crowd Thursday night.

One group, the Kanawha Trail Club, has property near the state forest on Middlelick Branch. Trail club representative Kathy Hastings said having blast warning signs on trails at the state forest – placed earlier this summer – take aim at the 72-year-old club’s mission.

“If we have blasting notices on our trails, that doesn’t encourage hiking,” she said.

Jim Waggy, representing a birding group, discussed the effect the mine would have on that aspect of the park.

“It deserves our protection,” he said of the state forest.

Cordell’s daughter, Ukiah, said she’s grown up with the forest and has valued the experiences she’s had in the park.

“I hope that everyone who cares about Kanawha State Forest and doesn’t want their water to be dirty and doesn’t want their air polluted helps as much as they can,” she said.

The DEP said Monday’s hearing can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/user/WVEnvironment or at https://plus.google.com/110674270939790188292/posts.


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